Henryk – Multilingual Musician’s Musician

Henryk Szeryng was born in Żelazowa Wola, Poland, on 22 September 1918 into a wealthy Jewish family. [The surname “Szeryng” is a Polish transliteration of his Yiddish surname, which nowadays would be spelled “Shering” in the modern Yiddish-to-English transliteration.] I had the distinct pleasure of visiting that small village, lying 29 miles west of Warsaw and with a population of less than a 100, when I attended a music festival in the Polish capital. I didn’t realize at the time that apart from being the birthplace of Frédéric Chopin, Żelazowa Wola – with its picturesque Masovian landscape, including numerous winding streams surrounded by willows and hills and the Utrata River – was also where Henryk Szeryng first saw the light of day.

Henryk_Szeryng_(1964)Henryk started piano and harmony lessons with his mother when he was 5, and at age 7 turned to the violin, receiving instruction from Maurice Frenkel. He then studied in Berlin with Carl Flesch (1929–32) who immediately recognized his talent. On to Paris where he  continued his studies with Jacques Thibaud at the Conservatory, graduating with a premier prix in 1937.  By that time, Henryk’s playing was already powerful and his technique brilliant. He seemed to be sensitive to every nuance and played with a bright tone and a convincing expressiveness.

Many years later I met with Henryk in an official capacity. As the General Manager of the Florida Philharmonic in Miami, I had booked him as one of our featured performers for the Winter Season and was at the International Airport to receive him off the airliner and take him to his hotel. The next couple of days he seemed to mix seamlessly with the people of that mostly Spanish-speaking city and with the multiethnic musicians on stage during rehearsals. I then realized he was amazingly multilingual, being fluent in seven languages. Indeed, it was that rare gift that influenced General Wladyslaw Sikorski – the Premier of the Polish government in exile – to ask him to serve as his liaison officer and interpreter. When he accompanied Sikorski on a mission to Mexico in 1941 seeking a home for 4,000 Polish refugees, the positive reception moved Szeryng so deeply that he decided to become a  naturalized Mexican citizen, and did so in 1946.

In 1960, Szeryng was named Mexican Cultural Ambassador. In 1966, by which time he had moved to Paris, he was designated Honorary Director of the Conservatory of Music in Mexico City, and a Henryk Szeryng Music Festival was held in his honor in that city. He returned to Mexico twice a year and traveled on a diplomatic passport as Mexico’s official cultural ambassador, but lived in Paris for two decades, then spent his last five years in Monaco.

Szeryng died of a cerebral hemorrhage in Kassel, Germany, on 3 March 1988. He was buried at Cimetiére de Monaco, the headstone bearing the concluding bars of the Chaconne from Bach’s Partita No.2 for Solo Violin (Henryk’s Version on YouTube. )

Sources: Violins and Violinists by Franz Farga; Wikipedia; Azim’s Personal Notes.

Copyright © 2015 Azim Lewis Mayadas


4 thoughts on “Henryk – Multilingual Musician’s Musician

  1. My spouse and i have been very cheerful when Raymond could conclude his web research out of the ideas he came across from your own site. It’s not at all simplistic just to choose to be handing out information and facts people could have been making money from. We really realize we now have the writer to thank for that. Those illustrations you have made, the simple blog navigation, the friendships you will make it possible to promote – it’s got mostly fabulous, and it’s assisting our son in addition to the family know that that subject matter is cool, which is certainly wonderfully fundamental. Many thanks for the whole thing!

  2. I am only writing to make you understand of the terrific discovery my girl experienced browsing the blog. She learned plenty of things, which include what it is like to have an amazing teaching mood to make the others completely master chosen tortuous matters. You undoubtedly exceeded our own expectations. Many thanks for showing such productive, trusted, edifying and unique tips about your topic to Lizeth.

  3. Thanks a lot for providing individuals with an extremely superb possiblity to read in detail from this web site. It’s always very nice plus packed with a great time for me personally and my office mates to visit your website minimum thrice per week to learn the latest guidance you will have. Of course, I am just actually pleased with the superb hints you serve. Some 1 facts in this posting are clearly the most beneficial we have all ever had.

  4. I together with my buddies happened to be checking out the nice secrets and techniques located on your web page while all of the sudden I got a terrible suspicion I had not expressed respect to the web blog owner for those techniques. My guys were joyful to read through them and have in reality been enjoying these things. I appreciate you for genuinely quite kind as well as for making a decision on variety of incredible useful guides millions of individuals are really needing to understand about. Our own sincere regret for not expressing gratitude to you sooner.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *