Henryk Szeryng was a violinist and pedagogue. He was born on 22nd September 1918 in Żelazowa Wola and died on 3rd March 1988 in Kassel.
As a young boy he was trained by his mother to play piano but later decided to exchange the instrument for the violin. In 1928, convinced by Bronisław Huberman (a friend of the family), Szeryng went to Berlin to study under Karl Flesch. His debut concert took place in Warsaw in 1933 when he performed Ludwig van Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D major with Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Bruno Walter. In the same year he played in Bucharest, Vienna, and Paris, achieving acclaim both from the audience and the critics. In the years 1933-1939 the artist continued to learn violin under Jacques Thibaud and Gabriel Bouillon and studied composition under Nadia Boulanger.
He encountered the outbreak of World War Two while in Paris. However, he did not stop his concert activity. After joining the Polish army in France in 1940, he gave concerts for the Allied forces in army camps and field hospitals (more than 300). As a liaison officer and translator (he was fluent in seven languages) he served Władysław Sikorski during his mission to Mexico when the general asked the state's officials to accept a few thousand Polish refugees.
In 1946 Szeryng gained Mexican citizenship and started a career in education, becoming the leading teacher of violin at the music department of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. He returned to stages in 1954, after being convinced by Artur Rubinstein to perform concerts in New York, which proved to be a huge success. From that moment, he started to play with the most famous orchestras and conductors across Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia, performing on many occasions in Poland. In is repertoire one could find more than 40 concerts and dozens of sonatas from different époques. He became famous for his interpretations of Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms, Felix Mendelssohn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Piccolo Paganini, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Henryk Wieniawski, and a few composers from the 20th century – Béla Bartók, Alban Berg, Aram Khachaturian, Sergiej Prokofjew, Karol Szymanowski, and Jean Sibelius.
The artist was a very active propagator of contemporary music, each year presenting a new piece for violin and orchestra. He handled the first performances of works created by Manuel Ponce, Peter Racine Fricker, Camargo Guarnieri, Rodolfo Halffter, Jean Martinon, Benjamin Lees, Carlos Chavez, Julián Carill, and Roman Haubenstock-Ramati. His recordings were six times the winners of the Grand Prix du Disque (including concerts created by Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Khachaturian, Ponce, Prokofiew, Chavez, Martinon, Sibelius, and Tchaikovsky, and Édouard Lalo's Spanish Symphony).
Henryk Szeryng was a special music advisor as a permanent representative of Mexico to UNESCO. He co-organised many international violin contests, including the Henryk Wieniawski Contest in Poznań (1967 – a member of the jury, 1981 – chair of the jury).
Author: Małgorzata Kosińska, Polish Music Information Centre, Związek Kompozytorów Polskich, December 2006, translated by AW, November 2016.