Scharwenka, Bridge Closes Le Salon de Musiques Season


At first glance, the lives and works of composers Xaver Scharwenka and Frank Bridge seem to have little in common.

During the height of Imperial Germany, Scharwenka carved out a wide berth for himself among the forefront of the musical luminaries of his day. His glittering compositions and just as glittering pianism carried his name throughout Europe, across the Atlantic, and eventually into the United States.

Frank Bridge, removed from Scharwenka by a couple generations and the English Channel, was the composer of some highly original music: genial in the best of the Romantic style during his earlier years, but turning dark and eerily cryptic in the years after the Great War.

But what these composers shared is their fate of being relegated to footnotes in the biographies of more famous composers. In Bridge’s case, he is best remembered as Benjamin Britten’s teacher and mentor, as well as being the inspiration for the work that launched the younger composer’s career. Scharwenka has been less lucky, though a revival of his music that began in the 1990s is still under way.

Come this Sunday, the two composers will share something else in common: both will be included on the program for Le Salon de Musiques’ final concert of this season.

Le Salon has long been hoisting the banner high for Scharwenka’s music, with the series’ artistic director François Chouchan enthusiastically proselytizing to musical unbelievers the charms of Xaver Scharwenka’s music and that of his brother Philipp. But his championing of Bridge’s music is a more recent development. The British composer’s music made his first appearance with Le Salon last season.

“The pieces that we chose for this Sunday’s program – the “Meditation, Spring Song, and Elegy” and “Russian Valse,” both of them for cello and piano – are early works,” Chouchan said. “They’re amazing, in the Impressionist style, very French. Emotional and nostalgic, too.”

Bridge’s subtler idiom was chosen by Chouchan as an appropriate foil to the extrovert sparkle of the Scharwenka works.

When asked if there were any plans to include more of Bridge’s music in future Le Salon concerts, Chouchan replied that the Englishman’s “Piano Quintet,” a work that he described as “wonderful” and “deeply moving,” was scheduled to be performed next year.

“We’ll also have several other British composers next season,” he added. “All of them are remarkable.”

Le Salon’s end of season program will include music by Frank Bridge, Xaver Scharwenka and Beethoven. Performers will be Chouchan (piano), Searmi Park (violin) and Antonio Lysy (cello). Concert begins at 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 1 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. For tickets and more information, contact Le Salon de Musiques via its website at, or call (310) 498-0257.