Path: EN / Henryk Wieniawski / HENRYK WIENIAWSKI / Life and Creation, part 2

The ailing musician’s truly astonishing activity slowed down a little in 1878, although he still struggled to keep up his concert-engagements. In January he appeared with Camille Saint-Saëns in Schwerin and gave a dozen or so concerts in Holland. In February, May and June he gave concerts in London, and in March in France. In September he was heard in Ostend and Baden-Baden, and then in Paris where he took part in three concerts of Russian music organized by Nikolai Rubinstein at the Trocadéro.

In November Wieniawski arrived in Berlin to give several concerts at the Kroll Theatre. The first of these, on 11 November, ended in tragedy. Wieniawski collapsed on stage whilst playing his own Concerto in D minor. He ignored this ominous health-warning and over the next few days made four more appearances before embarking on yet another concert tour. He performed in Poznań, Toruń, Gdańsk, Königsberg and then again in Poznań. In mid-December he gave concerts in Vilnius, on 23 December in Minsk, and two days later he arrived in Moscow where at the turn of 1879 he fulfilled several more engagements. At a concert on 27 December Wieniawski gave the premiere of his Violin Concerto in A minor (the only surviving traces of which are the programme-note and various reviews).

During his Moscow concerts Wieniawski experienced real agony. It appeared that his life was drawing to a close. When with super-human effort he walked onto the platform and took the violin in his hand he forgot about his suffering and, as the critics stressed, played incomparably beautifully. The great violinist refused to give in to his debilitating illness and accepted further tours. He stopped briefly in St. Petersburg, then on 18 January gave concerts in Helsinki and three days later in Viborg. The Helsinki reviewer wrote: „On that memorable evening an ailing Wieniawski played to a huge audience who listened with bated breath. In that stillness was a reverence which is rarely encountered. Perhaps the audience was moved by the contrast between the suffering artist and his heavenly music, which brought to mind the temporal world and eternity”38.

Several days later Wieniawski was miles away giving concerts in Saratov, then in early February he arrived in Kiev. Here, and in a string of other towns in southern Russia, Wieniawski spent his time alternately giving concerts and being confined to bed by his serious heart condition. In October he attempted to undertake a tour, starting in the Crimea. A few days later he found himself without the means to survive – in a Moscow paupers’ hospital – deserted and cheated by the concert’s organizer. His friends, in particular Nikolai Rubinstein, rallied round to help. They organized benefit concerts in Moscow and St. Petersburg for the ailing musician, and thanks to their fund-raising Wieniawski was able to extricate himself from his financial difficulties. During the last few weeks of his life Wieniawski was looked after at the palatial home of Nadyezhda von Meck, a famous patroness of the arts. She provided Wieniawski with considerate and thorough care and secured for him the very best doctors. Wieniawski’s wife Isabella travelled from Brussels to be with her husband, bringing their eldest son with her. When Wieniawski’s health started to show signs of improvement suddenly there was a crisis. Henryk Wieniawski died at 8 p.m. on 31 March 1880, only a few months before his forty fifth birthday.

On 3 April the city of Moscow said its final farewell to the artist with a solemn mass, and Warsaw did the same four days later. Huge crowds thronged Warsaw’s Church of the Holy Cross, which rang with the sound of Polish (and exclusively Polish) music. In the afternoon the funeral cortčge made its way to Warsaw’s Powązki Cemetery39. On his final journey the artist was accompanied by a 40,000-strong crowd of admirers, one of whom wrote in the literary journal „Biesiada Literacka” („The Literary Symposium”): „He bewitched us with his noble, poetic, fiery playing. The great artist died far from us. No Polish nightingale sweetened his last moments. But his body has been laid to rest beneath a Polish birch, at the foot of our ancient city, alongside the hearts of those who loved and admired him. Strewn with wreaths, his remains were born on friendly shoulders to their grave”40. Above his tomb, Wieniawski’s friends erected a simple monument chiselled by Andrzej Pruszyński41, bearing the words: In memory of the dear departed Henryk Wieniawski a violinist taken too soon from his art.


