Horetzky Featured Facsimile in Soundboard

Published by Robert Coldwell on

My article on Horetzky with a facsimile of his Quatre Variations, Op. 22, recently appeared in the GFA Soundboard Volume XXXVII, No. 4. NOTE: I have updated this post with translations from Powrozniak and my comprehensive compositions list. Translations from Bartkowski are forthcoming.

Two articles on Horetzky published in 1824 and 1825 in Frankfurt kindly translated by Stefan Hackl:

Iris No. 73 September 9, 1824. Frankfurt a.M.

to Mr.Felix Horetzky from Vienna

So mighty yet none touched the strings,
So soulful, no one but you:
Soon it’s the fountain’s ripple, tender and pure,
And soon it’s the wild, thundering quarrel of the forest stream!

And more quiet is the bosom’s blustering, glide
The rich sounds in their magnificent union,
As you conjure them into the hearts,
Of those, who raptly enjoy your playing. –

Tell me, have you purloined Apollo’s lyre?
Have you eavesdropped on Ossa’s harmonies,
And now let them resound charmingly?

So it is, in the high exaltation
From your heart the pure melodies are floating,
Which elevates you to the favorite of the demons!

Frankfurt, 7th Sept. 1824 X.Y.

Didaskalia No. 354 December 20, 1825. Frankfurt a.M.

The departure from Frankfurt a.M. of the guitar player Mr. Felix Horetzky is much regretted, as the desire of so many people for him to prove his skills in a public concert before his departure was not fulfilled.

Alas, one feels induced to say against this artist, that he is burdening a handsome and lovely city like this – to which he, as a foreigner, is fully indebted in gratitude – inside their walls Mr. Horetzky has been hosted so amicably, which he needed so much – with the accusation, that the city would not appreciate the artist’s talent to an adequate extent, while the city usually recognizes everyone, particularly the educated artist, with the most lively attention.

He should wander into another country, in which we wish that his merits, misjudged in Frankfurt, would be more respected.

In the local city, which stands at a high level in all kinds of art, skilled and qualified guitar players are not missing, and the city can now be proud of a virtuoso of this instrument in the person of Mr. J.D. Hoffmann, who having submitted Giuliani’s excellent propositions as a guideline, followed them with unmistakable enthusiasm and love in such a way that he has proved to be able to replace the guest mentioned above with honor – to those who had the luck to admire his skilful playing, it has also been proven by his pupils.

While his humility until now caused him to practise his art only in silent, one feels obliged to invite him publicly to justify the verities pronounced above in a public concert in front of an honourable audience in his good old hometown.

Frankfurt a. M., December 1825.

Józef Powrozniak, Feliks Horecki: utwory wybrane. (Kraków: Polskie Wydawn. Muzyczne,  1979,1982). Translated by Krzysztof Komarnicki.

[Robert Coldwell: The text below is translated from the introduction to Powrozniak’s anthology of Horetzky compositions. He gathered quite a bit of new information on Horetzky but some of it is inaccurate. Most of the footnotes are original, but where Krzysztof Komarnicki or myself have made comments the initials KK or RJC are appended.]

The information on the famous 19th century Polish guitarist, Felix Horecki, available in encyclopaedias and music lexicons published both in Poland and abroad is sparse and inaccurate. The record was set by Dr. J. Zuth[1] who stated that Horecki was “born in Prague”, therefore a Czech. Zuth continues that our guitarist was a pupil of Giuliani and was a guitar teacher in Warsaw around 1815. Five years later, according to Zuth, Horecki moved to England and stayed there until 1840 when he settled down in Russia, where he then died in 1846. It is now impossible to state the source of so much false information that Zuth (a musicologist of considerable services to the history of the guitar) has based his statements upon. It is only true that Horecki was indeed a pupil of Giuliani and that he settled down in England after 1820 (in Scotland, to be precise[2]). To make matters worse, the false information from Zuth was then to be found in later lexicons that quote from him. Polish encyclopedias, from Sowiński[3] to Reiss[4] and Chybiński[5] agree that Horecki was born around 1800, however some sources give Warsaw as his birthplace while others prefer Sandomierz. The most uncertain is his death date, as according to Sowiński he was still alive in 1833, while Reiss and Chybiński, quoting from Zuth, state that in 1840 Horecki settled down in Poland[6] and lived there until 1846.

