Today in Yiddishkayt… July 10
Birthday of Henryk Wieniawski, Violinst & composer
Henryk Wieniawski was born on July 10, 1835 in Lublin. He was the son of a country doctor, Tobias Pietruszka, whose changed the family name to Wieniawski, after Wieniawa—a suburb of Lublin. Wieniawski’s talent for playing the violin was recognized early on, and in 1843 he entered the Paris Conservatoire. After graduation, he toured extensively, often accompanied by his brother Józef on piano. In 1847 Wieniawski published his first opus, a Grand Caprice Fantastique. This marked the beginning of a modest but important catalog of 24 opus numbers.
Wieniawski wrote Légende, Opus 17, as an attempt to convince the parents of Isabella Hampton to accept his marriage proposal. The piece was successful in winning them over and the couple was married in 1860. At the invitation of Anton Rubinstein, Wieniawski moved to St. Petersburg, where he lived from 1860 to 1872. There he taught many violin students and led the orchestra and string quartet of the Russian Musical Society. From 1872 to 1874 Wieniawski toured the United States with Rubinstein. In 1875 Wieniawski replaced Henri Vieuxtemps as violin professor at the conservatory at Brussels. Wieniawski taught his students his own kind of very stiff bowing that allowed him to play a ‘devil’s staccato’ with ease. It was around this time that Wieniawski’s health began to decline rapidly, often causing him to stop in the middle of concerts. He started a tour of Russia in 1879 but was unable to complete it. He was taken to a hospital in Odessa after a concert and died in Moscow a few weeks later, on March 31, 1880.
Henryk Wieniawski was considered a genius and he wrote some of the most important works in the violin repertoire, including two extremely difficult violin concertos. His L’École moderne, 10 études-caprices is a very well known and required work for aspiring violinists. He has also been given a number of posthumous honors. The first violin competition named after Wieniawski took place in Warsaw in 1935, and the International Henryk Wienawski Violin Competition has been held every five years since 1952. His portrait appeared on a postage stamp of Poland in 1952 and 1957, as well as a 100 Zloty coin, issued in 1979. The town of Wieniawska, in the Czechowka River valley is a recent community named in his honor.
Watch Ivry Gitlis’1968 performance of Henryk Wieniawski’s “Capriccio-Valse E major”, op. 7: