Henri Vieuxtemps |
Musicians Instrumentalists

Henri Vieuxtemps |

Henry Vieuxtemps

Date of birth
Date of death
composer, instrumentalist, teacher

Vietnam. Concert. Allegro non troppo (Jascha Heifetz) →

Henri Vieuxtemps |

Even the stern Joachim considered Vieuxtan a great violinist; Auer bowed before Viettan, highly appreciating him as a performer and composer. For Auer, Vietang and Spohr were classics of violin art, “because their works, each in their own way, serve as examples of various schools of musical thought and performance.”

Exceptionally great is the historical role of Vietnam in the development of European violin culture. He was a deep artist, distinguished by progressive views, and his merits in the tireless promotion of such works as the violin concerto and Beethoven’s last quartets in an era when they were rejected even by many major musicians are invaluable.

In this regard, Vieuxtan is the direct predecessor of Laub, Joachim, Auer, that is, those performers who asserted realistic principles in violin art in the middle of the XNUMXth century.

Vietanne was born in the small Belgian town of Verviers on February 17, 1820. His father, Jean-Francois Vietain, a cloth maker by profession, played the violin quite well for an amateur, often played at parties and in a church orchestra; mother Marie-Albertine Vietain, came from the hereditary Anselm family – artisans of the city of Verviers.

According to family legend, when Henri was 2 years old, no matter how much he cried, he could instantly be calmed by the sounds of the violin. Having discovered obvious musical abilities, the child began to learn the violin early. The first lessons were taught to him by his father, but his son quickly surpassed him in skill. Then the father entrusted Henri to a certain Leclos-Dejon, a professional violinist who lived in Verviers. The wealthy philanthropist M. Zhenin took a warm part in the fate of the young musician, who agreed to pay for the boy’s lessons with Leclou-Dejon. The teacher turned out to be capable and gave the boy a good foundation in violin playing.

In 1826, when Henri was 6 years old, his first concert took place in Verviers, and a year later – the second, in neighboring Liege (November 29, 1827). The success was so great that an article by M. Lansber appeared in the local newspaper, writing admiringly about the amazing talent of the child. The Gretry Society, in the hall of which the concert took place, presented the boy with a bow made by F. Turt, with the inscription “Henri Vietan Gretry Society” as a gift. After concerts in Verviers and Liege, the child prodigy was desired to be heard in the Belgian capital. On January 20, 1828, Henri, together with his father, goes to Brussels, where he again reaps laurels. The press responds to his concerts: “Courrier des Pays-Bas” and “Journal d’Anvers” enthusiastically enumerate the extraordinary qualities of his playing.

According to the descriptions of biographers, Viettan grew up as a cheerful child. Despite the seriousness of music lessons, he willingly indulged in children’s games and pranks. At the same time, music sometimes won even here. One day, Henri saw a toy cockerel in a shop window and received it as a gift. Returning home, he suddenly disappeared and appeared in front of the adults 3 hours later with a sheet of paper – this was his first “opus” – “The Song of the Cockerel”.

During the debuts of Viet Tang in the artistic field, his parents experienced great financial difficulties. On September 4, 1822, a girl named Barbara was born, and on July 5, 1828, a boy, Jean-Joseph-Lucien. There were two more children – Isidore and Maria, but they died. However, even with the rest, the family consisted of 5 people. Therefore, when, after the Brussels triumph, his father was offered to take Henri to Holland, he did not have enough money for this. I had to turn again to Zhenen for help. The patron did not refuse, and the father and son went to The Hague, Rotterdam and Amsterdam.

In Amsterdam, they met with Charles Berio. Hearing Henri, Berio was delighted with the talent of the child and offered to give him lessons for which the whole family had to move to Brussels. Easy to say! Resettlement requires money and the prospect of getting a job to feed the family. Henri’s parents hesitated for a long time, but the desire to give their son an education from such an extraordinary teacher as Berio prevailed. The migration took place in 1829.

Henri was a diligent and grateful student, and idolized the teacher so much that he began to try to copy him. Clever Berio did not like this. He was disgusted by epigonism and he jealously defended independence in the artistic formation of the musician. Therefore, in the student, he developed individuality, protecting him even from his own influence. Noticing that his every phrase becomes a law for Henri, he reproachfully reprimands him: “Unfortunate, if you copy me like that, you will remain only little Berio, but you need to become yourself.”