The first author of an entry devoted to Horecki to give the rough dates of the guitarist’s birth and death was the English historian Philip J. Bone, who wrote an encyclopaedia titled The Guitar and Mandolin (London, 1954). Probably inspired by Zuth, Bone states that “a Polish guitarist” Horecki was born around 1800 in Prague and died in 1871 in Edinburgh. Then he continues on to state that he was considered the best Czech guitarist of the time (sic!), but he and his family came back to fatherland and settled down in Warsaw. There he was under the guidance of a teacher who supervised his guitar and music theory lessons. At the age of 15 Horecki was employed as a clerk in the Commission of the Treasury, but soon he had quit the job and moved to Vienna to receive training from Mauro Giuliani. At the same time – in order to secure the sources for everyday expenses and guitar lessons – he began to give concerts to much acclaim. This allowed him to appear before the Kaiser’s court where he was employed as the guitar teacher of the Archduchesses and other members of the Kaiser’s House. After a year – still according to Bone – Horecki left the honourable post and listening to his uneasy spirit he began a long and adventurous journey around Europe. He appeared on the concert platform in Frankfurt and other German cities then gave concerts in Paris. Before 1820 he visited London where his success was considerable. He was at the right place in the right time as the guitar was much en vogue in London then. Those virtuosi who made their names famous in Vienna were welcomed in London as well. To make the best out of the situation Horecki used to sign his compositions published in England as “Horecki from Vienna”. After many concerts in several English cities he settled down in Edinburgh. There he found a friendly atmosphere and soon he was considered amongst the Scottish music lovers as the best guitar teacher. Among his many pupils were the most influential and important members of the society and some of them did not hesitate to travel many miles to reach their teacher. Horecki was seen in London from time to time where he played as a soloist or in a duo with the famous German guitarist Leonard Schulz. The critics were favorable. The most famous pupils of Horecki were: Szczepanowski, a Pole, who was his pupil in 1833 in Edinburgh, and Dipple, an Englishman, who received lessons in London. Horecki remained in Edinburgh until 1840 and then moved to London for a while. He then returned to Russia travelling through France and Germany.

This is where Bone’s biography of Horecki ends. Bone did not explain how he came across 1871 as the year of composer’s death.

Some information surfaced recently which allows some insight into the life and work of this Polish guitarist. The most important document is a certificate of Horecki’s death that was discovered by Prof. Alexander Royick of Saskatoon University in Canada. In this document we read as follows[7]: “on the 6th of October 1870 Felikx Horetzky, guitar teacher, died from apoplexy, aged 71.  He was married to Sophia Roberton [sic],[8] and he was a son of the late Dyonisy Horetzky[9], land proprietor. Felikx Horetzky was buried on 8th October 1870 in Edinburgh.”

This document seems to debunk the belief that Horecki returned to Poland and died there in 1846. However the age of the guitarist in the certificate of death is incorrectly stated (71), as according to the certificate of birth that is preserved in the Voivodship State Archives in Lublin (Wojewódzkie Archiwum Państwowe) Feliks Horecki was born 1 January 1796 in Horyszów Ruski near Hrubieszów. His father’s name was Dionizy and mother’s Wiktoria, née Słupecka. It is of note that he was baptised with three names – Klemens Jan Feliks – but used only the third name. The uneasy spirit of Horecki that Bone commented upon, is confirmed in memoirs of Jan Bartkowski[10], who took part in the November Uprising and whose wandering life led him to settle down in Edinburgh and later in Dublin where he met with Horecki. Our guitarist did not win Bartkowski’s heart, who wrote in the footnotes to one of the chapters about the lifestyle and character of musician:

