Henri Vieuxtemps
Henri François Joseph Vieuxtemps (ɑ̃ʁi fʁɑ̃swa ʒɔzɛf vjøtɑ̃ ) (17 February 18206 June 1881) was a Belgian
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

 and violinist.
The violin is a string instrument, usually with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is the smallest, highest-pitched member of the violin family of string instruments, which includes the viola and cello....

 He occupies an important place in the history of the violin as a prominent exponent of the Franco-Belgian violin school during the mid-19th century.


Vieuxtemps was born in Verviers
Verviers is a Walloon city and municipality located in the Belgian province of Liège. The Verviers municipality includes the old communes of Ensival, Lambermont, Petit-Rechain, Stembert, and Heusy...

, Belgium, son of a weaver and amateur violinist and violin-maker. He received his first violin instruction from his father and a local teacher and gave his first public performance at the age of six, playing a concerto by Pierre Rode
Pierre Rode
Jacques Pierre Joseph Rode was a French violinist and composer.-Biography:Born in Bordeaux, Aquitaine, France, Pierre Rode traveled to Parisat the age of 13 and soon became a favourite pupil of the great Giovanni Battista Viotti who found the boy so talented that he charged him no fee for the...

. Soon he was giving concerts in various surrounding cities, including Liège
Liège is a major city and municipality of Belgium located in the province of Liège, of which it is the economic capital, in Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium....

 and Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

 where he met the violinist Charles Auguste de Bériot, with whom he began studies. In 1829, Bériot took him to Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 where he made a successful concert debut, again with a concerto by Rode, but he had to return the next year because of the July Revolution
July Revolution
The French Revolution of 1830, also known as the July Revolution or in French, saw the overthrow of King Charles X of France, the French Bourbon monarch, and the ascent of his cousin Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orléans, who himself, after 18 precarious years on the throne, would in turn be overthrown...

 and Bériot's marriage to his mistress Maria Malibran
Maria Malibran
The mezzo-soprano Maria Malibran , was one of the most famous opera singers of the 19th century. Malibran was known for her stormy personality and dramatic intensity, becoming a legendary figure after her death at age 28...

 and departure on concert tour. Back in Brussels, Vieuxtemps continued developing his violin technique on his own, his musicianship deepened by playing with the deeply musical mezzo-soprano Pauline Viardot, Malibran's sister. A tour of Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 in 1833 brought friendship with Louis Spohr
Louis Spohr
Louis Spohr was a German composer, violinist and conductor. Born Ludewig Spohr, he is usually known by the French form of his name. Described by Dorothy Mayer as "The Forgotten Master", Spohr was once as famous as Beethoven. As a violinist, his virtuoso playing was admired by Queen Victoria...

 and with Robert Schumann
Robert Schumann
Robert Schumann, sometimes known as Robert Alexander Schumann, was a German composer, aesthete and influential music critic. He is regarded as one of the greatest and most representative composers of the Romantic era....

, who compared the boy to Niccolò Paganini
Niccolò Paganini
Niccolò Paganini was an Italian violinist, violist, guitarist, and composer. He was one of the most celebrated violin virtuosi of his time, and left his mark as one of the pillars of modern violin technique...

. During the following decade he visited various European cities, impressing with his virtuosity not only audiences but also famous musicians such as Hector Berlioz
Hector Berlioz
Hector Berlioz was a French Romantic composer, best known for his compositions Symphonie fantastique and Grande messe des morts . Berlioz made significant contributions to the modern orchestra with his Treatise on Instrumentation. He specified huge orchestral forces for some of his works; as a...

 and Paganini himself, whom he encountered at his London debut in 1834.

But he had aspirations of becoming a composer as well and, having already taken lessons with the respected Simon Sechter
Simon Sechter
Simon Sechter was an Austrian music theorist, teacher, organist, conductor and composer.Sechter was born in Friedberg , Bohemia, then part of the Austrian Empire, and moved to Vienna in 1804, succeeding Jan Václav Voříšek as court organist there in 1824. In 1810 he began teaching piano and voice...

 in Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

, spent the winter of 1835–1836 studying composition with Anton Reicha
Anton Reicha
Anton Reicha was a Czech-born, later naturalized French composer. A contemporary and lifelong friend of Beethoven, Reicha is now best remembered for his substantial early contribution to the wind quintet literature and his role as a teacher – his pupils included Franz Liszt and Hector Berlioz...

 in Paris. His first violin concerto, later published as Concerto No. 2, dates from this time.

Vieuxtemps's Violin Concerto No. 1 was acclaimed when he played it in Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

 on his second visit in 1840 and in Paris the next year; Berlioz found it "a magnificent symphony for violin and orchestra". Based in Paris, Vieuxtemps continued to compose with great success and perform throughout Europe. With the pianist Sigismond Thalberg
Sigismond Thalberg
Sigismond Thalberg was a composer and one of the most distinguished virtuoso pianists of the 19th century.- Descent and family background :...

