I spent an informative and entertaining evening at the Lithuanian Embassy in London, learning about the life and music of composer, violin virtuoso and impresario Felix Yaniewicz (1762-1848), and his collaborations with the soprano Angelica Catalani (1780-1849).
I was invited by Josie Dixon – daughter of composer Ailsa Dixon as well as a several-times-great-grandaughter of Yaniewicz. Josie gave an impressive talk on Yaniewicz’s life, which started in Vilnius (a city celebrating its 700th anniversary this year) and later encompassed Italy, revolutionary France, England and ultimately Edinburgh, where he co-founded the Edinburgh Festival.
The concert that followed was given by Steven Devine on piano, alongside soprano Kate Semmens – who had great fun demonstrating the indulgent vocal ornamentations that made Catalani (in)famous – and violinist Tabitha Appel.
I fully recommend a visit to the Yaniewicz website to find out more about this fascinating figure, including information about another of his activities – the custom decoration of Clementi pianos.