“Horecki, born near Hrubieszów, a few years before 1830 travelled to Vienna where under the guidance of celebre Giuliani he became an excellent guitarist. He travelled through Germany and Belgium and came to London where he was favorably viewed by the music circles. Alas, he made friends there with a gang of German musicians and under their influence he became a heavy drinker. During one of their drinking sessions a fight broke out and one of the Germans injured the joint of Horecki’s index finger on his right hand with a broken bottle. This handicap deprived him of everyday bread but also forced him to think about his life. He renounced alcohol and ashamed with the infamy that came as a result of the fight he began to search out a better fortune in England and Scotland under an adopted name. The journey was so unfortunate that when he arrived to Edinburgh under the name of Janowski he was as poor as a beggar. He confessed his past to N[apoleon] Żaba and Zalewski [Polish emigrants – note of J.P.] who then helped him to find some pupils.[11] Due to the injured finger that was not yet fully recovered, he could not appear in concerts, yet he was glad to give lessons and to publish guitar exercises under the name of Yanowski. When his fortune turned to his favor, he took his true name again and married in Glasgow to a dowry-less Miss Roberton [sic]. He was selfish, unsociable and envy of any achievement; he was so treacherous that whenever he declared friends with someone, soon after he was his greatest enemy.”

Apart from this “portrait” of Horecki, Bartkowski gives evidence of his several meetings with the guitarist. Before he met him in person, he had heard a lot about him from a friend, Stanisław Szczepanowski, with whom Bartkowski had travelled to England seeking a job. In Edinburgh Szczepanowski approached Horecki and became his pupil. Horecki, glad at first, soon recognized the talent of Szczepanowski and gave him notice in a surly manner, as he was afraid that the pupil would surpass the master. Szczepanowski continued his studies becoming his own master, and soon was skilled enough to appear in concerts and give lessons. He was able to gather savings and in 1836 left Edinburgh for Paris to learn under the guidance of the famous Fernando Sor “whose performances, full of passion and romanticism,” Bartkowski writes, “were more appealing to Szczepanowski than the melodic style of Giuliani and Horecki”.

The first time Bartkowski and Horecki met in Dublin, where the latter moved from Edinburgh. Because they were in contact, the author of the memoirs was aware of quite a few intimate issues of the guitarist’s life: in his opinion Horecki was emotionally unstable, a money-grabber thinking highly of his talent and skills, while at the same time a man that was uncouth and envious. It is not surprising that Bartkowski called him names, writing about Horecki as a “bandura player”. Married to his pupil Sophia Roberton [sic] of Glasgow, Horecki was really hard up. His only income came from private lessons and the small amount of money that publishers were paying him for his guitar music.

The research of the above mentioned A. Royick of Canada shows that Horecki had one son, George Charles (Jerzy Karol in Polish). He later made his name in Canada as an excellent geologist and ethnographer, who took part in the construction of the Trans Canadian Railway.

Apart from being a guitar player Horecki was also a composer for the instrument, and seems to have been quite a talented one. He composed about 150 works that were published in Austria, Germany, France and England. Their simple, classical style was of much appeal to 19th century guitar amateurs, and therefore were widely published (even up to this day) in numerous collections of guitar pieces under titles such as Aurora, Lyra etc. Moreover, Horecki composed a few songs and romances for voice and guitar. Alas, the lists of his compositions that are included in dictionaries and encyclopaedias are chaotic: sometimes no opus number is given, sometimes two compositions are given the same opus number.

Below I give titles and publishers of all compositions by Horecki that I was able to find in several lists, registers and bibliographical indexes:

