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Henryk Wieniawski
Capriccio-Valse Op. 7

Wieniawski—the last virtuoso of the violin.1

Having begun to learn the violin in his home town of Lublin, Wieniawski continued his training from the age of eight at the Conservatoire de Paris, under Lambert Joseph Massart, graduating three years later with the gold medal. From his very first public performances he won fame and recognition among audiences and critics alike, captivating listeners with his depth of feeling and beautiful phrasing. From his years spent at the Paris Conservatoire he developed a high musical culture, whilst he continued to work on technique mainly by himself, in order to improve the dexterity of his left hand, his overall proficiency and his facility for producing excellent staccato, ultimately honing his technique to the heights of true perfection. He developed his own individual bowing technique and a new right-hand position facilitating the execution of long, complicated staccato passages.2 But what most thrilled audiences about Wieniawski’s playing was his great emotionality and the richness and variety of his sound. He was able to bring from the instrument a moving, lyrical cantilena full of charm and noble refinement. Wieniawski the virtuoso electrified listeners with his marvellous, dazzling technical fluency and moved them with the emotionality of his cantilena. Moniuszko said of his playing that ‘he strictly combines the celebrated strength of Lipiński with the tenderness of Ernst and the wit of Paganini’.3

Jenö Hubay, the Hungarian violinist, composer, music teacher and critic, successor to Henri Vieuxtemps and Henryk Wieniawski as professor of violin at the Brussels Conservatoire, wrote: ‘A rippling trill, wonderful silvery staccato, bravura confidence in octaves and other double notes, immaculate purity of harmonics’;4  Wieniawski employed all these technical means to achieve a supreme artistry.

Wieniawski the composer.

Wieniawski’s short life, lasting barely forty-five years (1835–1880), was very intense. It was spent on concert tours around Europe, at first mostly in Russia, and later in Britain, France, Austria, Finland and the Netherlands; he also toured the USA, all the way to California, with the great pianist Anton Rubinstein. The preparations for performances and constant travelling meant that little time remained for creative work. He composed chiefly with himself in mind as performer. Wieniawski chose primarily genres that were particularly popular at the time, such as fantasies, variations and miniatures, designed for performance both on the concert platform and in the salon. The current of salon music—expanding considerably from the beginning of the nineteenth century as a result of the growing demand for music in bourgeois drawing-rooms—was represented by miniatures of the romance type, songs without words and also non-dance miniatures in rondo or simple reprise form. In Wieniawski’s output such pièces de salon are the Adagio élégiaque, Op. 5, Scherzo-tarantelle, Op. 16, Légende, Op. 17, Romance sans parole et Rondo élégant, Op. 9 and Capriccio-valse, Op. 7.

His very first works already showed that the young violinist wished to present outstanding technical mastery and to dazzle listeners with a brilliance and fluency of playing. Yet his compositions gradually gained in intensity and above all in an unparalleled wealth of melodic inventiveness, as is testified by Légende, Op. 17 and the Second Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 22, among others.

Capriccio-valse, Op. 7. The Capriccio was written before 1854. In his monograph devoted to Wieniawski’s life and work, Józef Reiss suggests that it was composed in the year 1852,5 at a time when Henryk and his pianist brother Józef were on a concert tour of Russia. It was first published in Leipzig by Kistner, together with the Rondo élégant, Op. 9 No. 2, and subsequently in Paris by Girod.

The date of the German first edition is not precisely specified in the literature. It is generally held to be some time in 1853,6 although Reiss suggests that the Kistner edition appeared c.1860.7 The title page of the Leipzig edition employed in the present edition bears the plate number 2067. Otto E. Deutsch’s Musikverlagsnummern, published in Berlin in 1961, gives a number of crucial details concerning the dating of Kistner’s editions. One entry states that the work with the number 2021 was published in 1854, whilst the work numbered 2230 appeared in the year 1857.8 Analysing these plate numbers, we may assume that the edition of Op. 7 was issued most probably between 1854 and 1855. The dates given by Deutsch are borne out by another important piece of evidence that helps us to establish the date of the Leipzig edition. This is a letter sent by the composer to the Berlin publisher Gustav Bock,9 dated 15 June 1854, in which Wieniawski writes about the publication of his Grand duo polonais: ‘I hope that this time you will take more trouble than in the case of the Waltz, as truthfully speaking it is scandalous to be unable to write correctly the name of the author. The first page of the Waltz has Winiawski, instead of Wie[niawski]. Besides this, there are also several printing errors'10. So we know for certain that in June 1854 the Capriccio-valse existed in printed form. However, the above letter is addressed, not to the Leipzig publisher, but to the Berlin publisher, responsible for the printing errors mentioned. But was Op. 7 also published at the same time in Berlin?

