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Henryk Wieniawski
Romance sans paroles et Rondo élégant Op. 9

The Romance sans paroles et Rondo élégant, Op. 9 by Wieniawski, alongside his lyrical and emotional Légende,Op. 17, Adagio élégiaque, Op. 5, Scherzo-Tarantella, Op. 16 and Capriccio-Valse, Op. 7, is among his pièces de salon. In nineteenth-century Europe, the salon fulfilled many different functions and offered a great number of variant forms according to the host's social standing and financial status. There were the salons-institutions embracing the artistic and intellectual élites and opinion-forming circles of the day, in which distinguished artists gave concerts. These salons opened up a world of possibilities for young and talented artists who were just embarking on their musical careers. Salons of quite another order served, above all, entertainment, with amateurs performing privately, for family and friends. For such salon circles, composers wrote music tailored to the technical capacities, tastes and habits of the performers. As a result of their efforts, a great number of the then fashionable fantasias, romances, songs without words, potpourris based on popular opera themes, caprices, dance miniatures, sometimes of a functional nature, and non-dance miniatures, in rondo or simple reprise form, were ‘produced’ rather than composed.

The different functions of salons were responsible for the unequal artistic and technical level of the music performed there. In addition to simple, sometimes trivial, pieces lacking in depth, there were also compositions of a high artistic and technical level requiring great fluency and giving the performers an opportunity to present brilliant technical effects. Wieniawski's salon compositions were not intended to be performed at home parties by amateur musicians. Technically less complicated and providing fewer virtuoso devices than compositions meant for concert performance, these works required a fluency and lightness of playing, as well as a sense of style and the ability to present a beautiful cantilena line.

The Romance sans paroles et Rondo élégant, Op. 9 was composed by Wieniawski at the age of seventeen, in 1852, during a concert tour of Russia with his brother, Józef. The Russian concert period established Henryk’s reputation as a successful violinist and a famous virtuoso. But it was also a period of intensive creative work.

Between 1853 and 1854, Wieniawski published more than half of his compositions (from Op. 3 to Op. 15). The Romance sans paroles et Rondo élégant, Op. 9 was first published in Leipzig by Kistner, together with the Capriccio-Valse, Op. 7, and then in Paris by the firm of E. Girod. The autograph of Op. 9 is lost, but another, chronologically earlier, manuscript containing the original version of the Rondo has been preserved. This is the Rondo Russe dedicated by Wieniawski to Prince Nicholas Yusupov1 in 18482 (the title page of the composition contains the following inscription: Rondo Russe / de Concert / pour le Violon avec Accompagnement de Piano / composé et dedié / à / Monsieur le Prince Nicolas Joussoupoff / par / Henri Wieniawski). Both the appearance and the size of the sheets of this manuscript testify its album provenance. The sheets are in small portrait format, each provided with an ornamental border around the musical text (twelve staves on each page, linked in threes for violin and piano). The manuscript was very carefully written out, with special attention paid to detail (tempo, articulation and dynamic indications). The Rondo Russe differs greatly from the Rondo of Op. 9, in both the piano and the solo part. In the violin part, there is no fingering, the bowing is different from that in Op. 9, and there are some changes in articulation and dynamics, as well as in rhythmic notation (mainly shortened values). The whole piece is to be played Allegretto. Both the finale and the solo cadenza are greatly simplified.

Opus 9 consists of two contrasting non-dance miniatures. The sentimental Romance sans paroles, of simple structure and expression, is preceded by a charming and light Rondo élégant characterized by figurative, ornamented melodies typical of the brillant style. As one of the numerous forms of artistic expression, the romance has its roots in vocal music. It was transferred into instrumental music towards the end of the eighteenth century and was added to the group of cyclical forms as a slow lyrical movement in concertos for solo instruments (e.g. in concertos by Mozart), among other compositions. At the same time, the romance also appeared in instrumental music as a separate genre (e.g. Beethoven's Romanzasin G major and in F major for violin and orchestra, Schumann's Romanzen, Op. 28 for piano). An instrumental romance is characterized by cantilena-based, lyrical, vocal-like melody, as well as a transparency and regularity of structure and phrasing (mainly the ABA form of periodic structure). The romance was especially popular with virtuoso violinists, e.g Viotti, Rode and Kreutzer, to name but a few. In Wieniawski's oeuvre, the romance appears not only as one of the miniatures of Op. 9, but also as the middle movement of the Violin Concerto in D minor.

