Wieniawska, Irene Regine (1880–1932)

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Wieniawska, Irene Regine (1880–1932)

British composer, pianist and singer . Name variations: Lady Dean Paul; (pseudonym) Mme. Poldowski. Born Irene Regine Wieniawska in Brussels, Belgium, on May 16, 1880; died in London on January 28, 1932; daughter of the Polish violinist and composer Henryk (Henri) Wieniawski (1835–1880), who died six weeks before her birth; entered the Brussels Conservatory at age 12 to study piano and composition; went to London to complete her musical education, studying with Percy Pitt and Michael Hambourg; further studies took place in Paris; married Sir Aubrey Dean Paul, Bt. (who as a baritone gave concerts with his wife in England and the Continent), in 1901; children.

Irene Wieniawska was burdened throughout her life by being the daughter of Henryk Wieniawski, a world-famous violin virtuoso and composer whom she never knew, because he died six weeks before she was born in Brussels, Belgium, in 1880. Having received an excellent musical education in Brussels, London, and Paris, she was prepared for a significant career as a composer. Although she never penned a masterpiece, she composed finely crafted orchestral works, chamber music, piano pieces and vocal works, as well as an operetta entitled Laughter. Wieniawska was primarily a composer of songs, and excelled in setting the French poets, from Victor Hugo to Paul Verlaine, to music. A number of noted singers of the day, particularly Gervase Elwes, gave excellent interpretations of her songs, but many felt that the best interpreter of these subtle works was Wieniawska herself, although she modestly noted that her readings of her own works were sung only "from the standpoint of the composer." Though her orchestral compositions did not enter the permanent repertoire, in their own day several of them were considered sufficiently excellent to be performed by major London orchestras. One of these, "Nocturne for Orchestra," which Wieniawska described as "an impression of night on an island off the West Coast of Scotland," was performed by Sir Henry Wood at one of his popular Promenade Concerts in 1912. Concerned that her music live on in future years, she urged her friends not to cancel an upcoming concert of her music as she lay on her deathbed in January 1932: "Do look after my music. Do let the concert go through."


Cohen, Aaron I. International Encyclopedia of Women Composers. 2 vols. NY: Books & Music (USA), 1987.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia