LSM Newswire

Monday, September 22, 2008

Violinist Henryk Szeryng Website Launch





September 22, 2008, will mark the 90th anniversary of the birth of Henryk Szeryng, one of the greatest violinists of our time. As part of the commemoration of this milestone, a new website will be launched -- This site, dedicated to Szeryng's memory, will celebrate his reputation as a master of the violin, a performer of brilliance, an accomplished linguist; the Goodwill Ambassador for Culture of his adopted homeland, Mexico; and as a humanitarian whose life and work served to advance the values of civilization. The website, which will be written in four languages -- English, French, German and Spanish has been commissioned and managed by the Estate of Henryk Szeryng.

The site will contain extensive material concerning Szeryng's life and art - text, historic documents, photos, and excerpts from audio and video material that will convey as fully as possible the breadth and depth of this great man and artist.

Visitors to the are invited to contribute to the contents of this web site. The purpose of this is to establish contact among individuals who have personal memories of Szeryng or are admirers of his art, or who have string connections, personal or professional, to the world of violin playing. welcomes documents of all kind, personal texts, recollections, anecdotes or tributes to the artist.

It was part of Henryk Szeryng's philosophy of life to create and cultivate relationships between human beings. This web site will endeavor to keep his memory alive by perpetuating what was most important to him.

Henryk Szeryng's Artistry and Reputation

Henryk Szeryng, who was born in 1918 and passed away in 1988, secured his place in the history of music with a rare mastery applied to a wide range of musical styles. Whether involving a Bach Partita or a contemporary work written for or dedicated to him, Szeryng's performances were considered by audiences and fellow musicians alike to be consistently excellent. His interpretations reflected his ardent desire to serve the composer's style and personality and not his own.

Within the full spectrum of musical periods and styles, it was the music of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, that was inextricably woven into his life and career. Szeryng's legendary interpretation of Bach's Solo Sonatas and Partitas was unanimously acclaimed and remains so today. His first recording of these works for CBS in 1955 remains a milestone in violin performance. To this day, many teachers and students all over the world use his edition of the Solo Sonatas and Partitas published by Schott.

His interpretation of Beethoven's Violin Concerto was best expressed by one of his admirers in the following words: "He does not play, he celebrates [the concerto]." Unsurprisingly, therefore, many radio and television stations feature the Henryk Szeryng version of this concerto for broadcast performances.

Szeryng always felt a particularly strong connection to the music of Johannes Brahms; he performed the Violin Concerto throughout his career. Szeryng's career began in 1933 when he performed this beloved concerto. Destiny decreed that his final concert included this very work.

Audiences who attended his famous "marathons" would hear him play the Bach, the Beethoven and the Brahms concertos in the course of a single concert. He effortlessly did these performances -- disregarding the huge physical effort involved -- fired by the sheer joy and happiness of performing them. Often, the encore at these unforgettable events would be one movement of a Bach Partita!

Szeryng's artistry offers a great example of uncompromising devotion to present and future generations of musicians.

Henryk Szeryng - Biography

Henryk Szeryng was born in the Warsaw, Poland, suburb of Zelazowa Wola, the birthplace of Chopin, into a wealthy family, his father being a highly successful industrialist. At the age of three, his musical studies began with piano lessons from his mother. He was seven when he made the violin his instrument.

Szeryng's first teacher was Maurice Frenkel, an assistant to Leopold Auer (one of the greatest violin pedagogues in the history of music) in St. Petersburg prior to World War I. Although Frenkel was perhaps young Henryk's most influential teacher, it was the renowned pedagogue Carl Flesch (1873-1944) who imparted to Szeryng the brilliantly disciplined training in matters both musical and technical. Flesch nurtured Szeryng's immense talent between the years 1928 and 1932. Credit must also be given to the renowned Polish violinist Bronislaw Huberman who, after hearing the 10-year-old Szeryng play the Mendelssohn concerto, convinced his parents that they should approach Flesch.

From 1935 to 1936, through the elegant and profound French violinist Jacques Thibaud and the coaching and guidance of Gabriel Bouillon, Szeryng became firmly associated with the French school of violin playing. His studies with them led to his graduation from the Paris Conservatory with the coveted First Prize in 1937. While still a student, Szeryng performed on an extensive concert tour that had resulted from his highly successful 1933 debut featuring the Brahms concerto.

Szeryng went on to study with the legendary teacher Nadia Boulanger, his guide in counterpoint and composition, who was responsible for introducing him to such personalities as Heitor Villa-Lobos, Alfred Cortot, Manuel Ponce, Igor Stravinsky and Maurice Ravel.

At the outbreak of World War II, Szeryng was appointed liaison officer and interpreter (he spoke and wrote eight languages) by General Sikorski for the Polish government in Exile. He served in that capacity until 1945, having given well over 300 concerts for allied troops in Europe, Africa and the Americas. In 1942 he joined the exiled Polish Premier in Mexico who was in search of a home for some 4,000 Polish refugees displaced by the war. It was Mexico that finally accepted these desperate and homeless people. Henryk Szeryng was so moved by this humanitarian gesture that he returned to Mexico in 1943 where he was offered the post of director of the string department at the National University of Mexico. In recognition of his musical and cultural merits, he was granted Mexican citizenship in 1948.

Szeryng regularly gave concerts all over Latin America until 1950, when, in Mexico, he met his fellow Pole, Arthur Rubinstein, who encouraged him to extend his musical activities to all five continents. The two men enjoyed a deep friendship built upon mutual admiration and respect for each other as human beings and musicians. Rubinstein, who died in 1982, thought of his friend as an artist of the highest order and remarked: "Real music lovers want emotion -- great moments -- which Szeryng's playing gives them."

Apart from possessing a great technique and musicality, Szeryng was a tonalist and colorist whose broad musical lines and subtle interpretative nuances always reached for perfection. He was one of the most recorded violinists in the history of the industry; his recording career spanned more than forty years.

In addition to the various posts he held over the years, Szeryng served as Special Music Advisor to the Mexican Permanent Delegation to UNESCO in 1970 -- the first artist ever to travel on a diplomatic passport.

Many honors -- decorations, medals and awards were bestowed upon Henryk Szeryng, giving proof of the high esteem in which the world held this very special man.

The violins that have passed through the hands of Henryk Szeryng is a story of its own. Among these instruments were the "Hercules" Stradivarius of 1734 which had belonged to Eugene Ysaye. Szeryng put this famous instrument into the hands of Teddy Kollek, Mayor of Jerusalem, on December 24, 1972, for it to be used by the first concertmasters of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, as a special token of friendship towards the Golden City.

Henryk Szeryng, a great musician, diplomat, pedagogue and philanthropist, died suddenly in the middle of a tour on March 3, 1988, after a concert in the city of Kassel, Germany. The program of his last performance was the same as for his very first concert 55 years earlier: the Violin Concerto of Johannes Brahms.

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