According to Józef Reiss, the Romancefrom Op. 9 is typically Russian in character, forming a kind of ‘tribute to Russian audiences’ (like the Souvenir de Moscou, Op. 6);3 Reiss compares the melody of the Romance to that characteristic of a melancholic Russian dumka or a Gypsy romance4. The piece is in a dance-like compound triple metre and should be played in a relatively fast tempo, Allegro non troppo. The whole work is in ABA' form, with a shortened reprise, typical of salon miniatures. The lyrical, melodious cantilena of regularly built phrases is almost entirely devoid of ornaments (single appoggiaturas appearing only occasionally). Section A, in D minor, should be played piano throughout; the violin part, led in the high register, is accompanied by a static chordal piano part, and the use of natural harmonics adds variety to the sound. Section B (poco più lento), in A major, brings a change of character. The violin leads a more rhythmically varied melody in broken-up notes against arpeggio chords in the piano part, and the use of animato and crescendo in combination with octave progressions enlivens the mood somewhat. With the use of these compositional devices, Wieniawski builds up a climax, after which a shortened A section returns. In the last bars of the composition, the melody grows softer and gradually dies away.

The other miniature in Op. 9 is the Rondo, a form developed in the eighteenth century by French clavecinists. In the eighteenth and nienteenth centuries, it was used as a finale in cyclical genres, such as the concerto and sonata. The rondo could also appear as a separate piece. Rondos not included in cyclical works retained the showpiece character of concerto finales.

The form of the Rondo from Op. 9 does not develop schematically after the traditional pattern of a reiterated refrain and contrasting couplets. The following diagram shows its form: 

A            B            C               A       coda
aba     cdcd'     efef          aba

                      + cadenza

The diagram shows the overall structure of the work (the larger formal units are denoted by capital letters) as well as the inner form of the smaller components (small letters refer to the closed units from which a given section is built).

The diagram shows that in this case we are dealing with a reprise form, and not a rondo form. The small unit C was distinctly separated by means of a change of key (into D major) and of the character of expression.

In the violin part, the composer used an assortment of technical devices, such as ornaments (mainly trills), pizzicato for the left hand combined with bowing (bar 113), artificial and natural harmonics (bars 165, 166), chords and double stops, notes played staccato and taken in the same stroke, ‘anchored’ figures, sudden transitions between extreme registers, and arpeggios. The abundance of technical devices adds variety to the melodic line and enables the performer to present a wide range of technical effects. However, as regards their complexity, and also the degree of difficulty, these technical solutions cannot be compared with Wieniawski's later achievements in L'École moderne, Op. 10 or the Etudes-Caprices, Op. 18. The accompanying part for the piano is limited mainly to static chords, but now and then there is an exchange of melodic motifs between the violin and the piano (bars 157–163) and, from time to time, the piano takes over the melodic part (from bar 188 onwards). In the small unit C, the accompaniment is based on a rhythmic ostinato (dotted rhythm); the whole unit ends with a brilliant figurative cadenza of the violin in Presto leading to the return of unit A. The rondo ends with an extended coda: in the piano part a distinct condensation of the sound occurs, due to the use of a chordal texture (three- and four-note chords), and the violin part becomes more tempestuous and dazzling. The last four bars form a Largo finale in fff, with closely-spaced chords, tremolo in the piano and multiple stops in the violin.

Despite a number of brilliant technical devices, the Rondo élégant is not too demanding in its technical requirements, and therefore it has not gained so much popularity with virtuoso violinists as other miniatures by Wieniawski.

