Henryk Wieniawski
Photograph by Fritz Luckhardt
Born(1835-07-10)10 July 1835
Died31 March 1880(1880-03-31) (aged 44)
  • Composer
  • violinist

Henryk Wieniawski (pronounced [vʲɛˈɲafskʲi] ; 10 July 1835 – 31 March 1880) was a Polish virtuoso violinist, composer and pedagogue, who is regarded amongst the most distinguished violinists in history.[1] His younger brother Józef Wieniawski and nephew Adam Tadeusz Wieniawski were also accomplished musicians, as was his daughter Régine, who became a naturalised British subject upon marrying into the peerage and wrote music under the name Poldowski.


Birthplace of Henryk Wieniawski in Lublin

Henryk Wieniawski was born in Lublin, in present-day Poland. His father, Tobiasz Pietruszka né Wolf Helman, was the son of a Jewish barber named Herschel Meyer Helman, from Lublin's Jewish neighborhood of Wieniawa. Wolf Helman later changed his name to Tadeusz Wieniawski, taking on the name of his neighborhood to blend into the Polish environment. 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.

Henryk's talent for playing the violin was recognized early, and in 1843 he was accepted by the Paris Conservatoire taught by Lambert Massart, where special exceptions were made to admit him, as he wasn't French and was only eight years old. He attended the Conservatoire from 1843 to 1846 and returned for another year in 1849. After graduation, he toured extensively and gave many recitals, where he was often accompanied by his brother Józef on piano.[2] 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.[3][4] 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.

Grave of Henryk Wieniawski at the Powązki Cemetery in Warsaw
Photograph of Wieniawski by Fritz Luckhardt, Vienna

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".[5] Another daughter, Henriette, would go on to marry Joseph Holland Loring in 1904, who was among the victims of the Titanic disaster.

Wieniawski was a player in the Beethoven Quartet Society in London, where he also performed on viola.


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). One assessment of violin etudes ranks Wieniawski's Op. 10 L'École moderne: 10 Études-caprices just below the difficulty of the Paganini Caprices.[6]


Wieniawski was given a number of posthumous honors. His portrait appeared on a postage stamp of Poland in 1952 and again in 1957. A 100 zloty coin was issued in 1979 bearing his image.

What is commonly called the "Russian bow hold" is sometimes called the "Wieniawski bow hold", as Wieniawski taught his students his own kind of very rigid bowing technique (like the Russian bow hold) 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

Unpublished works, and works without opus numbers


  1. ^ "Życiorys". Retrieved 28 December 2020.
  2. ^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Wieniawski, Henri" . Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 28 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 623.
  3. ^ LLC, Classical Archives. "Henryk Wieniawski - Classical Archives". www.classicalarchives.com.
  4. ^ Greene, David Mason (11 August 1985). Greene's Biographical Encyclopedia of Composers. Reproducing Piano Roll Fnd. ISBN 9780385142786 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ Three pieces; see 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 vol. 1 no. 1 (Summer 1998); (on-line text Archived 2012-10-02 at the Wayback Machine).
  6. ^ "The Étude (Study) Page for Violin. This list suggests the order of study/difficulty of violin etudes". 2 Feb 1998. Archived from the original on 2019-03-26. Retrieved 1 Sep 2023.
  7. ^ Mentioned in Grabkowski's Henryk Wieniawski (Warsaw : Interpress, 1986)
  8. ^ "Prone to Violins". pronetoviolins.blogspot.com.