Berio’s concern for the student extends to everything. Noticing that the Vietan family is in need, he seeks an annual stipend of 300 florins from the King of Belgium.

After a few months of classes, already in 1829, Berio was taking Vietana to Paris. Teacher and student perform together. The largest musicians of Paris started talking about Viettan: “This child,” Fetis wrote, “has firmness, confidence and purity, truly remarkable for his age; he was born to be a musician.”

In 1830, Berio and Malibran left for Italy. Viet Tang remains without a teacher. In addition, the revolutionary events of those years temporarily stopped Henri’s concert activity. He lives in Brussels, where he is greatly influenced by his meetings with Mademoiselle Rage, a brilliant musician who introduces him to the works of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. It is she who contributes to the birth in Vietnam of an endless love for the classics, for Beethoven. At the same time, Vietang began to study composition, composing the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra and numerous variations. Unfortunately, his student experiences have not been preserved.

The game of Vieuxtaine was already so perfect at that time that Berio, before leaving, advises his father not to give Henri to the teacher and leave him to himself so that he reflects and listens to the game of great artists as much as possible.

Finally, Berio once again managed to get 600 francs from the king for Viettan, which allowed the young musician to go to Germany. In Germany, Vietang listened to Spohr, who had reached the apogee of fame, as well as Molik and Maiseder. When the father asked Mayseder how he finds the interpretation of the works performed by his son, he replied: “He does not play them in my manner, but so well, so original that it would be dangerous to change anything.”

In Germany, Vieuxtan is passionately fond of Goethe’s poetry; here, his love for Beethoven’s music is finally strengthened in him. When he heard “Fidelio” in Frankfurt, he was shocked. “It is impossible to convey the impression,” he later wrote in his autobiography, “that this incomparable music had on my soul as a 13-year-old boy.” He is surprised that Rudolf Kreutzer did not understand the sonata dedicated to him by Beethoven: “…the unfortunate, such a great artist, such a wonderful violinist as he was, would have had to travel from Paris to Vienna on his knees to see God, repay him and die !”

Thus was formed the artistic credo of Vietanne, which made before Laub and Joachim the greatest interpreter of Beethoven’s music.

In Vienna, Vietanne attends composition lessons with Simon Zechter and closely converges with a group of Beethoven admirers – Czerny, Merck, director of the conservatory Eduard Lannoy, composer Weigl, music publisher Dominik Artaria. In Vienna, for the first time since Beethoven’s death, Beethoven’s Violin Concerto was performed by Vietent. The orchestra was conducted by Lannoy. After that evening, he sent the following letter to Vietang: “Please accept my congratulations in the new, original and at the same time classical manner with which you performed Beethoven’s Violin Concerto yesterday in the Concert spirituel. You have grasped the very essence of this work, the masterpiece of one of our great masters. The quality of the sound that you gave in the cantabile, the soul that you put into the performance of the Andante, the fidelity and firmness with which you played the most difficult passages that overwhelmed this piece, everything spoke of a high talent, everything showed that he was still young, almost in contact with childhood , you are a great artist who appreciates what you play, can give each genre its own expression, and goes beyond the desire to surprise listeners with difficulties. You combine the firmness of the bow, the brilliant execution of the greatest difficulties, the soul, without which art is powerless, with the rationality that comprehends the composer’s thought, with the elegant taste that keeps the artist from the delusions of his imagination. This letter is dated March 17, 1834, Viet Tang is only 14 years old!

Further – new triumphs. After Prague and Dresden – Leipzig, where Schumann listens to him, then – London, where he meets Paganini. Schumann compared his playing to that of Paganini and ended his article with the following words: “From the first to the last sound he produces from his instrument, Vietanne keeps you in a magic circle, closed around you so that you will not find any beginning or end.” “This boy will become a great man,” Paganini said of him.

Success accompanies Viettan throughout his artistic life. He is showered with flowers, poems are dedicated to him, he is literally idolized. A lot of funny cases are connected with the concert tours of Viet Tang. Once in Giera he was met with unusual coldness. It turns out that shortly before the arrival of Viettan, an adventurer appeared in Giera, called himself Vietan, rented a room in the best hotel for eight days, rode a yacht, lived without denying himself anything, then, inviting lovers to the hotel “to examine the collection of his tools”, fled, “forgetting” to pay the bill.