The title page of the Leipzig edition used in our own edition has the composer’s name spelled correctly. The musical text itself does contain minor printing errors, but they are few in number and not glaring mistakes. It is possible, therefore, that Op. 7 was initially sent by Wieniawski to Bock (as would appear to be indicated by the cited letter). At the same time, Wieniawski could have sent a copy of his work to the Leipzig publisher, who issued Op. 7 under the aforementioned plate number around 1854–1855. Biographical sources devoted to Wieniawski’s oeuvre make no mention of the Berlin edition, and so it may have occurred that due to the errors referred to in the letter this edition was withdrawn; it is also possible that Wieniawski’s comments concerned a proof that had been sent to him to check, with the actual edition not ultimately appearing or perhaps later disappearing. Thus we may presume that Kistner’s Leipzig edition is in fact the work’s first German edition, published, not in 1853, but in 1854 or 1855. All doubts in this respect were finally dispelled by Andrzej Jazdon, who, on the basis of bibliographic sources, fixed the date of publication at November 1854.11

In connection with the dating of the work’s first edition, one further question arises: Can the year 1852 given by Reiss be unquestionably accepted as the date of the work’s composition? Suchowiejko suggests that in the case of Wieniawski’s works the year of a first edition and the year of a work’s composition not infrequently coincide, since the composer took care to promote his new works. So why, in the case of Op. 7, such a lengthy gap (two years) between the suggested date of composition and the date of the Leipzig edition? The letter to Bock attests that this publisher was preparing the material of Op. 7 for print, and this must have been around the turn of 1853 and 1854. So given that the letter of June 1854 mentions errors in a text supplied by the publisher, then the autograph of the Capriccio must have been prepared later than the autumn of 1853. This does not rule out the date suggested by Reiss, but it does confirm that the autograph used in the present edition cannot be the first version of the work completed by the composer and submitted for print.

The two printed versions of the work carry different dedications: Kistner’s Leipzig edition was dedicated by Wieniawski ‘a son ami Adalbert Wilkoszewski’, the Paris edition to the violinist Teresa Milanollo. The handwritten dedication for Wilkoszewski was also placed in the top right corner of the title page of the extant autograph.

The table below sets out the dates of the writing and dedicating of all three sources. It shows that the autograph could theoretically have been the Stichvorlage for the Leipzig edition.


  Leipzig first edition

  Paris first edition

date of composition

  20 July 1854

  November 1854



  Adalbert Wilkoszewski

  Adalbert Wilkoszewski

  Teresa Milanollo

However, that the autograph was not used as the base text for any of the editions is suggested by the lack of any engraver’s marks indicating the layout of the musical text and also the substantial textual differences between this autograph and the two printed versions analysed.

Wieniawski’s abundant correspondence with publishers shows that the composer attached great importance to the quality of publications and their accordance with his intentions. The fact that he corrected a particular musical text prepared for publication is testified by the character of the amendments made, as he often added to a text details concerning performance or interpretation, which could not have been supplied by the publisher (e.g. in L’école moderne).

Some compositions were added by Wieniawski to his concert repertoire before they appeared in print; hence the numerous alterations and the considerable differences between manuscript and printed versions. However, this situation could not have occurred in relation to the autograph and first editions discussed here, above all due to the dating of the sources.