Henryk Wieniawski was not only an outstanding artist. He was a man with an unusually rich inner life. He was distinguished by a brilliant intelligence, fine manners, original life-style and charming disposition. He radiated an unusually good humour and was an incomparably fine story-teller, the life and soul of the party. „I cannot say whether Wieniawski might not have been equally successful […] had he exchanged the concert-platform for public-speaking […]. Wieniawski is a virtuoso speaker”42 – wrote a Vienna columnist. „He was a captivating conversationalist with an unusually rich stock of jokes and anecdotes”43 – added Leopold Auer. Wieniawski felt equally at home with concert audiences, chance acquaintances, friends or even with the royalty who showered him with high honours and orders. This royalty included Princess Sachsen-Meiningen, the Grand Prince of Bavaria, the kings of Prussia and the Netherlands (three separate awards), the kings of Denmark, Sweden and Belgium, and the Tsar of Russia.

Wieniawski was not indifferent to the fate of the poor and those whom life had wronged. His compassion revealed itself in the numerous philanthropic concerts for which he played, and the charity that he gave to the poor and to artists in need. Yet, at the same time, Wieniawski could be light-headed and reckless in mundane affairs, the most obvious example being his addiction to gambling. The bulk of the huge fees that he received for his concerts was squandered at the roulette-wheel.

Wieniawski was the archetypal wandering musician. Non-stop concert tours and the rapport with an audience were his abiding passion. His wife, Isabella, accompanied him on only some of his travels – when she was able to leave their children with Henryk’s parents in Lublin. The burden of running a home and bringing up seven children rested on Isabella’s shoulders. The couple’s first son (also named Henryk) was born in 1861 but lived only a year and a half. Their second son, Juliusz Józef, was born in 1863 and lived into the 1920’s. A daughter, Izabela Helena, was born in 1865 and died in 1942. At the turn of 1871 twins – Regina and Ewelina – were born. Another daughter, Henryka Klaudyna, was born in 1878 and died in 1962 at the grand age of 84. Finally, there was the youngest child, Irena Regina, who was born in 1879, several months before her father’s death, and who died in 1932. Only three of the daughters – Izabela, Henryka and Irena – went on to have their own families; their descendants are scattered all over the world: in Great Britain, the U.S.A. and Canada.

The youngest daughter, Irena, was the only one of the children to carry on the musical tradition of her father. Under the pseudonim of Poldowski she composed works for solo piano, violin and piano, and above all, songs. The best known of her songs were composed to lyrics by the French poet, Paul Verlaine.


Henryk Wieniawski lived during the age of great virtuosi who combined concert-giving with composition which was to a large extent written for self-use and determined by their opportunities for its performance. Wieniawski was one such virtuoso. Yet, whereas the work of the majority of these performer-composers is now covered in the dust of oblivion, the music of the Polish virtuoso is alive today.

The exceptional and still relevant didactic qualities of Wieniawski’s composition are sometimes overlooked. A leading Polish violinist and teacher, Professor Tadeusz Wroński, sees Wieniawski’s composition as providing unique didactic material which fills the gap between Paganini and our times.

The voice  of  one  of  the  most  prominent  contemporary artists, Anne Sophie  Mutter,  seems  quite  significant.  In  an interview for the „Studio” magazine she said: „The great European violin virtuosi tradition, which  I  suppose  I  am  a  part  of, originates with Eugene Yasaÿe, Carl Flesch, and Menuhin […]. If one analysed my style of playing, one would  uncover  Yasaÿe and Wieniawski. I was actually brought up  with  Wieniawski’s  music, and I have played it ever since with the greatest pleasure”44.

The proof of vitality and artistic values of the composer’s work has been, to a large extent, given in its preservation in musical publications of the scores, and in the popularity of his pieces played in concerts and recorded on discs.

Wieniawski’s works have been published by nearly 80 publishing houses of Europe and the USA, and the number of issues approximates 600. The following have been published most often: The Legend op.17, Violin Concerto in D-major op 22, Deux mazourkas caracteristiques op. 19, Kujawiak, Caprices for two violins op. 18, Deux mazourkas de salon op. 12.

Henryk Wieniawski’s music has been recorded by the greatest virtuosi of the violin.

The oldest, historical recordings include interpretations of Wieniawski by his pupils: Eugène Ysaÿe and Karol Gregorowicz, and also by Jan Kubelik, Bronisław Huberman, Váša Přihoda, Jascha Heifetz and Mischa Elman. The artists who have most frequently recorded Wieniawski’s works are Itzhak Perlman, Ruggiero Ricci, Leonid Kogan, Alfredo Campoli and Nathan Milstein. Wieniawski’s music has also been recorded by Yehudi Menuhin, David Oistrakh, Bronisław Gimpel, Henryk Szeryng, Pinchas Zuckerman, Joshua Bell, Zino Francescatti, Ida Haendel, Isaak Stern, Steven Staryk, Anne Sophie Mutter, Midori, Gil Shaham, Henri Temianka, Igor Oistrakh, Gidon Kremer, Marat Bisengaliev, Wanda Wiłkomirska, Kaja Danczowska, Joanna Mądroszkiewicz, Wadim Brodski, Stefan Stałanowski and many others.

The most frequently recorded of Wieniawski’s pieces are the Violin Concertos: in F sharp minor op. 14 and D minor op. 22; the Polonaises: in D major op. 4 and A major op. 21; the Scherzo-Tarentelle op. 16; the Légende op. 17; the Caprices from the collection L’Ecole moderne op. 10 and the Caprices for Two Violins op. 18; the Souvenir de Moscou op. 6; the Capriccio–Valse op. 7, the Obertas and Dudziarz (The Bagpiper) op. 19; the Fantaisia on Themes from Ch. Gounod’s Faust op. 20 and the Kujawiak.


Henryk Wieniawski’s life-work has endured for posterity, above all in his native land. His name has been adopted by some of the oldest Music Societies in Poland: Poznań (1885), Lublin (1898), and more recently in other towns. There is even a Wieniawski Society in Tokyo. These societies aim to popularize the music of their patron and undertake numerous initiatives of both national and international significance.

The Henryk Wieniawski Musical Society in Poznań pursues the broadest range of activities. From 1952 Poznań has played host to the oldest violin competition in the world: the International Henryk Wieniawski Competition, inaugurated in Warsaw in 1935. In 1956 and 1957 the Competition expanded to include violin-making and composition, thus gathering under a common patron the three most important disciplines which determine the development of violin music.

The Henryk Wieniawski Musical Society in Poznań has for many years initiated and conducted extensive research and publication related to its patron. The Society has established a rich archive documenting Wieniawski’s work, has organized a range of study sessions and has prepared publications which show Wieniawski in a new, more rounded light.

The latest initiative by the Henryk Wieniawski Musical Society in Poznań is the preparation of a publication Complete Works of Henryk Wieniawski.

Edmund Grabkowski

source: E. Grabkowski, Henryk Wieniawskim.  Kompozytor wirtuoz pedagog, Ars Nova, Poznań 1996.


1. Lublin - a city in S.E. Poland, founded in 1317; an industrial, cultural and scientific centre.
2. Teatr Wielki (The Grand Theatre) in Warsaw - designed by Antoni Corazzi and built during 1825-1833; destroyed in the 2nd World War, rebuilt during 1945-1955, the largest opera and ballet stage in Poland.
3. Quotation from: W. Dulęba, Henryk Wieniawski. Kronika życia [Chronicle of Life]. Cracow 1967.
4. Adam Mickiewicz (1798-1855) - the greatest Polish poet, whose works include the national epos Pan Tadeusz (Sir Thaddeus) and the drama Dziady [Forefathers' Eve]; after the collapse of the November Uprising (1831) like many Poles he went into exile, living mainly in Paris.
5. Jordan (Julian Wieniawski). Kartki z mego pamiętnika [Pages from my Memoirs]. Warsaw 1911.
6. Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) - composer, founder of the Polish national opera, including Halka, Straszny Dwór (The Hounted Manor).
7. "Henryk was a subject [...] of the Tsar of Russia" - from the end of the 18th century (to 1918) Poland was partitioned by three great powers: Austria, Prussia and Russia, who had annexed and divided the land amongst themselves. Lublin - the Wieniawski family's home-town - was at that time under Russian partition.
8. Quotation from: Wiktor Każyński, "Tygodnik Petersburski" ["The St. Petersburg Weekly"], 5 I 1848.
*[Léon Kreutzer (?)], "Revue et Gazette Musicale" [Paris] 1848 no. 62 (6 II 1848); review of a concert (with Henryk's brother Józef and Edward Wolff) in the Sax concert-hall in Paris, 30 I 1848. Discussion of G.B. Viotti's Concerto, the lost Aria with Variations on an Original Theme in E major and the Grand caprice fantastique sur un théme original in E major op. 1.
9. Ibid., 6 VI 1848.
10. "Kurier Warszawski" ["The Warsaw Courier"], 11 X 1848.
11. Karol Lipiński (1790-1861) - Polish composer and violin virtuoso; his playing and violin technique were compared to that of Paganini.
*Wiktor Każyński, Jeszcze słów kilka o Henryku Wieniawskim z powodu pożegnalnego koncertu 16 maja [A few More Words about Henryk Wieniawski on the Occasion of the Farewell Concert on 16 may; 1848, St. Petersburg], "Tygodnik Petersburski" ["The St. Petersburg Weekly"], 24 V 1848. Discussion of the Aria with Variations on an Original Theme in E major and the lost Rondo alla Polacca in E minor.
**Leon Kreutzer, Deux jeunes compositeurs, "Revue et Gazette Musicale" [Paris] 1849 no. 50 (16 XII 1849).
12. Hector Berlioz, "Journal des Débats", 30 VII 1850.
13. Pałac Łazienkowski (The Łazienki Palace) - classicist palace and garden complex in Warsaw, constructed during 1775-1795 for the Polish King Stanisław August, to a design by Domenico Merlini; the Łazienki Palace is currently home to the Muzeum Narodowe (The National Museum).
14. Resursa Nowa (The New Social Club) - a social club which flourished in Warsaw in the second half of the 19th century; a focal point for Warsaw's artistic and intellectual élite as well as financiers.
15. "Rheinische Musik-Zeitung", 5 VII 1851.
16. Kujawiak - a Polish folk-dance, triple time, quite slow, similar in character to the mazurka; the name comes for the Kujawy region in central Poland ('Kujawiak' - an inhabitant of Kujawy).
*[anon.], "Kurier Warszawski" ["The Warsaw Courier"], 17 XII 1850; account of a concert in the Warsaw Teatr Wielki, 16 XII 1850. Discussion of the lost pieces: Fantasia on a Theme from G. Meyerbeer's 'Le prophète' and a Village Mazur.
17. "Dziennik Warszawski" ["The Warsaw Daily"], 22 IX - 4 X 1853.
18. "Signale für die Musikalische Welt" 1853 no. 43.
19. Franz Lachner, "Allgemeine Zeitung", 21 XII 1853.
20. "The inhabitants of this city [Poznań] were being subjected to Germanization" - cf. note 7. Poznań was under the Prussian partition. Using all means at their disposal - political, administrative and economic - the Germans attempted to impose their culture and language upon the Poles.
21. Józef Dionizy Minasowicz (1792-1854) - Polish poet, author of epigrams and occasional verses.
*Stanisław Moniuszko, Koncert Henryka i Józefa braci Wieniawskich [A concert by the brothers Henri and Józef Wieniawski] „Kurier Wileński" [„The Vilnius Courier”], 4 V 1851; the review deals ith one of the five appearances of the Wieniawski brothers in Vilnius, in May 1851. The titles of the pieces discussed, apart from H. W. Ernst’s Fantasia are hard to establish: but they certainly include the Unbridled March and 2 Mazurkas (all lost).
22. Alexandre Desfossez, Henri Wieniawski. The Hague 1856.
23. Szczawno-Zdrój - town in southern Poland, in Wieniawski's day, as now, a popular health resort.
24. "L'Indépendance", 29 II 1856.
