The Edinburgh Reporter

Polish piano comes back to square one

- Exhibition at the Georgian House.

A SQUARE piano owned by musician Felix Yaniewicz has been restored and brought home to Edinburgh to the Polish ExCombatan­ts House on Drummond Place. Yaniewicz lived nearby on Great King Street until he died in 1848.

Yaniewicz is credited with founding the first Edinburgh Music Festival in 1815. He led the orchestra in an ambitious programme featuring Haydn’s Creation, Handel’s Messiah, and symphonies and concertos by Mozart and Beethoven.

Later he was Edinburgh’s chief concert promoter, establishi­ng a series of morning chamber music concerts. Today,

Yaniewicz’s music is little known outside Poland, despite his impact on British musical life – his numerous compositio­ns, most notably the 5 violin concertos, significan­tly contribute­d to the repertoire of the Georgian period.

The piano dates from around 1810. Above the keyboard, a cartouche with painted flowers and musical instrument­s bears the label Yaniewicz and Green with the addresses of premises in fashionabl­e areas of London and Liverpool.

Inside the piano, a signature in Indian ink has been matched with those on the marriage certificat­e and surviving letters of Felix Yaniewicz.

The piano was found by a descendant of the musician, Josie Dixon, who noticed an advert for the newly restored piano which had turned up 20 years earlier in a private house in Snowdonia. Then in a dilapidate­d condition, it was bought by the early keyboard expert Douglas Hollick, who painstakin­gly restored it to its former glory.

Yaniewicz’s style was a unique fusion of classical influences from Haydn and Mozart, with elements of Polish folk music. His early career took him all over Europe to Paris, but he was forced to flee because of the French Revolution. He sought refuge in Britain and began performing in

Edinburgh in 1804.

The project to bring the piano back to the capital has been paid for by The

Friends of Felix Yaniewicz in partnershi­p with the Scottish Polish Cultural Associatio­n. Music and Migration in Georgian Edinburgh: The Story of Felix Yaniewicz is planned for summer 2022.The piano will be the centrepiec­e of this

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