Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

Previous section
Music and Migration

The Story of Felix Yaniewicz

The Musical Adventures of Felix Yaniewicz

We know, from a variety of sources, that Felix Yaniewicz developed a music career that was entrepreneurial.

Painted portrait of a White man. He has black hair and dark eyes. He is wearing a black coat with a white shirt underneath. The painting is framed in a gold coloured oval shaped frame.
Portrait of Felix Yaniewicz

When he arrived in London, there was not an organised, permanent orchestra so musicians were hired by the impresarios who organised concerts.

It stretches our imagination but those we now recognise as some of the most famous ‘classical’ composers like Beethoven, Haydn and Mozart were alive at this time and therefore their music was new and fresh to audiences. Music provided entertainment for those who could afford it.

There are newspaper advertisements which detail Felix Yaniewicz as a performer in many concerts in London (Hanover Square), Bath, Dublin, Chester, Liverpool and Edinburgh. From a book written by William Gardiner containing his observations on music and about how the music of Beethoven was received in Britain in his time (1770-1853), we hear about how Felix Yaniewicz was hired by Mr Hime (who kept a music shop in Liverpool) to lead concerts.

'I met that fine violinist, Yaniewicz, whom they had engaged as the leader of their concerts. I heard him play a quartet of Mozart’s. It was one of a set of three, commencing with a violoncello solo. I was charmed by the breadth and scope of his play; I had never before heard any style so magnificent.'

William Gardiner, Music and Friends: Or, Pleasant Recollections of a Dilettante, Volume 1 page 211

Felix Yaniewicz is listed as the first of many performers at the 1799 Liverpool Festival.


Newspaper article advertising Liverpool Festival  1799. It lists some of the music to be performed (including sacred music  by Handel, Purcell, Boyce)
Liverpool Festival Advertisement 1799

Newspaper article advertising Liverpool Festival  1799. It lists some of the music to be performed (including sacred music  by Handel, Purcell, Boyce)
Liverpool Festival Newspaper Advertisement 1799

Newspaper article advertising Liverpool Festival  1799. It lists some of the music to be performed (including sacred music  by Handel, Purcell, Boyce)
Liverpool Festival Newspaper Article 1799

On the square piano that was found, we see two addresses of music shops of which Felix Yaniewicz was proprietor (or joint proprietor). One of the shops was in Lord Street, Liverpool and the other in Leicester Square, London. We know that instruments would have been sold from the premises due to the square piano and the lyre that also bears Yaniewicz’s name. This is very similar to Clementi’s own square pianos so it is most likely that Clementi’s workshop made the pianos and Yaniewicz sold them. In the newspaper advert below we can see a description of what else was sold in Yaniewicz’s Liverpool shop as it is announced that Yaniewicz was to become 'Yaniewicz & Co'.


Newspaper article from Lancaster Gazette, 1807 announcing business partnership between Felix Yaniewicz and John Green concerning their music shop/warehouse in Lord Street, Liverpool.
Lancaster Gazette Article 1807

Below we can see the front cover from two of Felix Yaniewicz’s own compositions that are in sheet music format (printed music). The ‘String Trios’ date from circa 1805.

Front cover from printed sheet music of ‘Three  Trios’ by Felix Yaniewicz
'Three Trios' by Felix Yaniewicz

Front cover from printed sheet music of ‘Concertos’ by Felix Yaniewicz
‘Concertos’ by Felix Yaniewicz

You can listen to one of Felix Yaniewicz’s compositions on YouTube (see 'Supporting Links'), ‘Elegie’ arranged by Alfred Moffat and played by Slovenian violinist Maja Horvat and accompanied by Kumi Matsuo who is a Japanese pianist.

In 1807, Natale Corri organised two concert series which featured the famous soprano Angelica Catalani. Felix Yaniewicz led the orchestra as the principal violinist. In 1808, Corri also joined the group as pianist on the nationwide tour. Yaniewicz collaborated with Madame Catalani for at least 15 years afterwards, performing together in concerts up and down the country.

In 1815, Yaniewicz was one of the founders of the First Edinburgh Music Festival.

First suggested by Angelica Catalani in 1814 and inspired by the provincial music festivals that were popular in Manchester, Liverpool (where Felix himself played in 1799) and other places outside London, the festival was then brought about the following year. Yaniewicz led the orchestra as they performed in Parliament Hall and Corri’s Rooms in Edinburgh. Yaniewicz led the orchestra in 1815 and went on to lead the orchestra in the following festivals in 1819 and 1824.

Below is a watercolour by James Skene of a concert from the second festival in 1819. The painting depicts the view from the back of the orchestra looking out at the hall filled with a large audience. It certainly gives a sense of the occasion and the popularity of these festivals.

Watercolour painting of Parliament House during the Music Festival in 1819. It is from the viewpoint of the back of the orchestra. We can see the audience filling the hall and some parts of the orchestra
Watercolour of 1819 Edinburgh Festival by James Skene

George Farquhar Graham (one of the secretaries of the Festival) wrote an account of the First Edinburgh Musical Festival which details the events and those involved. We know that Haydn’s Creation and Handel’s Messiah were among the works performed as were Yaniewicz’s own compositions, his violin concertos.

Following the first festival, Felix Yaniewicz stayed in Edinburgh and organised his first series of subscription concerts in early 1816. This was a series of concerts organised and produced by Felix so he would have employed and paid the other musicians. Rather than being large scale like the orchestral concerts in the Festival, these included musical pieces adapted for and performed by a chamber ensemble.

In Edinburgh, Felix’s main focus seems to have been performing and organising concerts whilst maintaining links with Liverpool and London. Yaniewicz (like others) was both a musician and an impresario. In the move away from the patronage system, musicians were themselves becoming the organisers in the 18th century, and a successful musical career involved a lot of networking, building alliances, cultivating relationships and putting on their own concerts. That is what distinguishes Yaniewicz’s British career from his continental one – in mainland Europe he was known as a star performer (soloist and orchestral leader), but in Britain he developed a more diverse career by becoming an impresario and entrepreneur as well.

Felix Yaniewicz brought European music of its time to a new Scottish and British audience and, in Scotland, the First Edinburgh Festival was credited with broadening the musical tastes of the nation.

In 1829, he retired from his music warehouse business and from performing. Whilst there are records of Felix and Eliza having at least six children, three survived beyond childhood. We know that Felix and Eliza’s two daughters, Felicia and Pauline, became musicians (performing and teaching) and their son, Felix, returned to Liverpool and became a dentist.


Newspaper article from Edinburgh Evening Courant, 1828, which reviews Felix Yaniewicz’s benefit concert
Yaniewicz Benefit Review 1828


Impresario: A person who produces (organises and finances) concerts, plays or operas.
Leader of the orchestra (or concert): The lead musician in an orchestra tends to be the principal violinist.
Printed music: Music that is printed in a book or on paper (sometimes called sheet music) rather than performances or music recordings
Subscription concerts: A series of concerts where a combined ticket to several events can be bought, as well as the option of buying tickets for single events.
(Violin) Concerto: A composition for a solo instrument accompanied by an orchestra.