*Carlo (?), "Neue Wiener Musikzeitung" 1853 no. 10 (10 III 1853); review of one of two concerts in the Viennese Musikvereinsaal, 3 and 7 III 1853. The Polonaise di Bravura mentioned is the Polonaise in D major op. 4.
25. Quotation from: Arnold Moser, Geschichte des Violinspels. Berlin 1923.
*Ludwig Rellstab, Concert, "Vossische Zeitung" [Berlin], 26 III 1854. Discussion of the Violin Concerto in F sharp minor no. 1 op. 14.
**[anon.], "Souvenir de Moscou", "Neue Berliner Musikzeitung", 29 III 1854.
26. Henryk Wieniawski's letter to Van Hal, London, 4 XI 1859.
27. "Muzykalniy i teatralniy vyestnik" 1860 no. 70.
28. Apolinary Kątski (1826-1879) - Polish violinist and composer; in 1862 he founded the Instytut Muzyczny (Musical Institute) in Warsaw, the first conservatoire on Polish soil.
29. Józef Sikorski, "Ruch Muzyczny" ["The Musical Movement"] 1860 no. 25 (20 VI).
*[anon.], Viertes Abonnementconcert im Saale des Gewandhauses zu Leipzig, den 27. October 1853, "Signale für die Musikalische Welt" [Leipzig] 1853 no. 43. Pieces performed: Henryk's Violin Concerto in F sharp minor Op. 14 (first performance, from manuscript) as well as F. Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody no. 2.
**[anon.], "Vossische Zeitung" [Berlin], 5 XII 1854.
30. Obertas, oberek - Polish folk-dance, triple time, quite quick, similar in character to the mazurka; the name derives from the rotary movement of the dance.
*Ker. [Friedrich Kistner (?)], "Signale für die Musikalische Welt” [Leipzig] 1854 no. 38; quotation from: J. W. Reiss, Wieniawski. Cracow 21970, p. 128 onwards.
31. Jan Kleczyński, "Tygodnik Ilustrowany" ["The Illustrated Weekly"], 7 V 1870.
*[anon.], 'Morceaux de salon', "Signale für die Musikalische Welt" [Leipzig], 2 I 1855.
32. "Watson's Art Journal", 19 IV 1873.
33. "Dwight's Journal of Music", 19 X 1872.
34. "New York Herald" 1872.
35. Watson's Art Journal, 19 IV 1873.
*[anon.], "Allegro de sonate", "Signale für die Musikalische Welt", [Leipzig], 29 III 1855.
**Ker. [Friedrich Kistner (?)], "Signale für die Musikalische Welt" [Leipzig] 1855; the review discusses the Grand duo polonais for violin and piano (op. 8 by Henryk, and op. 5 by Józef).
***[anon.], "Scherzo-Tarantelle pour violon […]", "Neue Berliner Musikzeitung", 9 VI 1856.
36. Galicia - cf. note 7; the common name for the Polish lands under Austrian partition.
37. "Musikalisches Wochenblatt", 26 X 1872.
38. "Helsingfors Dagblad", 21 I 1879.
*Józef Sikorski, Trzeci i czwarty koncert Henryka Wieniawskiego [Henryk Wieniawski’s Third and Fourth Concert], "Ruch Muzyczny" [„The Musical Movement”, Warsaw] 1860 no. 25 (8/20 VI). Besides the pieces mentioned – in order: L. v. Beethoven’s Concerto in D major, H. Vieuxtemps’ Air varié and the Grand duo polonais in G major, op.8 by the Wieniawski brothers – the programme of the performances comprised G. B.  Viotti’s Concerto no. 17 and Wieniawski’s: Concerto in F sharp minor op. 14 (second movement), the Polonaise in D major op. 4 and the Kujawiak.
39. Powązki, i.e. Cmentarz Powązkowski (The Powązki Cemetery) - a cemetery in the Warsaw district of Powązki, dating from 1790; the resting-place of many distinguished national heroes, including artists.
40. "Biesiada Literacka" ["The Literary Symposium"] 1880 no. 233.
41. Andrzej Pruszyński (1836-1895) - Polish sculpture and medal-maker.
42. "Pester Lloyd", 27 I 1877.
43. Leopold Auer, My Long Life in Music. New York 1923.
*A. Desfossez, op. cit., p. 15 onwards; quotation from: J. W. Reiss, op. cit., p. 157 onwards. Discussion of the Concerto in F sharp minor op. 14.
**A. Desfossez, op. cit., p. 19 onwards; quotation from: J. W. Reiss, op. cit., p. 119. Wieniawski performed N. Paganini’s The Caruival of Venice with his own and H. W. Ernst’s variations. The "new, complex elements" mentioned were developed to such an extent that the authorship of the whole work was often ascribed to Wieniawski.
44. "Studio" 1994 no. 8.
*A.G. [Agaton Giller], Koncert Henryka Wieniawskiego „The Literary Movemeut”, "Ruch Literacki" [Lvov] 1877 no. 7 (10 II 1877).
**Nemo [Jenö Hubay], Wieniawski Henryk hangversenye, "Pesti Naplo" [Budapest], 2 III 1877; quotation from: J. W. Reiss, op. cit., p. 117 onwards. Discussion of the concert in Budapest, 27 II 1877, during which Wieniawski performed F. Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, H. W. Ernst’s Air hongrois and his own works: the Légende and the Polonaise in A major op. 21.
***Romuald Starkel, "Legenda" – zdarzenie prawdziwe z życia artysty, ["Légende" – a True Event in the Life of an Artist], "Tygodnik Ilustrowany" [„The Illustrated Weekly” Warsaw] 1880 no.227; discussion of the Légende op. 17.

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