  • Op. 1, Duet for guitar and terz guitar (Diabelli et Co., Vienna)
  • Op. 1, Polonaise Nationale for 2 guitars (Diabelli et Co., Vienna)
  • Op. 2, Variations brillantes (Theme Nina) for 2 guitars (Cappi e Diabelli, Vienna)
  • Op. 2, Brilliant Waltzes (Chappell, London)
  • Op. 9, Variations brillantes for 1 or 2 guitars (Fischer, Frankfurt)
  • Op. 9, Brilliant Waltzes (Schott, Mainz)
  • Op. 10, Sechs Ländler for 2 guitars (Gotfr. Weber “Cäcilia”)
  • Op. 10, Valses brillantes (Diabelli et Co. and Schott, Mainz)
  • Op 11, Rondo (Schott, Mainz)
  • Op. 12, Serenade et Variations (Richault, Paris)
  • Op. 13, Duet for 2 guitars (Schott, Mainz)
  • Op. 13, Six valses for 2 guitars (Schott, Mainz)
  • Op. 14, Grand Fantaisie (Simrock, Bonn)
  • Op. 14, Taschenbuch (Notebook) – (no publisher listed)
  • Op. 16, Walses for 2 guitars (no publisher listed)
  • Op. 17, Divertimentos (Johanning, London)
  • Op. 18, Amusements – (Metzler, London and Fischer, Frankfurt)
  • Op. 20 and 22, Four Variations (Johanning, London)
  • Op. 30, Almerader (no publisher listed)
  • Op. 35, Recollections of Vienna for 2 guitars (George and Manby, London)
  • “Lyra” Geschenk für Freunde des Gitarrenspiels und Gesangs (Fischer, Frankfurt)
  • Sixty national hymnes for guitar solo (Chappel, London)
  • Potpourri
  • 12 Unterhaltungen (no publisher listed)
Works for voice and guitar (all published by Wessel et Comp. London)
  • Quande avvolte 
  • The Spanish Bride – vocal bolero
  • Lady awake
  • The voice of the tempest
  • Good night
  • Spinnerlied
  • Kennst du da Land!

As is evident from the above list, opuses from 3 to 8 as well as opuses 19, 21, 23 to 29 and 31 to 34 are missing. It may be that they were published under the name of Yanowski, as we may guess from Bartkowski’s memoirs, but no composition published under that name is known.

In Poland several guitar works by Horecki were published in collection of guitar pieces, most of them in Polscy mistrzowie gitary [Polish Guitar Masters][12]; the present collection contains the previously unpublished in Poland works by the excellent Polish guitar classic.


[1] Joseph Zuth: Handbuch der Laute und Gitarre. Vienna, 1926. It was the first encyclopaedia devoted to the guitar and lute.

[2] Bekes How to be an Alien: “When people say ‘England’ sometimes they mean British Isles, sometimes United Kingdom and sometimes British Empire – but never England”. Quoted from memory by KK.

[3] Wojciech (Adalbert) Sowiński: Słownik muzyków polskich, Paris, 1874.

[4] Józef Reiss: Mała encyklopedia muzyki. Warsaw, 1960.

[5] Adolf Chybiński: Słownik muzyków dawnej Polski do roku 1800. Cracow, 1949.

[6] After partitions part of Poland was within the borders of the Russian Empire, therefore Zuth’s statement that Horecki settled down in Russia may be interpreted also that Horecki came back to his native place – Poland. – KK.

[7] A. Royick, “Horetzky’s contribution to Canadian history” (paper presented to the Second National Conference on Canadian Slavs, 1967).

[8] “Roberton” should be “Robertson” – RJC.

[9] NB in Powroźniak all names and family names are polonised, I am not sure about the forms used in original document – KK.

[10] Jan Bartkowski: Wspomnienia z powstania 1831 roku i pierwszych lat emigracji. Kraków 1966 [Memoirs from 1831 uprisal and first years of emigration].

[11] Polish grammar allows us to state that the pupils were all female – KK. Powrozniak alternately uses Janowski and Yanowski but an edition found in the Hudleston collection uses Yankowski – RJC.

[12] Grajmy na gitarze t. IX [Let’s Play Guitar vol. IX] – all collections including this one are contemporary editions published by Józef Powroźniak/PWM – KK.

Horetzky opus compiled by Robert Coldwell:

Horetzky works list

You’ll note in this list that Horetzky seemed fond of publishing the same work with different publishers in different cities as he moved around. In the middle 1820’s he started doing anthologies in Frankfurt and continued when he was in England and Scotland. Around the 1840’s he was doing more vocal accompaniments.

Categories: Europe