In 1835-1836 Vieuxtan lived in Paris, intensively engaged in composition under the guidance of Reich. When he was 17 years old, he composed the Second Violin Concerto (fis-moll), which was a major success with the public.

In 1837, he made his first trip to Russia, but he arrived in St. Petersburg at the very end of the concert season and was able to give only one concert on May 23/8. His speech went unnoticed. Russia interested him. Returning to Brussels, he began to thoroughly prepare for a second trip to our country. On the way to St. Petersburg, he fell ill and spent 3 months in Narva. Concerts in St. Petersburg this time were triumphant. They took place on March 15, 22 and April 12 (O.S.), 1838. V. Odoevsky wrote about these concerts.

For the next two seasons, Viettan again gives concerts in St. Petersburg. During his illness in Narva, the “Fantasy-Caprice” and the Concerto in E major, now known as the First Concerto Vietana for violin and orchestra, were conceived. These works, especially the concerto, are among the most significant in the first period of Vieuxtan’s work. Their “premiere” took place in St. Petersburg on March 4/10, 1840, and when they were performed in Brussels in July, an excited Berio climbed onto the stage and pressed his student to his chest. Bayot and Berlioz received the concert in Paris in 1841 with no less enthusiasm.

“His Concerto in E major is a beautiful work,” writes Berlioz, “splendid as a whole, it is filled with delightful details both in the main part and in the orchestra, instrumented with great skill. Not a single character of the orchestra, the most inconspicuous, is forgotten in his score; he made everyone say something “spicy”. He achieved great effect in the divisi of violins, divided into 3-4 parts with viola in bass, playing tremolo while accompanying the lead violin solo. It’s a fresh, charming welcome. The queen-violin hovers above the small trembling orchestra and makes you dream sweetly, as you dream in the stillness of the night on the shore of the lake:

When the pale moon Reveals in a wave Your silver fan .. “

In the course of 1841, Vieuxtan is the protagonist of all Parisian musical festivals. The sculptor Dantier makes a bust of him, the impresario offer him the most lucrative contracts. Over the next years, Viettan spends his life on the road: Holland, Austria, Germany, the USA and Canada, Europe again, etc. He is elected an honorary member of the Belgian Academy of Arts along with Berio (Vietan is only 25 years old!).

A year before, in 1844, a major change had taken place in Vieuxtan’s life – he married the pianist Josephine Eder. Josephine, a native of Vienna, an educated woman who was fluent in German, French, English, Latin. She was an excellent pianist and, from the moment of her marriage, became the constant accompanist of Viet-Gang. Their lives have been happy. Viettan idolized his wife, who responded to him with no less ardent feeling.

In 1846, Vieuxtan received an invitation from St. Petersburg to take the place of the court soloist and soloist of the imperial theaters. Thus began the largest period of his life in Russia. He lived in Petersburg until 1852. Young, full of energy, he develops an active life – he gives concerts, teaches in the instrumental classes of the Theater School, plays in quartets of St. Petersburg music salons.

“The Counts of Vielgorsky,” writes Lenz, “attracted Viettan to St. Petersburg. who, being a great virtuoso, always ready to play everything – both Haydn and Beethoven’s last quartets, was more independent of the theater and freer for quartet music. It was a wonderful time when, for several winter months, in the house of Count Stroganov, who was very close to Viet Temps, one could listen to quartets three times a week.

Odoevsky left a description of one concerto by Vietanne with the Belgian cellist Servais at the Counts of Vielgorsky: “… They had not played together for a long time: there was no orchestra; music also; two or three guests. Then our famous artists began to recall their duets written without accompaniment. They were placed in the back of the hall, the doors were closed for all other visitors; a perfect silence reigned between the few listeners, which is so necessary for artistic enjoyment … Our artists recalled their Fantasia for Meyerbeer’s opera Les Huguenots … the natural sonority of the instruments, the completeness of processing, based either on double notes or on the skillful movement of voices, finally, the extraordinary strength and accuracy of both artists in the most difficult turns of voices produced a perfect charm; before our eyes passed all this wonderful opera with all its shades; we clearly distinguished expressive singing from the storm that rose in the orchestra; here are the sounds of love, here are the strict chords of the Lutheran chant, here are the gloomy, wild cries of fanatics, here is the cheerful tune of a noisy orgy. imagination followed all these memories and turned them into reality.

