Weʼre raising £6,000 to rescue a unique & historic instrument associated with the composer Felix Yaniewicz and bring it to Edinburgh to celebrate his musical legacy
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Square pianos have become a rarity despite their central place in domestic music-making in the 18th and 19th centuries. This gem of an instrument is wonderful and interesting for two reasons: musically beautiful and in incredible condition following an expert and loving restoration, and also historically fascinating due to the connection with this important composer” Steven Devine, principal keyboard player, Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment
This beautiful square piano dating from around 1810 was found twenty years ago in a shabby condition in a house in North Wales, by Douglas Hollick, a restorer of early keyboard instruments. The legs had been broken, and the decorative fretwork badly damaged, but the action was intact, and its potential for restoration was clear. Above the keyboard, the gilded label decorated with flowers and musical instruments, bears the names Yaniewicz & Green, with premises in fashionable addresses in London and Liverpool. Inside, it is signed in Indian ink, and the handwriting has been matched with the marriage certificate of Felix Yaniewicz (1762-1848), a Polish violin virtuoso and composer, who founded the first Edinburgh festival in 1815. Alongside the restoration project, new research into this fascinating but forgotten figure has revealed the remarkable story of a musical migrant who escaped political upheavals on the continent to make his home in Britain, leaving a lasting legacy for our musical culture.
Yaniewicz’s early career took him from Vilnius and the Polish Chapel Royal to Vienna, Italy and Paris, before he fled the French Revolution and came to Britain. Here he rose to fame as a performer, composer and impresario, thanks to his musical charisma and entrepreneurial flair. His performances were hailed as as ‘a perfect masterpiece of the art. In fire, spirit, elegance and finish, Mr Yaniewicz’s violin concerto cannot be excelled by any performance in Europe’. In 1815 he moved to Scotland, where he would spend the rest of his life, and co-founded the first Edinburgh music festival.
While Yaniewicz’s violins (a Stradivarius and an Amati) have disappeared without trace, we have an opportunity to save this unique and beautiful piano bearing his name. The Friends of Felix Yaniewicz are crowdfunding to purchase this historic instrument, and to bring it to Edinburgh as the centrepiece of an exhibition about his life and music at the Georgian House museum in 2022. The exhibition will celebrate his legacy as a musical migrant who triumphed over political adversity and flourished in Britain as a shaping force in the musical culture of his day.
Beyond the exhibition, the piano will be kept at the Polish House on Drummond Place in Edinburgh, where its connection to Yaniewicz will continue to be celebrated with an annual recital in his name.
Donors are invited to join The Friends of Felix Yaniewicz to receive updates on the project. Membership is free.
Yaniewicz was my great-great-great-great-grandfather. It was a thrilling moment when this beautiful piano bearing his name came to light, setting off a journey of discovery about his remarkable career and how he came to settle in Britain. It has become a mission to save this unique instrument, to bring it to Edinburgh where he made his home, and to tell his story as an inspirational example of migration enriching our culture and the power of music as a force for inclusion." Josie Dixon, The Friends of Felix Yaniewicz
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Joasia i Wojciech Tobiasiewicz
Apr 14, 2021
Wonderful find. Congratulations on a splendid initiative. Delighted to contribute.
Apr 13, 2021
Apr 11, 2021
Fantastic, Josie - my mother has joined with me in this donation, because she and I have such happy memories of hearing the story from Pat, and seeing the portrait hanging at Dering Cottage!
Apr 11, 2021
Congratulations on a splendid initiative.
Apr 10, 2021
Glad to contribute to this very worthy project - and thanks for the informative talk.
Ghislain et Eve
Apr 9, 2021
The Duncan Family
Apr 8, 2021
What a beautiful Story-Project that will bringing much joy for us all to view here in Edinburgh. Josie, you are a credit to everyone. An honour to support.
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The Friends of Felix Yaniewicz
Musicians, heritage professionals, the thriving Polish-Scottish community and Yaniewicz’s family all take a share in his legacy. Celebrating his place in musical history, we honour the contribution of migrants to British culture and the power of music as a force for inclusion.