Xaver Scharwenka

01/06/1850 Samter/Posen (Szamotuly/Poznan)

d  12/08/1924 Berlin  

Xaver Scharwenka was one of the most splendid musical representatives of the imperial epoque between the wars 1870/71 and 1914/18.

Xaver Scharwenka composed 4 piano concertos, 2 piano trios, 1 piano quartet, 1 Symphony, 3-act opera Mataswintha (1897 staged in Weimar and on Metropolitan Opera New York) and numerous works for piano (esp. Polish Dances incl. Mega-Hit "Polish Dance" No. 1 op.3)

In 1881 he opened his own Scharwenka-Conservatory in Berlin, in 1891 a New York branch of his conservatory.


Xaver Scharwenka was born January 6, 1850 in Samter near the city of Posen. In 1865 his parents moved with their sons Xaver and Philipp to Berlin, where Xaver was accepted by famous Theodor Kullak at his New Academy of Music. In 1869 he succeeded as pianist and composer, when publisher Breitkopf & Härtel in Leipzig edited Xaver´s Piano - Trio op. 1, his Violin - Sonata op. 2 and his famous 5 Polish Dances op. 3, among them Mega - Hit opus 3 Nr. 1, of which copies sold where counted in the millions. It is still in print nowadays at Breitkopf & Härtel and Stainer & Bell.

In 1877 Xaver composed his Piano Concerto No.1, op. 32 - dedicated to Liszt, who accepted. It became his most successfull concert and was performed worldwide by many famous pianists. Harold Schonberg called it "a charming bravoura work in the late 19 th century rhetoric", when it was performed and recorded by Earl Wild and Boston Symphony under Erich Leinsdorf in 1969. It is still available on CD (ELAN).

In 1881 Scharwenka opened his own conservatory in Berlin and in 1891 a New York branch in then New York, 37 East, 68th Street.

1908 saw the spectacular first performance of his Piano Concerto No.4 - f-minor op. 82 - in Berlin, followed by the enormously successfull first New York appearance in November 1910 with Xaver Scharwenka as soloist and Gustav Mahler conducting the New York Philharmonia.

First world war 1914 - 1918 finished the imperial period in Germay and abroad, of which Xaver Scharwenka had been a splendid representative. And since his death in 1924 his compositions have drifted from public attention. Young Claudia Arrau still played his Variatioms op. 48 in 1919 on occasion of Xaver´s 50 th anniversary of performing in Berlin. His grave of honor still now exists in Berlin - St.Matthews cemetery.

Now, decades later, "Romantic Revival" started and has progressed to the point, where at least 10 Scharwenka CD s have been issued (f.e. Seta Tanyel now on Hyperion, Earl Wild on ELAN and Stephen Hough with Concerto Nr. 4 on Hyperion - awarded "Record of the Year" in 1996). And in 2002 there has been issued a new recording of Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 with pianist Laurence Jeanningros on Centaur.

In October 2000 Maestro Neeme Järvi conducted Xaver Scharwenka`s "Olympian" Piano Concerto No.4 with Detroit SO and Philadelphia Orchestra . Pianist Alexander Markovich gave it in Detroit 4 performances ("spectacular - his tour de force not only brought down the house, it drew genuine applause from an orchestra and conductor, who clearly enjoyed the ride" - Detroit News) and Stephen Hough was the soloist of the 3 concerts in Philadelphia.

In November 2nd and 3rd 2002 Alexander Markovich has performed this concerto at Berlin Philharmonic (cond. Neeme Järvi) with tremendous success.

Further performances of this concerto will take place in 2004 in Cologne and Goeteborg.

At Hainholz-Publisher in Goettingen has been issued the book "Xaver Scharwenka, Werkverzeichnis", ISBN 3-932622-68-5, by author Schneider-Dominco.

And now look at Xaver Scharwenka's own list of works:


to Xavers brother Philipp

back to Scharwenka-Association