For the first time in St. Petersburg, Vietang organized open quartet evenings. They took the form of subscription concerts and were given in the school building behind the German Peter-kirche on Nevsky Prospekt. The result of his pedagogical activity – Russian students – Prince Nikolai Yusupov, Valkov, Pozansky and others.

Vietang did not even think of parting with Russia, but in the summer of 1852, when he was in Paris, his wife’s illness forced him to terminate his contract with St. Petersburg. He visited Russia again in 1860, but already as a concert performer.

In St. Petersburg, he wrote his most romantic and musically striking Fourth Concerto in D minor. The novelty of its form was such that Vieuxtan did not dare to play in public for a long time and performed it in Paris only in 1851. The success was enormous. The well-known Austrian composer and theorist Arnold Schering, whose works include the History of the Instrumental Concerto, despite his skeptical attitude towards French instrumental music, also recognizes the innovative significance of this work: next to List. For what he gave after his somewhat “infantile” concerto in fis-moll (No. 2) is among the most valuable in Romanesque violin literature. The already mighty first part of his E-dur concerto goes beyond Baio and Berio. In the d-moll concerto, we have before us a work connected with the reform of this genre. Not without hesitation, the composer decided to publish it. He was afraid to arouse protest with the new form of his concerto. At a time when Liszt’s concertos were still unknown, this Vieuxtan concert could, perhaps, arouse criticism. Consequently, as a composer, Vietang was in a sense an innovator.

After leaving Russia, wandering life began again. In 1860, Vietang went to Sweden, and from there to Baden-Baden, where he began to write the Fifth Concerto, intended for a competition held by Huber Leonard at the Brussels Conservatory. Leonard, having received the concerto, replied with a letter (April 10, 1861), in which he warmly thanked Vieuxtan, believing that, with the exception of the Adagio of the Third Concerto, the Fifth seemed to him the best. “Our old Grétry may be pleased that his melody ‘Lucille’ is dressed so luxuriously.” Fetis sent an enthusiastic letter about the concert to Viettan, and Berlioz published an extensive article in the Journal de Debas.

In 1868, Viet Tang suffered great grief – the death of his wife, who died of cholera. The loss shocked him. He took long trips to forget himself. Meanwhile, it was the time of the highest rise of his artistic development. His playing strikes with completeness, masculinity and inspiration. Mental suffering seemed to give her even greater depth.

Viettan’s state of mind at that time can be judged from the letter he sent to N. Yusupov on December 15, 1871. “I very often think about you, dear prince, about your wife, about the happy moments spent with you or with you on the charming banks of the Moika or in Paris, Ostend and Vienna. It was a wonderful time, I was young, and although this was not the beginning of my life, but in any case it was the heyday of my life; time of full bloom. In a word, I was happy, and the memory of you is invariably associated with these happy moments. And now my existence is colorless. The one that adorned it is gone, and I vegetate, wander around the world, but my thoughts are on the other side. Thank heavens, however, I am happy in my children. My son is an engineer and his career is well defined. My daughter lives with me, she has a beautiful heart, and she is waiting for someone who can appreciate it. That’s all about my personal. As for my artistic life, it is still the same as it has always been – itinerant, disorderly … now I am a professor at the Brussels Conservatory. It changes both my life and my mission. From a romantic, I turn into a pedant, into a workhorse in relation to the rules of tirer et pousser.

Viettan’s pedagogical activity in Brussels, begun in 1870, developed successfully (suffice it to say that the great violinist Eugene Ysaye left his class). Suddenly, a new terrible misfortune fell upon Viet Tang – a nervous blow paralyzed his right arm. All the efforts of the doctors to restore mobility to the hand did not lead to anything. For some time Viettan still tried to teach, but the disease progressed, and in 1879 he was forced to leave the conservatory.

Vietanne settled on his estate near Algiers; he is surrounded by the cares of his daughter and son-in-law, many musicians come to him, he feverishly works on compositions, trying to make up for the separation from his beloved art with creativity. However, his strength is weakening. On August 18, 1880, he wrote to one of his friends: “Here, at the beginning of this spring, the futility of my hopes became clear to me. I vegetate, I regularly eat and drink, and, that is true, my head is still bright, my thoughts are clear, but I feel that my strength is decreasing every day. My legs are excessively weak, my knees tremble, and with great difficulty, my friend, I can make one tour of the garden, leaning on one side on some strong hand, and on the other on my club.

