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8.573404 - WIENIAWSKI, J.: Violin and Piano Music (L. and M. Migdal)

Józef Wieniawski (1837–1912): Sonata for Violin and Piano in D minor, Op. 24
With Henryk Wieniawski (1835–1880): Allegro de sonate in G minor, Op. 2 • Grand Duo polonais in G major, Op. 5


The reputation of the Polish violinist Henryk Wieniawski has lasted longer than that of his once equally distinguished brother, the pianist Jozef Wieniawski. Henryk was born in Lublin in 1835 and was a pupil there of Servaczyński and Jan Hornziel and later of Massart in Paris. His younger brother Jozef was born two years later, in 1837, and, like his brother, studied first in Lublin, where his teacher was Franciszek Synek, and then in Paris, studying there from 1847 at the Conservatoire with Zimmermann, Alkan and Marmontel, and subsequently, in 1855–1856, with Liszt in Weimar. Henryk Wieniawski had embarked on his career very early, entering the Paris Conservatoire at the age of eight and making his debut in Paris in 1848 at the age of thirteen. In 1848 he travelled to St Petersburg, where he made an excellent impression on Vieuxtemps, the distinguished court violinist. Jozef Wieniawski had made an even earlier start on his career as a virtuoso pianist, starting from 1848, while Henryk, in 1849, returned to Paris to improve his technical abilities as a composer. Between 1851 and 1853 the Wieniawskis were in Russia, giving concert after concert. Henryk Wieniawski had already turned his attention to composition, with a Grand caprice fantastique in 1847 and an Allegro de sonate the following year in collaboration with his brother. By 1853 he had written some fourteen compositions for violin and piano and violin and orchestra, and in 1853 and 1854 the brothers gave concerts in Germany, and elsewhere in Europe.

Henryk Wieniawski’s career took him to London, where he played with the Beethoven Quartet Society, together with the cellist Piatti and the violinist-composers Joachim and Ernst. In 1860 he married the niece of the Irish pianist and composer George Osborne. Performance in Paris with Anton Rubinstein led to an invitation to move to Russia, where he served as court violinist and for some years as professor of the violin at the Conservatory that Rubinstein had established in St Petersburg. In 1872 he left Russia, resuming his career as a virtuoso, initially in partnership with Rubinstein. From 1875 to 1877 he taught at the Brussels Conservatory, where he succeeded Vieuxtemps, and during this period and thereafter continued his performing career, now with deteriorating health. In Russia again he set out on a concert-tour with Tchaikovsky’s onetime innamorata Desiree Artot, but this was interrupted by a breakdown in health and a brief attempt at convalescence at the house of Tchaikovsky’s patroness Nadezhda von Meck. He died in Moscow on the last day of March 1880, at the age of forty-four.

Jozef Wieniawski had gone on to forge a separate career for himself as a pianist, composer and conductor. From 1856–1858 he studied counterpoint in Berlin with Adolph Bernhard Marx, a friend of the Mendelssohns. He taught for a term at the newly established Moscow Conservatory in 1866 and in Brussels from 1878 until his death in 1912. At home in Poland he became one of the founders of the Warsaw Music Society, eventually serving as its conductor and music director, and as a chamber-music player. His compositions include a piano concerto, a symphony, songs, chamber music and a number of works for the piano.

Jozef Wieniawski’s Violin Sonata in D minor, Op. 24, was written in about 1866. The first movement, broadly in tripartite sonata-form, explores the heights of the violin and the depths of the piano, with virtuoso writing for both instruments. The principal subject is entrusted first to the piano, followed by the violin, and a triplet passage for the piano leads to a secondary theme for the violin, marked semplice. A third thematic element introduces a dotted rhythm for the violin. Elements of these themes are to return, in one form or another, as the movement unfolds. The gentle B flat major hymn that dominates the second movement is introduced by the piano, followed by increasing elaboration and intensity until the theme returns, played on the lowest string of the violin. The Scherzo, in F major, brings a change of mood, framing a grazioso D flat major trio section. The final Allegro appassionato, ma non troppo presto, restores the original key of D minor with an emphatic rhythmic figure that is to return. The movement includes a contrapuntal section and reminiscences of earlier movements, with a cadenza and a coda in D major.

The two brothers collaborated on the 1848 Allegro de sonate, written when Henryk was thirteen and Jozef was eleven. The piece starts with a foretaste of the principal theme, at first as a violin cadenza, marked Maestoso but leading to a Presto in which the violin is entrusted with the principal theme, moving forward to a passage of violin triple and quadruple stopping. Contrasting thematic material is introduced, with passages of virtuoso display, particularly for the violin, before the Prestissimo final section.

The Grand Duo polonais is a further collaborative work of the brothers, appearing as Jozef Wieniawski’s Op. 5, and Henryk Wieniawski’s Op. 8. It was written in 1853. The piano introduces the opening melody, followed by the violin, moving on to a more elaborate passage of violin multiple-stopping. This initial Allegro moderato leads to a version of a song, Kozak (Cossack), by the Polish composer Stanisław Moniuszko, simply stated before an additional running violin accompaniment. A second song by Moniuszko, Maciek, is introduced, marked Allegro con fuoco and again leading to an elaboration in multiple-stopping for the violin. Two variations are presented, the second with a more elaborate violin part. A G minor Andante in 6/8 brings cadenzas for each instrument and a modulation to E flat major for a brief reminiscence of the opening melody. The final section, in G major, is based on a Polonaise by the Polish composer Aleks Nikołajewicz Wierstowski, which appears in various guises, including a version in artificial harmonics and passages of multiple-stopping. This concludes a work that demands a degree of technical virtuosity from both players.

Keith Anderson

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