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Henryk Wieniawski was born in Lublin, Congress Poland (Russian Empire). His father, Tobiasz Pietruszka (Wolf Helman), was the son of a Jewish barber named Herschel Meyer Helman, from the Jewish Lublin neighbourhood of Wieniawa, when barbers were also practising dentists, healers, and bloodletters. Wolf Helman, also known as Tobiasz Pietruszka, changed his name to Tadeusz Wieniawski, taking on the name of his neighbourhood to blend into his Polish environment better. Prior to obtaining his medical degree, he had converted to Catholicism. He married Regina Wolff, the daughter of a noted Jewish physician from Warsaw, and out of this marriage Henryk was born. His talent for playing the violin was recognised early, and in 1843 he was accepted by the Paris Conservatoire, where special exceptions were made to admit him, as he wasn't French and was only nine years old. After graduation, Henryk toured extensively and gave many recitals, where he was often accompanied by his brother Józef on piano. In 1847, he published his first opus, a Grand Caprice Fantastique, the start of a catalogue of 24 opus numbers.
When his engagement to Isabella Hampton was opposed by her parents, Wieniawski wrote Légende, Op. 17; this work helped her parents change their mind, and the couple married in 1860.
At the invitation of Anton Rubinstein, Wieniawski moved to St. Petersburg, where he lived from 1860 to 1872, taught many violin students, and led the Russian Musical Society's orchestra and string quartet. From 1872 to 1874, Wieniawski toured the United States with Rubinstein. Wieniawski replaced Henri Vieuxtemps as violin professor at the Conservatoire Royal de Bruxelles in 1875.
During his residence in Brussels, Wieniawski's health declined, and he often had to stop in the middle of his concerts. He started a tour of Russia in 1879 but was unable to complete it, and was taken to a hospital in Odessa after a concert. On 14 February 1880, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's patroness Nadezhda von Meck took him into her home and provided him with medical attention. His friends also arranged a benefit concert to help provide for his family. He died in Moscow a few weeks later from a heart attack and was interred in the Powązki Cemetery in Warsaw.
His daughter Régine Wieniawski, born in Brussels the year before his death, also became a composer. She published her early works as "Irène Wieniawska," but after marrying Sir Aubrey Dean Paul and becoming a British subject, she used the pseudonym "Poldowski." Another daughter, Henriette, would go on to marry Joseph Holland Loring in 1904, who was among the victims of the Titanic disaster.
Henryk Wieniawski was considered a violinist of great ability and wrote some very important works in the violin repertoire, including two technically demanding violin concertos, the second of which (in D minor, 1862) is more often performed than the first (in F-sharp minor, 1853). His L'École moderne: 10 Études-caprices is a very well known work for aspiring violinists. His Polonaise Brillante, Op.4, Scherzo-Tarantelle, Op.16 and Légende, Op.17 are also frequently performed works. He also wrote several mazurkas for violin with the piano accompaniment (including the popular Obertass in G major), using techniques such as left-hand pizzicato, harmonics, large leaps, and double stops.
Wieniawski was given a number of posthumous honours. His portrait appeared on a postage stamp of Poland in 1952 and again in 1957. A 100 złoty coin was issued in 1979 bearing his image.
What is commonly called the "Russian bow grip" is sometimes called the "Wieniawski bow grip", as Wieniawski taught his students his own kind of very rigid bowing technique (like the Russian grip) that allowed him to play what he called a "devil's staccato" with ease. This "devil's staccato" was used to discipline students' technique.[clarification needed]
The first violin competition named after Wieniawski took place in Warsaw in 1935. Ginette Neveu took first prize, David Oistrakh second, and Henri Temianka third. The International Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition has been held every five years since 1952.
