Karol Joseph Lipinski

Karol Joseph Lipinski, violinist, ‘cellist, composer of violin music, and the honored friend and associate of Paganini and other leading musicians, was among the most famous of the many eminent violinists which Poland has given to the violin art. He was born in 1790 at Radzyn, in Poland, and was the son of a real estate agent, who was an amateur violinist as well. The boy inherited the musical talent of his father, who was his first instructor. He soon learned all his father had to teach, and by way of diversion took up the study of the ‘cello, by himself, advancing so rapidly that he was soon able to play Romberg’s Concertos. In later years Lipinski always attributed the broad and powerful tone on the violin, for which he was noted, to these early studies on the ‘cello. He sometimes appeared at concerts as both violinist and ‘cellist.

He soon returned to his violin, and at the age of 20 we find him director of the theater at Lemberg. The leader in this position was expected to conduct the rehearsals with the piano, but as Lipinski could not play the piano, he led the musicians with the violin. By the use of double stops and broken chords, he was accustomed to play two or more parts of the opera, and this constant practice in part playing gave him great facility in this branch of violin technic, which proved of the greatest value to him in his solo work when playing at concerts. He became famous for the purity and good intonation of his double stopping and broken chords.

After four years at Lemberg, Lipinski resigned in order to spend three years in private study. The wonderful stories of the violin playing of Paganini next attracted him to Italy. He first heard the great Italian at Piacenzi, and attracted attention to himself while seated in the audience by being the only person to applaud the first adagio played by Paganini. After the concert he was introduced to Paganini and they became great friends, often practicing together and on two different occasions playing together at public concerts. This friendship was shattered later when the two violinists met at Warsaw in 1829, for they became rivals, and there were warm arguments among their respective adherents as to which was the greater violinist. At this time it was said that Paganini was asked who was the greatest violinist in Europe. To this the Italian wizard modestly replied: “The second greatest is certainly Lipinski.”

An interesting story told of Lipinski’s visit to Dr. Mazzurana, an aged Italian, 90 years of age, who had formerly been a pupil of Tartini, the object of the visit being to get some ideas of Tartini’s style. The aged doctor told Lipinski, who played a sonata by Tartini for him, that his style was nothing like that of Tartini, but was unable to play ti for him on account of his great age. He, however, brought out a poem which he had composed, setting forth the poetical ideas with Tartini had embodied in the sonata. He directed Lipinski to read this poem aloud with all possible expression, and afterwards to try and depict these ideas in his playing of the sonata. Lipinski did so, and the aged violinist soon began to applaud his efforts. After this experience Lipinski made it a point to try and embody some poetical idea in the playing of each composition, a practice which brought him much success.

At Leipsic, Lipinski met Schumann, who was so much impressed by the musicianship of the Polish violinist that he dedicated to him the Carneval Op. 9, one of his most famous compositions for the piano. Lipinski visited England in 1836, winning much fame by his rendition of his Military Concerto. In 1839 he was chosen to fill the important post of Concertmeister at Dresden.

Lipinski was a prolific composer, writing compositions for the violin principally, including concertos, fantasias, variations, sonatas, etc. None of these has survived with the exception of the Military Concerto.

As a violinist Lipinski had a broad, noble style, and an exceptionally powerful tone, but the action of his right arm and wrist were somewhat heavy. He attributed his big tone to his early studies on the ‘cello, and it is very probably that the study of that instrument was responsible for the heavy action of his bow arm. His intonation was perfect, even in the most difficult double stopping, passages in octaves, etc. He was a sound musician and an excellent performer of chamber music, and in his later years played the string quartets of Beethoven and the solo compositions of Bach in preference to anything else.

Lipinski died in 1861 at Urlow, near Lemberg, where he had a country house.