Philipp Scharwenka was born in Samter, Grand Duchy of Posen, then part of Prussian Poland. He moved to Berlin in 1865 to complete his musical education. A good pianist, he primarily devoted himself to composition and teaching at several of Berlin’s leading conservatories. Like his younger brother Xaver he received his first intermittent musical instruction in Posen. He studied music theory together with his brother under Richard Wüerst and Heinrich Dorn at the new Musical Academy in Berlin where, from 1868, he himself was taken on as teacher of Theory and Composition. Otto Klemperer was among his many students. In this period his own first compositions appeared.
During his lifetime, his orchestral compositions were featured regularly in German concert halls, but the common consensus is that his chamber music was his best work. Besides several instrumental sonatas, he wrote two string quartets and a Piano Quintet. All three of these are late works and written within a short time of each other, around 1910. The idiom is late German Romantic, which by that time was certainly a retrospective style. The appearance of these works in 1910, rather than say in 1890, no doubt played a role in their not receiving the attention they should have for they are very accomplished works.
“Philipp Scharwenka is an absolute master of composition. His violin and cello sonatas, his string quartets, piano trios and piano quintet belong to the most perfect and tonally beautiful works of their type.” – Hugo Leichtentritt
- Piano Quintet in B minor, Op. 118
- String Quartet No. 1 in D minor, Op. 117
- String Quartet No. 2 in D Major, Op. 120
- Piano Trio No. 1 in C# minor, Op. 100
- Piano Trio No. 2 in G Major, Op. 112
- Trio for violin, viola, and piano in E minor, Op. 121
- Duet for violin, viola, and piano in A major, Op. 105
- Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 116
- Viola Sonata in G minor, Op. 106
- Suite for violin & piano in G minor, Op. 99
- Violin Sonata No. 1 in B minor, Op. 110
- Violin Sonata No. 2 in E minor, Op. 114