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Jozef Wieniawski: The Mystery of Opus 16

Henryk and Jozef Wieniawski ca. 1851.

Jozef Wieniawski (1837-1912) was the younger brother of Henryk Wieniawski. He was a pianist, composer and professor of piano at the Moscow Conservatory and later at the Brussels Conservatory. He was a founder member and then director of the Warsaw Music Society. The Petrucci Music Library of the International Music Score Library Project lists 51 of his works with names and opus numbers. Opposite Opus 16, however, there is no name, only a question mark which could mean the work is either unknown or lost.

Proof that it did exist is in the Archives of the Henryk Wieniawski Musical Society where there is a fragment, only the title page, of a work entitled Ave Maria Priere (Version francaise) Gebet (Version allemande) pour chant avec accompagnement de piano ou orgue. Joseph Wieniawski Op.16. The song was published in Brussels by J. B. Katto and in Paris by Colombier. Although there is no date of publication it bears a handwritten dedication from Jozef's two daughters, Elizabeth and Marcelle, to the Russian soprano Tatiana Makushina "en temoignage de notre vive admiration." which is dated "Londres 22 janvier 1934." Born in Brussels the daughters had come to live permanently in London after their father's death. Elizabeth, who was a teacher of languages, died in 1978. Her sister Marcelle died in 1990. Tatiana Makushina sang at several Promenade Concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London during the 1920s and 30s and it is possible Elizabeth and Marcelle heard her at one of these concerts and were impressed enough to give her a copy of their father's song.

Title page of Op. 16 by J. Wieniawski. Archives of Henryk Wieniawski Musical Society A fragment of title page of Op. 16 by J. Wieniawski. Archives of Henryk Wieniawski Musical Society

The title page of the song was found in an antiquarian bookshop in London some years ago by a friend of mine who gave it to me. One can only surmise how it got there after it had presumably been in Tatiana Makushina's possession. I passed it on to the Society. Jozef Wieniawski is known for his piano works, not a song which, if the complete opus could be found, would make it a rarity.

Some of his piano works and a piano concerto have been recorded on CDs; Jerzy Sterczynski plays Sonata in B minor Op.22, Minuet in D major, Song Without Words in E flat major for piano, and with Andrzej Wrobel Sonata in E major Op.26 for cello and piano on Selene 0502.73, Patrycja Piekutowska violin and Edward Wolanin piano play Sonata in D minor Op.24 on DUX 0534 which also has Henryk's Polonaise brilliante in A minor Op.21 and Legend Op.17, Tomasz Kamieniak plays 8 pieces on Acte Prealable APO184, and Hamish Milne with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Michal Dworzynski play Piano Concerto in G minor Op.20 as well as Hermann Goetz's Piano Concerto in B flat major Op.18 on Hyperion CDA67791.   

Peter Rennie