Piano Trio No.1 in f sharp minor, Op.1
Franz Xaver Scharwenka (1850-1924) was born in the small town of Samter near what is now the Polish city of Poznan (German Posen) in what was then part of Prussia. He learned to play the piano at an early age and his extraordinary talent was clear to all. At 15, he moved with his family to Berlin, where he studied with Theodore Kullak, one of the most renowned piano teachers of his day. He also received instruction in composition. Subsequently, he began touring as a concert pianist and was widely regarded as one of the best then performing. He founded two conservatories, one in Berlin and another in New York and composed in nearly every genre.
Although Scharwenka was a piano virtuoso, he did not compose this work as a vehicle for the pianist and the strings are treated as equals. From the beginning, this work enjoyed considerable success and was often performed in concert right up until the First World War. It's not hard to see why when you listen to the sound-bites. The trio begins with a lengthy Adagio sostenuto introduction which then leads to the main section of the first movement, Allegro con brio. (our sound-bite begins here) The lovely main theme has a pleading, sad quality to it. The syncopated main theme of the second movement, Andantino quasi allegretto, is a slinky march-like melody. The middle section, with its dignified, quasi religious melody, provides excellent contrast. A Scherzo vivace comes next. The scherzo is a light-footed dance with a certain lilt to it. Again, a fine contrast is presented by the trio section with its beautiful lyrical melody. The robust finale, Allegro molto, quasi presto, makes a strong impression from the opening notes of the energetic main theme.
Published in 1869, this trio has been unavailable for nearly a century. It is hard to understand how such a fine work can disappear from the concert stage, except for the fact that it happened to so many similar compositions by excellent composers as a knee jerk reaction against romantic composers right after WWI. Our edition is based on the first and only, however, we have added rehearsal numbers.