, he concertized in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. He was particularly admired in Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 where he resided permanently between 1846 and 1851 as a court musician of Tsar Nicholas I
Nicholas I of Russia
Nicholas I , was the Emperor of Russia from 1825 until 1855, known as one of the most reactionary of the Russian monarchs. On the eve of his death, the Russian Empire reached its historical zenith spanning over 20 million square kilometers...

 and soloist in the Imperial Theatre. He founded the violin school of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory and guided the formation of a "Russian school" of violinists. In 1871, he returned to his native country to accept a professorship at the Brussels Conservatory, where his most illustrious pupil was Eugène Ysaÿe
Eugène Ysaÿe
Eugène Ysaÿe was a Belgian violinist, composer and conductor born in Liège. He was regarded as "The King of the Violin", or, as Nathan Milstein put it, the "tzar"...

. Some of his other notable students include Enrique Fernández Arbós
Enrique Fernandez Arbos
Enrique Fernández Arbós was a Spanish violinist, composer and conductor who divided much of his career between Madrid and London. He originally made his name as a virtuoso violinist and later as one of Spain’s greatest conductors.Fernández Arbós was born in Madrid...

, Eduard Caudella
Eduard Caudella
Eduard Caudella was a Romanian opera composer, also a violin virtuoso, conductor, teacher and critic. He studied with Henri Vieuxtemps.-Operas:*Harţă Răzeşul *Hatmanul Baltag *Beizadea Epaminonda...

, Alfred De Sève
Alfred De Sève
Alfred De Sève was a Canadian violinist, composer, and music educator. His compositional output includes works for violin and piano, solo piano, and orchestra; many of which were published by Arthur P. Schmidt and Charles H...

, Sam Franko
Sam Franko
Sam Franko was an American violinist and conductor. He was the brother of violinist, conductor and concert promoter Nahan Franko....

, Émile Sauret
Émile Sauret
Émile Sauret was a French violinist and composer.-Biography:He began studying violin at the Conservatory at Strasburg at the age of six and began concertizing two years later. He studied under Charles de Bériot and later became the student of Henri Vieuxtemps.Sauret made his American debut in 1872...

, Simon Sechter
Simon Sechter
Simon Sechter was an Austrian music theorist, teacher, organist, conductor and composer.Sechter was born in Friedberg , Bohemia, then part of the Austrian Empire, and moved to Vienna in 1804, succeeding Jan Václav Voříšek as court organist there in 1824. In 1810 he began teaching piano and voice...

, and César Thomson
César Thomson
César Thomson was a Belgian violinist, teacher and composer.He was born in Liège in 1857. At age seven, he entered the Liège Conservatory of Music, and studied under Jacques Dupuis and Lambert Massart. By age 16, he was considered to have "a technique unrivalled by any other violinist then living"...


A paralytic stroke disabled his right arm two years later and he moved to Paris again, his violin class being taken over by Henryk Wieniawski
Henryk Wieniawski
Henryk Wieniawski was a Polish violinist and composer.-Biography:Henryk Wieniawski was born in Lublin, Congress Poland, Russian Empire. His father, Tobiasz Pietruszka, had converted to Catholicism. His talent for playing the violin was recognized early, and in 1843 he entered the Paris...

. Although he seemed to be gradually recovering from his stroke, another one in 1879 ended his career as a violinist for good. He spent his last years in a sanatorium in Mustapha Supérieur, Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

, where his daughter and her husband had settled, and continued to compose, though frustrated by his inability to play or, far from the musical centres of Europe, even hear his music played by others.

The bulk of Vieuxtemps's compositions were for his own instrument, including seven concertos and a variety of short salon pieces, though towards the end of his life, when he had to give up the violin, he often turned to other instruments, writing two cello
The cello is a bowed string instrument with four strings tuned in perfect fifths. It is a member of the violin family of musical instruments, which also includes the violin, viola, and double bass. Old forms of the instrument in the Baroque era are baryton and viol .A person who plays a cello is...

 concertos, a viola
The viola is a bowed string instrument. It is the middle voice of the violin family, between the violin and the cello.- Form :The viola is similar in material and construction to the violin. A full-size viola's body is between and longer than the body of a full-size violin , with an average...

 sonata and three string quartet
String quartet
A string quartet is a musical ensemble of four string players – usually two violin players, a violist and a cellist – or a piece written to be performed by such a group...

s among other things. It is because of his seven violin concertos, however, that Vieuxtemps is generally known to audiences and musicians around the world. Through his own concertos and his advocacy of the concertos of Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential composers of all time.Born in Bonn, then the capital of the Electorate of Cologne and part of...

 (he also played Beethoven's sonatas and string quartets) and Mendelssohn
Felix Mendelssohn
Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Barthóldy , use the form 'Mendelssohn' and not 'Mendelssohn Bartholdy'. The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians gives ' Felix Mendelssohn' as the entry, with 'Mendelssohn' used in the body text...

