The Poet of Violin
Henryk Wieniawski was a Polish composer and violinist virtuoso. He rose to fame thanks to his incredible talent for music, distinguishing himself in the field of composition as well as showing mastery in playing the violin.
Henryk was born on July 10, 1835 in the city of Lublin in the part of Poland under Russian rule. This area of Poland was called "The Congress Poland", after the Congress in Vienna sanctioned that jurisdiction in 1815. His father was originally called Wolf Helman, but assumed the name "Wieniawski" when he gave up his Jewish religion and reverted to Christianity. Henryk's mother, Regina Wolff, was a sister of a Polish pianist and composer. The musical heritage was passed off to their offsprings, several of whom also became musicians, although none as famous as Henryk, who embarked on an international career.
Even as a child, Henryk exhibited extraordinary ability for music - he left for Paris at the age of eight to practice his playing skills, and after a year he joined the Conservatoire de Paris. Soon after graduating Henryk began touring with his brother Józef, bringing their passion to all of Europe. After achieving international success, he started teaching the violin in St. Petersburg, where he lived from 1860 to 1872. The year he moved there Henryk married Isabella Hampton, an English girl for whom he had written his possibly best-known piece, Légende, Op. 17. The piece helped persuade Isabella's parents to allow their marriage.
Henryk with his younger brother, Józef
In 1872, Henryk left Russia to begin touring all over the USA, with the great Russian pianist and composer Anton Rubinstein. After the tour was over, Wieniawski stayed in the USA until 1874, before coming back to Europe to start working as a violin professor at the Conservatoire Royal de Brussels. He replaced Henri Vieuxtemps, who had fallen sick, and continued to work there until 1877. It was at that time when Henryk's health started to deteriorate. Soon, his escalating heart problems and obesity left him unable to perform and his last concert took place in 1879. Henryk died in 1880 due to a heart attack in Moscow, and was buried in Warsaw.
A painting of Wieniawski with a violin
Henryk Wieniawski was a highly influential and particularly important person in music history. He was often called a "poet of the violin", and he is thought to be the last violin virtuoso who was also a composer. The International Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition, a competition for violinists created in Wieniawski's honour, began in 1935 in Warsaw; since 1952, it has taken place every five years in Poznań. It continues to be one of the most prestigious events for young violin performers.
Polish Music Information Centre, Polish Composers' Union. (2004). A violinist, composer and music teacher, born in Lublin 10 July 1835, died in Moscow 31 March 1880[Internet]. Culture.pl. Available from: http://culture.pl/en/artist/henryk-wieniawski
The editors of agencjafilharmonia.pl. (2013). Henryk Wieniawski [Internet]. agencjafilharmonia.pl. Available from: http://agencjafilharmonia.pl/henryk-wieniawski/
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