HENRY VIEUXTEMPS (1820 - 1881)
Henry Vieuxtemps attracted early attention as a prodigy, making his first public appearance as a violinist at the age of six. He later studied with Charles de Bériot and moved with him from Brussels to Paris in 1829. Two years later he embarked on the first of his concert tours, impressing musicians such as Schumann and Paganini. He took composition lessons with Sechter in Vienna and later with Reicha in Paris, and he wrote violin music for his own use on extended concert tours that took him to the major cities of Europe and, with the pianist Thalberg, to the United States of America. In 1871 he was appointed professor at the Brussels Conservatoire, where his pupils included Eugène Ysaÿe. He died in Algeria in 1881 after eight years of intermittent ill health that had impeded his teaching and put an end to his playing.
Vieuxtemps occupies an important position in the history of the violin concerto, largely fulfilling his aim of infusing the concerto as Viotti had left it with music that made use of the newly developed technical possibilities of the violin. This achievement is demonstrated in his seven violin concertos. He also wrote smaller works for solo violin and orchestra, two cello concertos and Duo brillant for violin, cello, piano and orchestra.
Vieuxtemps wrote a number of pieces for violin and piano. These include operatic fantasias and variations on other well-known melodies in a series of twelve duos concertantes. These and other similar compositions provided topical material for concert tours, including Souvenir d’Amérique, based on ‘Yankee Doodle’, and Souvenir de Russie, as well as Old England, Caprice on 16th- and 17th-Century English Airs. He also left three string quartets and a viola sonata.