Juliusz Zarębski (1854-1885), a Polish composer and a pianist, was born and died in Żytomierz (Zhytomyr, Ukraine). His short and intensive life was, in fact, a great artistic journey, consisting of studying, teaching and performing. He got his degrees in Wien and in St. Petersburg, and, in 1874, set out for Rome to study under Franz Liszt. Liszt considered Zarębski his most talented pupil; he would take him to Bayreuth Festival, ease the contact with the editors, and arrange his several compositions for instruments. In 1885 they performed together in Hal near Brussels. By then Zarębski gained much popularity among the audience of Paris, Vienna and Berlin. He sometimes played the double keyboard piano – an invention based on the idea of Józef Wieniawski and constructed in 1878 by French brothers Mangeot in which one keyboard was placed above the other, and the top one was built inversely. In 1880 Zarębski had been appointed piano professor at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels. There, 30th April 1885, the premiere of his Piano Quintet in G Minor took place. Four months later Zarębski passed away on tuberculosis in Żytomierz, and was buried there.
The personality of Juliusz Zarębski is fascinating even today. He was just one of many outstanding pianists composing for their own performances. But still, contrary to the works of the majority of virtuosos, his music is good, even excellent, as far as Les roses et les épines cycle is concerned. Moreover, his last composition – Piano Quintet in G Minor, Op. 34 is really ingenious, even if confronted with masterpieces of chamber music by Brahms and Dvořák. His last work is a best proof that Zarębski was a distinct, creative and mature personality, always trying to reach artistic heights. The quintet has an ideal construction, unusual harmony, and is wonderfully balanced between exuberant expression and natural elegance.