, he added a more classical dimension to the violin repertoire which had tended towards technically brilliant but often shallow variations and fantasies on popular operatic themes. Vieuxtemps never indulged in sheer virtuosity for its own sake, like some of his predecessors. Eugene Ysaye
Eugène Ysaÿe
Eugène Ysaÿe was a Belgian violinist, composer and conductor born in Liège. He was regarded as "The King of the Violin", or, as Nathan Milstein put it, the "tzar"...

 quotes him as saying "Not runs for the sake of runs - sing, sing!"

Major works

For a complete listing, see List of compositions by Henri Vieuxtemps.

  • Violin Concerto No. 1 in E major, Op. 10 (1840)
  • Les arpéges (Caprice) in D major for violin and orchestra (or piano) with cello obligato, Op. 15 (c.1845)
  • Violin Concerto No. 2 in F minor "Sauret
    Émile Sauret
    Émile Sauret was a French violinist and composer.-Biography:He began studying violin at the Conservatory at Strasburg at the age of six and began concertizing two years later. He studied under Charles de Bériot and later became the student of Henri Vieuxtemps.Sauret made his American debut in 1872...

    , Op. 19 (1836)
  • Violin Concerto No. 3 in A major, Op. 25 (1844)
  • Violin Concerto No. 4 in D minor, Op. 31 (c.1850)
  • Fantasia appassionata for violin and orchestra, Op. 35 (c.1860)
  • Violin Concerto No. 5 in A minor "Le Grétry"
    Violin Concerto No. 5 (Vieuxtemps)
    The Violin Concerto No.5 in A minor, Op. 37, by Henri Vieuxtemps was composed in 1861. This remains Vieuxtemps' most popular violin concerto. The second movement borrows from "Où peut-on être mieux qu'au sein de sa famille?" in Grétry's opera Lucile...

    , Op. 37 (1861)
  • Ballade et polonaise de concert for violin and orchestra, Op. 38 (c.1858)
  • Duo brilliant in A major for violin, cello (or viola) and orchestra or piano, Op. 39 (1864?)
  • Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 46 (1877)
  • Violin Concerto No. 6 in G major, Op. 47 (1865) (Op. 1 posthumous)
  • Violin Concerto No. 7 in A minor Jenő Hubay
    Jeno Hubay
    Eugen Huber , better known by his Hungarian name Jenő Hubay , was a Hungarian violinist, composer and music teacher.-Early life:Eugen Huber was born into a German family of musicians in Pest, Hungary...

    , Op. 49 (1870) (Op. 3 posthumous)
  • Cello Concerto No. 2 in B minor, Op. 50 (1879) (Op. 4 posthumous)
  • Allegro de concert for violin and orchestra, Op. 59 (Op. 13 posthumous); movement I of the unfinished Violin Concerto No. 8

Chamber music
  • String Quartet No. 1 in E minor, Op. 44 (1871)
  • String Quartet No. 2 in C major, Op. 51 (Op. 5 posthumous)
  • String Quartet No. 3 in B major, Op. 52 (Op. 6 posthumous)

Violin and piano
  • Bouquet américain, 6 Variations sur mélodies populaires, Op. 33 (c.1855)
  • Fantaisies brilliantes, Op. 54 (Op. 8 posthumous)
  • 3 Feuilles d'album, Op. 40 (1864)
  • Greeting to America, Op. 56
  • Impressions et réminiscences de Pologne, Op. 57 (Op.11 posthumous)
  • 6 Morceaux de salon, Op. 22 (1847?)
  • 3 Morceaux de salon, Op. 32 (c.1850)
  • Old England, Caprice on 16th- and 17th-Century English Airs, Op. 42 (1866)
  • 3 Romances sans paroles, Op. 7 (1841)
  • 4 Romances sans paroles, Op. 8 (c.1845)
  • Salut à América for Violin and Piano, Op. 56 (Op.10 posthumous)
  • Souvenir d’Amérique, Variations burlesques sur "Yankee Doodle
    Yankee Doodle
    "Yankee Doodle" is a well-known Anglo-American song, the origin of which dates back to the Seven Years' War. It is often sung patriotically in the United States today and is the state anthem of Connecticut...

    , Op. 17 (1844)
  • Souvenir de Russie (Fantasie), Op. 21 (c.1845)
  • Suite in B Minor, Op. 43 (1871)
  • Violin Sonata in D major, Op. 12 (c.1845)
  • Voies de cœurs, 6 pièces, Op. 53 (Op.7 posthumous)
  • Voix intimes, 6 pensées melodiques, Op. 45 (1876)

  • Capriccio "Hommage à Paganini" in C minor for viola solo, Op. 55 (Op. 9 posthumous)
  • Élégie in F minor for viola (or cello) and piano, Op. 30 (?1854)
  • Sonate inachevée (Allegro et Scherzo) in B major for viola and piano, Op. 60 (Op. 14 posthumous)
  • Viola Sonata in B major, Op. 36 (1863)

External links

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