A violinist, composer and music teacher, born in Lublin 10 July 1835, died in Moscow 31 March 1880.
His father, Tadeusz, was a renowned surgeon, and his mother, Regina, nee Wolff, was a proficient piano player. A true Lublin salon, the house of family Wieniawski was frequented by leading artists and hosted concerts, literary meetings and discussions. This had a major influence on the later life of Henryk and his two brothers, Julian, the elder one, becoming a writer and columnist, and the younger Józef pursuing the pianist's career.
Initially Henryk was taught by his mother, then by Jan Hornziel, the violinist of the Grand Theatre in Warsaw, and Stanisław Serwczyński, the soloist and concertmaster of the Budapest Opera. In 1843, at the age of eight, Wieniawski went to Paris to study with Lambert-Joseph Massart at the Paris Conservatory, from which he graduated three years later, winning the first prize and a gold medal. He then continued to take lessons from Massart for two more years, followed by a two-month concert tour in St Petersburg, the Baltics and Warsaw. In 1849 Wieniawski returned to the Paris Conservatory to study composition with Hippolite Collet, and graduated with distinction the following year.
In 1850 Henryk embarked on a series of concerts, starting from all major towns of the Russian empire and continuing in a number of European cities. His brother Jozef accompanied him until 1850. The response was enthusiastic wherever they appeared. Having enjoyed tremendous success in Paris, Brussels, Dresden, London and elsewhere, in 1860 Wieniawski accepted the posts of the first violinist at the tsar's court and the soloist of the Russian Music Society, simultaneously teaching the violin in the Society's music classes, turned into a Conservatory in 1862. Wieniawski's several years of teaching created the foundations of the St Petersburg violin school, later developed into the great Russian school by Leopold Auer.
Every year Wieniawski would spend three to four months playing concerts outside Russia, mostly in the fashionable spas of Europe. After twelve years in Russia, he left for a grand concert tour in the United States, to play - together with Antoni Rubinstein - 215 concerts over a period of eight months. Wieniawski stayed in the US until 1874, playing more concerts with Paulina Lucca, the famous singer. On returning to Europe, he took over as a teacher from the ailing Henry Vieuxtemps at the Brussels Conservatory, the position he held until 1877. One of his students there was Eugene Ysaye. Deteriorating heart condition and obesity forced Wieniawski to play concerts in the sitting position in his last years.
Wieniawski died in Moscow, in the house of Nadiezhda von Meck. The burial ceremony took place in Warsaw and was attended by forty thousand people.
Since 1935 Poland has been the venue of the Henryk Wieniawski International Violin Competition. Initially held in Warsaw, the event, recurring every five years, was moved to Poznań in 1952.
See also page on Wieniawski's "Violin Concertos" .
Author: Polish Music Information Center, Polish Composers' Union, February 2004
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