The question thus arises: If this autograph is not a Stichvorlage, then to what category does it belong? The musical text was notated by the composer very meticulously—with virtually no deletions or corrections (the exception being a deleted bar on page 4: second system, first bar). The title page carries the dedication to Wilkoszewski. Given the fact that this work had just been published, this autograph could have been a gift for his friend. This might account for the numerous changes and textual differences between the autograph and the first editions.

It cannot be excluded, however, that this version functioned as an alternative in relation to that published in Leipzig. Wieniawski performed his works in concerts in many different versions, introducing new variants resulting from the then common practice of improvisation. The version of the 1854 autograph may have been one of the variants played by the composer. Suchowiejko asserts that Wieniawski ‘took great care that [a printed version] correspond fully to his intentions’.12 It would seem, however, that in Wieniawski’s case it is difficult to assume that a printed version constitutes the final version of a work, mainly because this material was very much alive and functioned in the concert repertoire performed by the composer himself. Wieniawski sometimes notated his works in just a sketch version, which he subsequently fleshed out in different ways, on each occasion imparting to the work a somewhat different sound shape, employing new technical and melodic variants. For this reason, the criterion of the date of a work’s publication cannot be taken as the only criterion when deciding on a basic source. It must be backed by an analysis of the actual musical content of the sources.

The title of the work itself gives us an important clue and information. In nineteenth-century music, we can distinguish three types of caprice. The first comprises works of a typically demonstrative, showpiece character, strictly related to the etude (e.g. Paganini’s 24 Caprices and Wieniawski’s Etudes-Caprices). Caprices of the second kind belong to the current of lyrical instrumental work, at times close in character to the fantasy or nocturne (e.g. the caprices of Brahms). Then there are compositions of a third type, combining features of the caprice with features of other genres, most often dance genres (e.g. Tchaikovsky’s Waltz-Caprice for piano).13 In this last instance, the title of a work contains an indication as to its character.

The term valse used by Wieniawski draws attention to the dance-like character of the work and also evokes associations with salon waltz stylisations full of lightness and grace (e.g. the waltzes of Chopin). The term Capriccio that appears in the title may direct our attention towards one of the three types. In this case it refers to the first of the above-mentioned types, displaying certain affinities with the etude, as it is an early composition in which technical display is still an element of fundamental importance for the young violinist.

The work is shaped in the form of a rondo, preceded by an introduction and rounded off by a coda. Thus the main factors in generating form are similarity and contrast.

introduction    A          B            A'         C      A          B         A      coda
                        aa    bbccb    a' a'' a''   ee     a      bbccb    a

The diagram above presents the overall construction of the work (the larger formal units are marked with capitals), as well as the internal shaping of the individual segments (marked with small letters—these letters correspond, not to musical sentences, but to the closed fragments from which the given section is constituted).

Wieniawski differentiates the couplets through a variety of technical means. The first couplet, marked on the diagram with the letter B, is clearly contrasted internally. The first section of this couplet (b) is distinguished by the introduction of melodic changes in the violin part. A single melodic motif with trill appears, which is progressively repeated. Tonally speaking, this section passes from the initial key of E major into the area of the dominant, B major, although with no change of tempo. In the next section (c), the tempo increases to Presto, the key alters to G major and the performance means are changed. Here, Wieniawski brings in his showpiece staccato a ricochet: a falling staccato semiquaver progression taking in seven bars on a single upbow (41 notes on a single bow).

Contrast also appears as an element of formal shaping in the second couplet—C. The tempo is again modified, moving into a dance Tempo di Valse. There is also a clear dynamic contrast here, with the refrain ending fortissimo, whilst the couplet begins piano with the additional interpretational marking delicatamente. The composer does not change the key, shaping the whole couplet in a tonic-dominant succession. He does, however, introduce new technical means: in the part of the soloist there appears pizzicatoplayed with the left hand, combined with harmonics.

