Polish Music in Scotland part 2 – Feliks Yaniewicz and the First Edinburgh Music Festival
Before you start reading this story we suggest you click on the link below which will give you an example of the Late Classical Period of music.
Like Chopin, Feliks Janiewicz was yet another Polish ‘music star’ involved in Scottish cultural life. His influence on the Scottish world of music was probably even stronger than Chopin’s as he spent 33 years in the country. During this time he worked as violinist, conductor and composer but also as dedicated organizer of cultural and charity events. One of the Edinburgh key words – the festival – appears next to his name. He was the co-organiser of the first Edinburgh Music Festival in 1815.
Janiewicz was born in Vilnius in 1762. He was over 50 years old before he moved to Edinburgh. Before settling in Great Britain, he lived in Warsaw, Austria, Italy and France, where he met his distinguished friends Haydn and Mozart. He was educated in Poland, Italy, Austria and France and began to develop a reputation in these countries, but his fame peaked in England and Scotland.
Apart from composing music, directing the orchestras, playing in and organizing many concerts and festivals in London and Liverpool, he also travelled widely around England, Ireland and Scotland, as a member of the group of people who established the London Philharmonic Society in 1813. Additionally, he ran his own store with musical instruments and a publicity business. He was known as a “man of many talents”. In Polish, a person like that is called, nomen omen, ‘the orchestra man’.
In 1815 he was approached to organise the first music festival in Edinburgh. It took place on 31 October 1815 and was a much bigger success than expected. The guests who visited Edinburgh for the occasion occupied every single vacancy in all the guest houses and hotels in the town (Stark 1823).
After that, Janiewicz settled with his family in Edinburgh for good. No surprises there, as who would chose differently after living in London? He was involved in other festivals in 1819 and 1824, and when not busy with festivals he continued to direct orchestras, organize concerts, give performances and travel with his music around Scotland and Ireland.
The Janiewicz family lived at 84 Great King Street , where you can still find a plaque commemorating his contribution to Scottish cultural life. His two daughters were musically talented as well, and played concerts on piano and harp. His son was a well known dental surgeon, the first to demonstrate anaesthesia in Liverpool.
Feliks Janiewicz died in Edinburgh in 1848, in the year of Chopin’s tour of Scotland. He was buried at Warriston cemetery where his grave exists to this day.
Janiewicz’s life proves how settlers in new countries can contribute to the hosting country’s culture when they are given a chance. In Polish there is an expression that “travelling educates”. Janiewicz lived in many places and was well-travelled. He took the best from all the places he happened to visit. All the knowledge, experience and skills he gained this way he used in Scotland, which was a contributing brick in building Edinburgh as the city of culture and festivals.
The Scotsman issues 23.03.1831, 11.03.1835, 06.03.1839
„Historia Polonii w Szkocji na przestrzeni XV-XXI Wieku: Motywy emigracji, Aspekty życia” . Magdalena Czarnecka. (POL)
Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine Volume 71 April 1978 link