German first edition of the score for violin and piano published in Leipzig by the firm of F. Kistner c.18545, plate no. 2068. This print contains a collective title page: Morceau de Salon. / Wieniawski HENRI [the composer's forename, in italicized capital letters, printed on top of the surname].: No.1 OP. 7. Pr. 17 ½ Ngr  /  No. 2 OP. 9 Pr. 25 Ngr. LEIPZIG, FR. KISTNER. / 2067. 2068. The first number concerns the edition of the Capriccio-Valse, Op. 7, the second that of Op. 9. On account of the considerable differences in the typeface as compared with the decorative title page of Op. 9 further into this print, one may suppose that the collective title page was added when the work was published again later. The proper title page reads as follows: ROMANCE / sans paroles / ET /Rondo élegant [sic] / POUR / VIOLON / avec Accompagnement de Piano / composées et dediées / A SON ALTESSE ROYALE / MONSEIGNEUR LE DUC / Maximilien / DE BAVIÈRE / par / HENRI WIENIAWSKI. Op. 9. [on the left] Pr. 25 Ngr. [on the right, the price as on the collective title page]. / Propriété de l'Editeur / Enregistré aux Archives de l'Union / LEIPZIG, FR. KISTNER. / Ent.a Sta.Hall. [in small print] / 2068.

French first edition of the score for violin and piano published in Paris by the firm of E. Girod c.18586, plate no. E.G. 4087. The title page is richly ornamented: A SON ALTESSE MONSEIGNEUR / LE DUC MAXIMILIEN DE BAVIÈRE / ROMANCE SANS PAROLES / ET / RONDO ÉLÈGANT / 2.e MORCEAU DE SALON, / POUR LE VIOLON / avec accompagnement de piano / PAR / HENRI WIENIAWSKI. / Op. 9. [below the forename] / PRIX: 9 F. [below the surname] / PARIS, / E. GIROD EDITEUR SUCC.R DE LAUNER / 16, Boulev.d Montmartre. / E.G. 4087. This print comprises thirteen pages including the title page. The musical text begins from page 2.  Above the music: ROMANCE SANS PAROLES / ET / RONDO ÉLÈGANT / à son Altesse Monseigneur / le Duc MAXIMILIEN de BAVIÈRE [on the right] / Henri WIENIAWSKI op. 9. [on the left]. Beneath the dedication: tirez. / poussez.

Magdalena Chylińska

Translated by Ewa Gabryś, Ewa Cholewka


1. The identity of the dedicatee of this work is somewhat problematic, as there were two men called Prince Nicholas Yusupov. However, since the first Prince Nicholas lived from 1751 to 1831, the Rondo Russe could not have been dedicated to him, as in 1848 he was no longer alive. This prince’s grandson, Nicholas Borisovich Yusupov, born on 12 October 1827, is known to have been a musician, art lover and patron of the arts. In his castle in St Petersburg, on the River Moyka, in addition to a collection of pictures, there was also a valuable collection of violins. In 1848, Prince Nicholas was twenty-one, and it must be to him that the Rondo Russe was dedicated.
2. According to the information given in the thematic catalogue of Wieniawski's works, the manuscript of the Rondo Russe was written in St Petersburg in 1848. In the same year, Wieniawski gave a number of concerts in St Petersburg (12 and 24 April, 2, 17 and 28 May), playing both in concert halls and in aristocratic salons. Thus we must move back the date of the above-mentioned manuscript of the Rondo Russe to April or May 1848. We do not know whether the young Henryk gave a concert at Yusupov Castle in St Petersburg or met Nicholas Borisovich on another occasion. There is no doubt, however, that he had an opportunity to meet Nicholas and dedicate his work to him. The date and place of the work’s composition are given after A. Jazdon, Henryk Wieniawski – Thematic Catalogue, Poznań 2009.
3. J. Reiss, Wieniawski (Cracow, 1985), 43.
4. Ibid, 123.