The other shaping principle, besides contrast, is repetition, visible in the work both in the overall formal scheme and in the internal construction of the refrain and the couplets. The composer shapes the course of the work through the repetition of smaller or larger musical units—sentences or small periods—chiefly unaltered. Minor changes appear in the repeat of section b in the piano part, the course of which is melodically condensed, with the composer introducing a rising scale progression leggiero in tenths, filling out the chords on the strong beats. A distinct modification occurs in the reiteration of the refrain after couplet B. Its length remains constant (40 bars), as does its tonal course, but variational changes are made to the principal melody of the violin part. The coda that rounds the work off is based on the head motif of the refrain, with the composer once again employing the effect of similarity to achieve the work’s melodic integration.

The Capriccio-valse, belonging to the genre of virtuosic salon compositions, is a youthful Wieniawski work, in which a light, dance-like tone is combined with dazzling virtuosity. Whilst this virtuosity is far from the exuberance of the style brillant, it is not yet the late Romantic virtuosity present in the works of Brahms and also in Wieniawski’s own late works, in which the soloist’s sparkling display is subordinated to the melodic line of the work. In the Capriccio, the virtuosic means serve primarily to demonstrate the violinist’s dexterity and technical accomplishment (Wieniawski wanted to present here his own skills on the instrument), but the composer does not relinquish the graceful, dance-like cantilena melody in the refrain—a melody interspersed with motifs of a virtuosic character (harmonics, rapid scale progressions). Wieniawski supplements the musical text with numerous indications for interpretation, such as appassionato, dolce, delicatamente and leggiero, emphasising the light, subtle character of the work and at the same time picking out passages that are more lyrical (dolce) or more emotionally charged (appassionato).

The violin part is based on two melodic types: cantilena-figurative in the refrain and purely figurative in the couplets. In the Capriccio we encounter a range of technical devices from the rich arsenal of means that are characteristic of Wieniawski’s technique. Thus we have motifs with harmonics, both natural and artificial, left-hand pizzicato, staccato a ricochet, motifs with trills, and also playing in high positions on all the strings. The composer makes use of the whole range of the instrument, whilst placing greater emphasis on the higher registers; he also specifies exactly which notes should be played on which strings, e.g. sul A (bars 28–30), sul D (bar 119) or sul G (bar 123).

The piano’s role in this work is chiefly that of accompaniment, of secondary importance in relation to the solo violin. Only in the introduction and in single bars of the coda does it gain melodic independence. The solo piano plays the whole of the introduction, which features the melodic motif from which the head motif of the refrain is derived. In the coda, there is an eight-bar dialogue between the violin and the piano, which reiterates the head motif of the refrain, subsequently expanded by the violin with motifs with harmonics. The piano part is based on a chordal texture, forming a rhythmic, harmonic and metric ground for the violin. But Wieniawski completely forgoes such technical means as the Alberti bass or other types of broken chord passages. He uses the piano accompaniment to emphasise the dance character of the work, through the rhythmic shaping of the parts of both hands (a frequent solution is the use of a long value in the bass supplemented by two quaver chords in the upper voice).

The Capriccio-valse, Grand duo polonais, Op. 8 and Romance sans paroles et Rondo élégant, Op. 9 bring the youthful period in Wieniawski’s oeuvre to a close. The next opus, L’école moderne, Op. 10, one of the most important studies of violin technique of the nineteenth century, opens a new period in the composer’s work—that of the virtuoso. Yet already in the Capriccio,Wieniawski presents many of the technical solutions which would subsequently become most characteristic of his playing style, such as staccato a ricochet. In the way the violin part is shaped, one sees the hand of a violinist boasting outstanding technical skills and an extraordinary freedom in their use—a violinist who with his talent delighted audiences throughout Europe and set the development of violin technique on new tracks.

The autograph of Capriccio-Valse Op. 7 is held in the Musikbibliothek Leipzig. It is a gift autograph. It contains eleven cream sheets lined with a rastral, nine systems per page joined in threes: one for the violin and two for the piano. The musical text is written on both sides of sheets 2–6. The pages are not numbered. On the first page recto, written in the composer’s hand: in the middle Capriccio Valse / par / Henri Wieniawski, above the sixth system from left to middle Munic 20 Juillet 1854, above the eighth system on the right Manuscript.In the top right corner the dedication: A son excellent ami Adalbert / Wilkoszewski de la part / Henri Wieniawski. The title page also carries the date: 20 July 1854. On the first page verso in the middle above the eighth system is the round dark blue stamp Musikbibliothek Leipzig, in the top left corner the shelf-mark PM 9186. On the seventh system, from the left to the middle, there are uneven lines. It is a meticulous autograph, with only one bar deleted on page 3 (systems 4–6). On the first page of music in the middle above the systems is the title Capriccio – Valse, by system 1 the entry Violon, between systems 2 and 3 the entry Piano. On the last page, after the final double bar line is the composer’s decorative signature HWieniawski.

