From the Schubert Club Archive
He had already been one of Europe’s leading pianists for a couple of decades when Xaver Scharwenka undertook his first American tour in 1891. It was so successful that the Polish-German performer-teacher-composer promptly opened a branch of his famous Berlin conservatory in New York and moved there for several years. During his American period, Scharwenka’s recital stops included St. Paul, where he played for the fledgling Schubert Club.
On that evening in 1894, he shared the stage with several musicians from his new conservatory, including a not undistinguished German-born pianist named Walter Petzet and Petzet’s soprano wife. A pupil of the legendary Hans von Bülow in Frankfurt, Petzet had come to Minneapolis in 1887 to teach piano, composition and theory at the Northwestern Conservatory of Music. He moved to New York in 1891 to become a co-founder and teacher at Xaver Scharwenka’s music school.
Scharwenka was especially noted as an interpreter of Chopin as well as of his own works (which in recent years have been enjoying something of a revival). Between 1910 and 1913 he made a series of acoustic recordings for Columbia, including this account of Chopin’s popular Fantaisie-Impromptu:
His recordings also included his own music as well as Schumann’s, and both were featured in in Scharwenka’s Schubert Club appearance. Here he plays his own Polish Dance in an acoustic recording from 1910:
And this, from a 1905 piano roll, is his recording of the first part of Schumann’s Kreisleriana:
Artist note by Richard Evidon