Both the Piano Quartet, Op 37, and the Piano Trio No 2, Op 45, are mature products of Scharwenka’s most prolific period of creativity, dating from between 1876 and 1878. The Monthly Musical Record
for April 1878 reports: ‘At the Chamber Concert at the Royal Academy of Music on the 5th March, Herr Scharwenka played his own quartett in F, his co-executants being Herren Peiniger (violin), Holländer (viola), and Van Biene (cello). The quartet was first introduced to an English audience, we believe, by Mr. Dannreuther, at a recent concert at his own house [3 January 1878], and the good impression then and there created by it was strengthened and deepened by a second hearing. It is unquestionably an artistic and effective work, especially as interpreted by the composer himself, who is a brilliant executant, phrasing with neatness and finish, and presenting the ideas of the composition with more than ordinary intelligence and power’.
In both of these works, the piano is given much prominence, and requires a virtuoso performer. The strings, however, are not merely given the job of accompanying, and in many places have to provide the main thematic material against the energetic piano writing. Both works are cast in the traditional four movements and in each instance Scharwenka places a rather extensive slow movement in second place, following with the scherzo movements in third. Whilst the fourth movement of the quartet has some textural similarity to that of the second piano sonata, Op 36, which was composed at about the same time, and in general reflects the influence of German romanticism in Scharwenka’s musical upbringing, the finale of the trio, by contrast, bears distinct evidence of the composer’s Polish character.
from notes by Martin Eastick © 2002