Published works, with opus numbers
- Grand Caprice Fantastique, Op. 1
- Allegro de Sonate, Op. 2
- Souvenir de Posen, Op. 3
- Polonaise de Concert No. 1, Op. 4 (sometimes known as Polonaise Brillante)
- Adagio Élégiaque, Op. 5
- Souvenir de Moscow, 2 Russian Romances, Op. 6 (in this work he quoted Alexander Egorovich Varlamov's song The Red Sarafan)
- Capriccio-Valse, Op. 7
- Grand Duo Polonaise for Violin and Piano, Op. 8
- Romance sans Paroles et Rondo elegant, Op. 9
- L'École Moderne, 10 Études-Caprices for Violin Solo, Op. 10
- Le Carnaval Russe, Improvisations and Variations, Op. 11
- 2 Mazurkas de Salon, Sielanka et Piesn Polska (Chanson polonaise), Op. 12
- Fantasie Pastorale, Op. 13 (Lost)
- Concerto No. 1 in F♯ minor, Op. 14
- Thème Original Varié, Op. 15
- Scherzo-Tarantelle, Op. 16
- Légende, Op. 17
- 8 Études-Caprices for 2 violins, Op. 18
- 2 Mazurkas caractéristiques, Obertass et Dudziarz (Le Ménétrier), Op. 19 (NB. No 2 is known as both 'The Bagpipe Player' [ABRSM Vln Gr VIII Syllabus], and 'The Village Fiddler' [Naxos Records])
- Fantaisie Brillante sur Faust de Gounod, Op. 20
- Polonaise Brillante, Op. 21
- Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 22
- Gigue in E minor, Op. 23
- Fantasie Orientale, Op. 24
Unpublished works, and works without opus numbers
- Wariacje na Temat Własnego Mazurka (c. 1847)
- Aria with Variations in E major (before 1848)
- Fantasia and Variations in E major (1848)
- Nocturne for solo violin (1848)
- Romance (c. 1848)
- Rondo Alla Polacca in E minor (1848)
- Duo Concertant on themes from Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor (c. 1850)
- Duo Concertant na Temat Hymnu Rosyjskiego A. Lwowa (c. 1850)
- Duo Concertant na Temat Rosyjskiej Melodii Ludowej (c. 1850)
- Fantasia on themes from Meyerbeer's Le prophète (oc. 1850)
- Mazur Wiejski (c. 1850)
- Fantasia on themes from Grétry's Richard Coeur-de-lion (c. 1851)
- Duet on themes from Finnish songs (c. 1851)
- Two Mazurkas (1851)
- March (1851)
- Kujawiak in A minor (1853)
- Variations on the Russian hymn (c. 1851)
- Variations on Polish folk song "Jechał Kozak Zza Dunaju" (c. 1851)
- Variations on the Austrian Hymn (1853)
- Rozumiem, pieśń na głos z fortepianem (1854)
- Souvenir de Lublin, concert polka (c. 1855)
- Fantasia on themes from Bellini's La sonnambula (c. 1855)
- Reminiscences of San Francisco (c. 1874)
- Kujawiak in C major
- Polonaise Triomphale
- Rêverie in F sharp minor for viola and piano
- Violin Concerto No. 3 in A minor? (1878, unpublished, disappeared? Premiered in Moscow, December 27, 1878)
- LLC, Classical Archives. "Henryk Wieniawski - Classical Archives". www.classicalarchives.com.
- Greene, David Mason (11 August 1985). "Greene's Biographical Encyclopedia of Composers". Reproducing Piano Roll Fnd. – via Google Books.
- Three pieces (University of Southern California collection Mus.6024 - Mus.6027)) with ms dedications to the violinist Paul Kochański noted by Tyrone Greive, "Kochański's Collaborative Work As Reflected in His Manuscript Collection" Polish Music Journal 1.1, (Summer 1998); (on-line text Archived 2012-10-02 at the Wayback Machine).
- Mentioned in Grabkowski's Henryk Wieniawski (Warsaw : Interpress, 1986)
- "Prone to Violins". pronetoviolins.blogspot.com.
- Pilatowicz, Maria. "HENRYK WIENIAWSKI". Archived from the original on 2006-04-08. Retrieved 2006-05-13. — Polish Music Center at USC
- Henryk Wieniawski Society (en)
- Henryk Wieniawski at Find a Grave
- Free scores by Wieniawski at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. .
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