Franz Xaver Scharwenka


Born: January 6, 1850 Died: December 8, 1924
Franz Xaver Scharwenka was the younger brother (by three years) of another composer and teacher, Philipp Scharwenka. Neither of them had much formal musical education aside from what was given in their local schools in Posen, Poland. The family moved to Berlin in 1865, where they enrolled at the New Academy of Music. Xaver received piano lessons from Kullak, the head of the Academy, and made rapid progress.

He debuted as a pianist at the Singakademie in 1869 and was hired to teach piano at the academy. He was drafted into the military in 1873 and served his year. In December, 1874, he began his first concert tour. During his career he would take many tours, traveling throughout Europe, the United States, and Canada.

In 1877 he premiered his piano concerto in B flat, written primarily as a showpiece for himself. It and an earlier work (Polish Dance, Op. 3, No. 1, of 1869) are his most popular works and one of the few frequently played today. This music has attractive melodies, springy dancing rhythms, and little depth.

In 1881 he began organizing concerts, established an annual chamber and solo music series at the Singakademie, and opened his own conservatory in Berlin. In 1886 he began conducting. Following his first tour of the United States, Scharwenka decided to settle there. He opened a new conservatory in New York in 1891. His Berlin conservatory had merged with a rival institution run by Karl Klindworth in 1893, but before long the two had disagreed about policy and Klindworth resigned. Scharwenka returned to Europe frequently, re-settling there with his family in 1898. In Germany he helped found the Music Teachers Federation in 1900 and the Federation of German Performing Artists in 1912. In 1907 he published a piano method (Methodik des Klavierspiels).
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