Vieuxtemps, Henri



One of the greatest violin virtuosos of his time who also held a high place as composer. He was born at Verviers, on the Belgian frontier. His father was a musician and taught him the elements of violin-playing. He was placed under the instruction of Lecloux and with him and his father the boy made a concert tour of Belgium when he was seven years old. At Brussels he was heard by De Beriot, who recognized his genius and took him as a pupil. The next four years were spent under De Beriot, who took him to Paris in 1838, where he made a successful appearance. In 1831 the master left Paris for Italy and Henri returned to Brussels, where he studied hard without a teacher for two years, when he again set out on a tour. The next three years were spent in travel through Europe and he met most of the celebrated musicians of the day. In Vienna Vieuxtemps studied under Simon Sechter, the Court organist. Later, at Moscow and St. Petersburg, he was enthusiastically received. He went to London with De Beriot and played at the Philharmonic concerts. While there he heard Paganini play and the performance filled him with wonder. He spent 1835 to 1837 in Paris, studying composition under Reicha. This period produced the best of his early compositions. At the end of this time he paid his second visit to Vienna, also making a tour of Russia. The latter proved such a success that he started out to repeat it the next year. During this journey he met Wagner. The next summer was spent in composition, his brilliant concerto in E and fantaisie caprice being written at this time. In 1840 he brought these out in Paris and in Antwerp, where he was decorated with the Order of Leopold. A second visit to London and another Continental tour followed; in fact, the rest of his life was spent in traveling. In 1844 he made his first American tour. The next year he married Miss Josephine Eder, an accomplished pianist, of Vienna, and she accompanied him on his travels. Returning to Brussels he brought out in the same year his new A major concerto. The following year, 1846, he was appointed Court violinist at St. Petersburg and professor in the Conservatory. He held this position until 1852, when he again set out on his travels. During the first year of these travels he composed his concerto in D minor. The year 1855 was spent in Belgium and 1857 found him again touring America, this time with the brilliant pianist, Thalberg. Returning to Paris he brought out his fifth concerto in A minor, and for the next ten years he earned fresh triumphs, playing in every important concert-room of Europe. In 1868 he suffered a sad bereavement in the death, first of his father and then of his wife. Distracted with grief, he undertook an-  other tour to divert his mind. This trip included his last visit to America and this time he was associated with the celebrated singer, Christine Nilsson. The following year he was appointed first professor of violin at the Brussels Conservatory to succeed De Beriot and also director of the Popular concerts. In 1872 he was elected a member of the Academic Royale of Belgium. But his work was brought nearly to an end shortly after, for a paralytic stroke in 1873 disabled his left side. Though he rallied and resumed his duties his career as a player was ended, and he suffered much in not being able to demonstrate to his pupils on the violin. He again began to travel for his health. The last few years of his life were spent in Algiers, where he was killed by a drunken Arab, who threw a large stone, striking him on the head while he was riding in his carriage. He is buried at his birthplace. Vieuxtemps possessed a gay though  restless disposition, and had a passion for travel. Most of his best compositions were written en route. He was amiable and mucfi beloved by his associates. He was a masterful interpreter of Beethoven, and made a brilliant success as a quartet player. He possessed a wonderful staccato, both on the up and down bow, and his intonation was perfect. Among his compositions are solos, duets, etudes, variations, fantaisies, transcriptions, and caprices.