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Leopold Lewandowski

Leon Leopold Lewandowski (1831–1896) – a Polish violinist, composer, conductor and musical activist. He was one of the most energetic organisers of musical activities in Warsaw in the second half of the 19th century. He mainly composed dance music, which earned him the nickname “the Polish Strauss” (the same nickname was given to the younger composer Adam Wroński, who was active in the same period under Austrian rule, and who is also covered by the “Łańcut Musicalia” project).

Leopold Lewandowski was born in Kalisz into a family of Jewish intelligentsia. From his earliest years he learnt to play the violin, and while still a child he performed in public. After graduating from a Kalisz secondary school he moved to Warsaw, where he continued his violin education under the eminent pedagogues Kazimierz Baranowski and Jan Hornziel. In 1850, he won a competition for an engagement with the Grand Theatre orchestra.

He soon established his own orchestra in Warsaw, with which he performed regularly at, inter alia, Nowa Arkadia in Mokotowska Street and the Mineral Waters Institute in the Saxon Garden. In 1857, he became director of the Variety Theatre orchestra – he held the post for almost 40 years. The theatre orchestra mainly performed a fashionable dance repertoire including many works by Lewandowski himself; they were extremely popular in the Warsaw of those times and were even performed abroad. Leopold Lewandowski also organised a popular series of symphony concerts that were played at the Resursa Obywatelska (Warsaw’s Citizens’ Club).

Lewandowski’s oeuvre includes around 350 works, dominated by light dance forms – mazurkas, obereks, kouiaviaks, polonaises, polkas and quadrilles. Of greater significance are his intermedia to ballets, for example, the music he wrote to Józef Damse’s and Karol Kurpiński’s ballet Wesele w Ojcowie (The Wedding in Ojców), and some of his orchestral works, like the Nocturne or Concerto Mazurkas (with solo parts for violin, cello, oboe and trumpet).

Mirosław Płoski
Translated by Xymena Pietraszek-Płatek
Proofread by Ben Koschalka



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