Ever since I started to take a re-interest in lutherie last year during the pandemic, I have been watching a lot of musical instrument making videos. YouTube is filled with them. I have mentioned Rosa String Works on a previous blog, and have found some others that have piqued my curiosity.
This past week I was obsessed with a particular instrument making competition. The 14th International Henryk Wieniawski Violin Making Competition was held in Poznan, Poland May 8-14, and I could not get enough of it! Since there is a big time zone difference between Poland and Detroit, I was not able to catch much of it live, but I was able to enjoy some of the live evening performances during my lunch break (which many co-workers were looking at me funny).
Hundreds of violins are entered, and judges spend the first few days meticulously examining the structure of each piece. Over the final days, the finalists are then played in solo, piano accompaniment, and full orchestra settings. The solo performers stand behind a translucent screen so the judges cannot see the actual violin, and each one is brought to the stage wrapped in a black cloth. It is THAT serious of a competition.
Lovers of classical music would appreciate the violin concertos performed during the week, but may be turned off by the amount of time spent hearing violins doing chromatic scales. On the other hand, luthiers and music physicists would be in paradise. Every nuance of both construction and sound is critically judged by music professors, artisans, and professional violin makers to find the most perfect creation. It is utterly fantastic to watch this happening! I can only compare it to a wine-tasting competition, but for the eyes and ears.
A bit of history. Henryk Wieniawski (1835-1880) was a Polish violinist and composer who was held in high esteem in Europe during his lifetime. A child musical prodigy, he studied and taught in France, Belgium, England, and Russia as well as in Poland. He is considered to be one of the greatest violinists to have ever lived. Poland has continually honored him throughout the years with stamps, coins, and the Henryk Wieniawski Violin Performance Competition, which began in 1935 in Warsaw and has been held every five years since 1952. The Violin Making Competition began in 1957 and is also held every five years.
Of note this year is the winner. Polish luthier Piotr Pielaszek came in both First and Second Place with two of his violins, nicknamed “Dali” and “Selva,” respectively. Listening to these and all of the other finalists being played in both a chamber and orchestra setting is absolutely breath-taking. To hear the subtle tone differences is like tasting different ice creams. It is an absolute pleasure to say the least.
I highly recommend checking out the Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition website (https://www.wieniawski.com/) for more information on both competitions. Also be sure to check out the Wieniawski YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/c/WieniawskiHenryk) For some fantastic documentary and performance videos.
Chew on it and comment.