On June 6, 1881, Viet-Gang passed away. His body was transported to Verviers and buried there with a huge gathering of people.

Viet Tang was formed and began its activity in the 30-40s. Through the conditions of education through Lecloux-Dejon and Berio, he was firmly connected with the traditions of the classical French violin school of Viotti-Bayo-Rode, but at the same time he experienced a strong influence of romantic art. It is not out of place to recall the direct influence of Berio and, finally, it is impossible not to emphasize the fact that Vieuxtan was a passionate Beethovenian. Thus, his artistic principles were formed as a result of the assimilation of various aesthetic trends.

“In the past, a student of Berio, he, however, does not belong to his school, he is not like any violinist we have heard before,” they wrote about Vieuxtan after concerts in London in 1841. If we could afford a musical comparison, we would say that he is the Beethoven of all famous violinists.”

V. Odoevsky, having listened to Viettan in 1838, pointed out (and very correctly!) the Viotti traditions in the First Concerto he played: “His concerto, reminiscent of a somewhat beautiful Viotti family, but revived by new improvements in the game, deserved loud applause. In the performing style of Vietanne, the principles of the classical French school constantly fought with the romantic ones. V. Odoevsky directly called it “a happy medium between classicism and romanticism.”

Vietang is undeniably a romantic in his pursuit of colorful virtuosity, but he is also a classic in his sublimely masculine manner of playing, in which reason subdues feeling. This was determined so clearly, and even by the young Viettan, that, after listening to his game, Odoevsky recommended that he fall in love: “Jokes aside – his game looks like a beautifully made ancient statue with graceful, rounded shapes; she is charming, she catches the eyes of the artist, but all of you cannot compare the statues with the beautiful, but alive woman. Odoevsky’s words testify to the fact that Viettan achieved the chased sculptural form of the musical form when he performed this or that work, which evoked association with the statue.

“Vietanne,” writes the French critic P. Scyudo, “can be without hesitation placed in the category of virtuosos of the first rank… This is a severe violinist, of grandiose style, powerful sonority…”. How close he was to classicism is also evidenced by the fact that, before Laub and Joachim, he was considered an unsurpassed interpreter of Beethoven’s music. No matter how much he paid tribute to romanticism, the true essence of his nature as a musician was far from romanticism; he approached romanticism rather, as with a “fashionable” trend. But it is characteristic that he did not join any of the romantic trends of his era. He had an internal discrepancy with time, which, perhaps, was the reason for the well-known duality of his aesthetic aspirations, which made him, in spite of his environment, honor Beethoven, and in Beethoven exactly what was far from the romantics.

Vietang wrote 7 violin and cello concertos, many fantasies, sonatas, bow quartets, concert miniatures, a salon piece, etc. Most of his compositions are typical of the virtuoso-romantic literature of the first half of the XNUMXth century. Vietang pays tribute to brilliant virtuosity and strives for a bright concert style in his creative work. Auer wrote that his concertos “and his brilliant bravura compositions are rich in beautiful musical thoughts, being at the same time the quintessence of virtuoso music.”

But the virtuosity of Vietanne’s works is not the same everywhere: in the fragile elegance of the Fantasy-Caprice, he reminds a lot of Berio, in the First Concerto he follows Viotti, however, pushing the boundaries of classical virtuosity and equipping this work with colorful romantic instrumentation. The most romantic is the Fourth Concerto, which is distinguished by the stormy and somewhat theatrical drama of the cadenzas, while the ariose lyrics are undeniably close to the operatic lyrics of Gounod-Halévy. And then there are various virtuoso concert pieces – “Reverie”, Fantasia Appassionata, “Ballad and Polonaise”, “Tarantella”, etc.

Contemporaries highly appreciated his work. We have already cited reviews by Schumann, Berlioz and other musicians. And even today, not to mention the curriculum, which contains both plays and concerts by Viet Temps, his Fourth Concerto is constantly performed by Heifetz, proving that even now this music remains truly alive and exciting.

L. Raaben, 1967

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