The German first edition published by Kistner contains a version for violin and piano and a separate violin part. On the title page the entry CAPRICCIO-VALSE / pour / Violon / avec / Accompagnement de Piano / composé et dédié / à son ami / Adalbert Wilkoszewsky / 1re Violon de la Chapelle du Roi de Bavière / PAR / HENRI WIENIAWSKI. Beneath the composer’s name on the left op. 7, on the right Pr.M.1.75. Beneath the name in the middle of the page in small print: Propriété de l’Editeur / Enregistré aux Archives de l’Union / LEIPZIG, FR. KISTNER. At the bottom of the page is the plate number 2067.

The French first edition published by Girod contains a version for violin and piano and a separate violin part. On the title page is the entry A. Mme PARMENTIER / NEE / TERESA MILANOLLO / CAPRICCIO-VALSE 1r MORCEAU DE SALON / POUR LE VIOLON / avec accompagnement de Piano / PAR / HENRI WIENIAWSKI. Beneath the composer’s name on the left op. 7, on the right the price PRIX. 9 F. Below in the middle of the page: PARIS, / E.GIROD EDITR. SUCC.R DE LAUNER / 16, Boulen.t Montmartre. / E.G.4086. The Paris edition was issued several years later than the German edition, in 1858.14

Magdalena Chylińska

Translated by John Comber

1. Anton Rubinstein’s epithet for Wieniawski in his book Die Musik und ihre Meister. See J. Reiss, Wieniawski (Kraków: PWM, 1985), 91.
2. The classical rules of violin technique, requiring a low shoulder and elbow and a flexible wrist, made it difficult for Wieniawski to produce the desired staccato. Therefore he developed his own bowing technique, producing staccato by means of a stiff shoulder, high elbow and suitably taut wrist. See J. Reiss, op. cit., 101.
3. Cit. after T. Strumiłło, Koncerty skrzypcowe H. Wieniawskiego [The violin concertos of Henryk Wieniawski], Biblioteka słuchacza koncertowego (Kraków: PWM, 1955), 17.
4. J. Reiss, op. cit., 96.
5. J. Reiss, op. cit., 159.
6. This information is given both by Renata Suchowiejko (Henryk Wieniawski, kompozytor na tle wirtuozowskiej tradycji skrzypcowej XIX w. [Henryk Wieniawski. The composer against the background of the nineteenth-century violin tradition] (Poznań: Towarzystwo Muzyczne im. Henryka Wieniawskiego, 2005) and in the list of compositions on the official Website of the Henryk Wieniawski Society of Poznań.
7. J. Reiss, op. cit., 159.
8. O. E. Deutsch, Musikverlagsnummern (Berlin: Merseburger, 1961), 18.
9. In 1838 Gustav Bock and Eduardem Bote founded in Berlin the publishing firm of Bote & Bock, which from 1847 was run by the Bock family alone. Encyklopedia Muzyki PWM, ed. E. Dziębowska (Kraków: PWM, 1979).
10. Cit. after R. Suchowiejko, op. cit., 116.
11. A. Jazdon, Henryk Wieniawski, katalog tematyczny dzieł [Henryk Wieniawski. Thematic catalogue of works] (Poznań: Towarzystwo Muzyczne im. Henryka Wieniawskiego, 2009).
12. R. Suchowiejko, op. cit., 116.
13. s.v. ‘Capriccio’, in Encyklopedia Muzyki PWN, ed. A. Chodkowski (Warsaw: PWN, 1995).
14. This date, according to plate numbers, is given by R. Suchowiejko, op. cit., 108.