An exhibition at The Georgian House in Edinburgh, opening in June, will tell the remarkable story of Felix Yaniewicz (1762-1848), a celebrated Polish-Lithuanian violinist and composer, who settled in Scotland and co-founded the first Edinburgh music festival in 1815. Alongside the exhibition, there will be a programme of talks, lecture-recitals and musical performances.

Josie Dixon, Yaniewicz’s great-great-great-great-granddaughter and founder of The Friends of Felix Yaniewicz, says: ‘Putting this exhibition together has illuminated so many aspects of Yaniewicz’s colourful story, featuring a Polish King, his encounter with Mozart in Vienna, escape from the French Revolution and a lost Stradivarius. We are thrilled to be sharing with the public for the first time a remarkable collection of heirlooms reflecting his life and career, in celebration of his musical legacy in Scotland.’

After a cosmopolitan career in Europe, Felix Yaniewicz arrived in London around 1790 and eventually made his way to Edinburgh where he lived from 1815 until his death in 1848. It was the discovery and restoration of a historic square piano bearing his signature that led to new research on his career and a project to celebrate his role in Scotland’s musical culture.

The Yaniewicz & Green square piano was the subject of a crowdfunding campaign in 2021, in partnership with the Scottish Polish community, with donations from all over Britain, Poland, Germany, Norway, France, Italy, Switzerland and the USA. Its arrival in Scotland last year was celebrated with two recitals hosted by the Polish Consulate in Edinburgh. The exhibition at The Georgian House will be the first opportunity for this beautiful instrument to be seen in public.

The exhibition ‘Music and Migration in Georgian Edinburgh: The Story of Felix Yaniewicz’ brings together a unique collection of musical instruments, portraits, manuscripts, silver and gold personal possessions, letters and autographs, many of them passed down the generations in his surviving family, and almost none of them seen in public before. Together, these will offer fascinating insights into the career of this charismatic performer, composer, impresario and musical entrepreneur, who left a lasting mark on Scottish musical culture.

This exhibition has been organised in collaboration with the Adam Mickiewicz Institute and co-financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland.

Barbara Schabowska, Director of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, says: ‘The figure of Felix Yaniewicz, an internationally renowned Polish-Lithuanian violin virtuoso, is a perfect example of how remarkably universal the language of music is. The exhibition, celebrating his fascinating travel-filled life, is a chance to initiate transnational dialogue – not only between Scotland and Poland, but also with everybody who finds themselves moved by Yaniewicz’s music.’

The exhibition will be accompanied by a programme of events in Edinburgh, including illustrated talks, lecture-recitals and musical performances at the Georgian House, and an ‘in conversation’ event at Ghillie Dhu with critically-acclaimed writer and broadcaster Armando Iannucci on music, migration and Scotland.

The exhibition ‘Music and Migration in Georgian Edinburgh: The Story of Felix Yaniewicz’, hosted by National Trust for Scotland and organised in collaboration with the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, takes place at the Georgian House, Edinburgh, from 25 June until 22 October 2022.


Plus a special event for our festival weekend, at Ghillie Dhu:

An early 19th-century square piano, signed by Felix Yaniewicz, musician and co-founder of the first Edinburgh Music Festival, has been restored and is now at its new, permanent home at the Polish Ex-Combatants House on Drummond Place in Edinburgh, just around the corner from Great King Street, where Felix Yaniewicz lived until his death.

Dating from 1810, the ’Yaniewicz & Green’ square piano dates arrived in Edinburgh last November following its restoration and a crowdfunding campaign by The Friends of Felix Yaniewicz in partnership with the Scottish Polish Cultural Association. It was discovered in a dilapidated condition in a private house in Snowdonia 20 years ago, by the early keyboard expert Douglas Hollick, who bought the piano and restored it to its former glory.  Two years ago, by chance, the advertisement for the newly restored piano was spotted by a descendant of Yaniewicz’s, Josie Dixon.

Two concerts celebrated the piano’s arrival in Edinburgh – one on 12th November by Steven Devine, who played a programme setting Yaniewicz’s music in the context of contemporaries with whom he was associated in different ways: Haydn, Mozart, Dussek, Clementi and Beethoven. Steven Devine praised the instrument for the variety of tonal colours that give it a very distinctive voicing in different ranges – quite unlike the homogenous sound of a modern piano.

The second concert, by Pawel Siwczak, an all-Polish programme with music from Yaniewicz to Chopin, who just missed Yaniewicz in Edinburgh in 1848: Yaniewicz died in May of that year and Chopin visited in the autumn.

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

The piano will be on display to the public at the 2022 exhibition at The Georgian House, Edinburgh, entitled Music and Migration in Georgian Edinburgh: The Story of Felix Yaniewicz, from 25th June until October 2022.  The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of related events, including writer Armando Iannucci in conversation with Josie Dixon on music, migration and Scotland, concerts by Kate Semens (soprano) and Steven Devine (piano), and a musical “show and tell” exploring historic instruments and the fascinating stories behind them.

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