Ignace Jan Paderewski

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Ignace Jan Paderewski

Ignace Jan Paderewski (1860-1941), Polish pianist, composer, and statesman, was one of the best-known musicians of his time, as well as a very influential statesman who helped create modern Poland after World War I.

Jan Paderewski was born in a rural section of Poland, where his father was an overseer for several large estates. Jan showed an interest in music at an early age and started to compose and to study piano with local teachers. His father sent Jan to Warsaw to enter the conservatory. His progress on the piano was not rapid, and his teacher advised him to study another instrument. He tried the flute, clarinet, bassoon, horn, and finally the trombone, which he played in the conservatory orchestra. The piano remained his chief interest, however.

After graduation Paderewski taught for a few years, then went to Berlin to continue his studies. Once again he was advised that his talent was insufficient to have a career, but undaunted, he went to Vienna to study with Theodor Leschetizky, the most famous teacher of the time. Here too he found little encouragement because the teacher felt that it was too late for the 24-year-old pianist to develop a dependable technique. Paderewski persisted and practiced prodigiously. Finally, his highly successful debut in Paris launched a career that made him for the next 50 years the best-known and best-paid pianist of all time.

Paderewski made his first American tour in 1891 and then returned regularly until the outbreak of World War I. He developed a tremendous following and amassed a fortune estimated at $10 million. His success was due in part to his personal magnetism. He was strikingly handsome, tall, and gracious, crowned with a mane of golden-reddish hair. His audiences felt, it was said, as though they were invited guests to an exclusive soiree. His grand scale of living also made him a glamorous figure. He traveled all over America in his private railway car; besides his piano, his entourage consisted of his piano tuner, secretary, valet, doctor, and chef, as well as his wife, her attendants, and dog. He maintained princely establishments in Switzerland and California, where he entertained continually and lavishly.

Paderewski's repertoire, consisting largely of familiar Beethoven sonatas and compositions by Chopin and Liszt, appealed to unsophisticated audiences as well as musicians. By many standards he was not a great pianist. His technique was limited, and his interpretations were more "poetical" and sentimental than stylistically valid, but this did not matter to his fervent followers.

Early in his career Paderewski wrote a minuet in pseudo-Mozart style. This composition became unbelievably popular. People who did not usually go to concerts went to hear him play it. A spontaneous sigh of recognition and pleasure always swept over the crowd when he started to play. He proved his competence as a composer in several large-scale works. Among these was an opera, Manru, successfully produced at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and also in Europe, as well as a symphony and a piano concerto. In these works his use of themes based on Polish folk music classifies him with the other nationalistic composers of the time.

During World War I Paderewski proved to be a Polish nationalist in a wider sense. Concerned with the plight of Polish victims of the war, he raised large sums of money for them through benefit concerts. He also skillfully united various Polish-American groups to work for the same end. Seeing the possibility of rejoining the parts of Poland divided between Germany, Austria, and Russia and making it a modern democracy, he gave up concertizing to implement this project. He became a friend of President Woodrow Wilson and convinced him of the importance of a strong Poland for the future peace of Europe. President Wilson included the idea in his famous Fourteen Points.

Returning to Poland as soon as the war was over, Paderewski was greeted as a national hero. He was elected president and represented Poland at the Paris Peace Conference, where he successfully convinced the other statesmen that a united Poland was necessary. He attended the signing of the Treaty of Versailles and the opening sessions of the League of Nations. In all, he distinguished himself as a diplomat. He proved to be a masterful orator in French and English, as well as in Polish and German.

His mission accomplished, Paderewski resigned from political activities in 1921 and resumed his concertizing. Everywhere he went he was honored. When he played in Washington, D.C., for instance, he was a houseguest of President Herbert Hoover. When in Rome he always visited the pope, who was a personal friend. He continued to play until 1939, and only his death in New York in 1941 stopped his work for Poland.

Further Reading

The Paderewski Memoirs (1938) covers only the early years of Paderewski's career. A full study is Charlotte Kellogg, Paderewski (1956). Interesting insights are in Aniela Strakacz, Paderewski as I Knew Him: From the Diary of Aniela Strakacz (1949), covering his life from 1918 to his death. See also the chapter on Paderewski in Harold C. Schonberg, The Great Pianists (1963).

Additional Sources

Drozdowski, Marian Marek, Ignacy Jan Paderewski: a political biography, Warsaw: Interpress, 1981, 1979.

Landau, Rom, Ignace Paderewski, musician and statesman, New York: AMS Press, 1976.

Paderewski, Ignace Jan, The Paderewski memoirs, New York: Da Capo Press, 1980, 1938.

Phillips, Charles Joseph MacConaghy, Paderewski, the story of a modern immortal, New York: Da Capo Press, 1978, c1933.

Zamoyski, Adam, Paderewski, New York: Atheneum, 1982. □

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Foremost pianist of his time, composer, premier of Poland (191920), signer of the Versailles Treaty (1919);b. Kurylówka, Poland, Nov. 6, 1860; d. New York City, June 29, 1941. Both his parents, Jan Paderewski, estate administrator, and Polixena (Nowicka) Paderewska, had musical backgrounds. His first wife, Antonia Korsak, died in childbirth, leaving him with an invalid son, Alfred. He married Mme. Helena de Rosen Gorska in 1899. He studied piano and composition privately, at the Warsaw Conservatory (187278), and in Berlin, and piano with Leschetizky in Vienna. His pianistic debuts were in Vienna (1887) and in the U.S. (1891) at Carnegie Hall with the New York Symphony Orchestra under Walter Damrosch. He was noted for his performance of music by his compatriot Chopin, whose works he was editing before his death. His compositions include two operas, a symphony, a cantata, three works for solo instrument and orchestra, a violin and piano sonata, 22 songs, and more than 54 piano pieces.

Paderewski donated generously to Polish relief during World War I, and was an architect of Poland's independence at the war's end. After its reenslavement by Hitler he vowed never to return until Poland was again free. In life he was honored by many nations and universities; at his death his body lay in state in St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York, and was interred in Arlington National Cemetery, a temporary haven granted by President Roosevelt. A bronze marker was placed at the site in 1963 at the instance of President Kennedy.

Bibliography: r. landau, Ignace Paderewski: Musician and Statesman (New York 1934). a. strakacz, Paderewski As I Knew Him, tr. h. chybowska (New Brunswick, N.J. 1949). c. r. halski, Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. e. blom, 9 v. (5th ed. London 1954) 6:482484. j. w. hoskins, Ignacy Jan Paderewski, 18601941: A Biographical Sketch and a Selective List of Reading Materials (Washington D.C. 1984). j. jasienski, ed., Ignacy Jan Paderewski: antologia (Poznan 1996). e. slivinski lisandrelli, Ignacy Jan Paderewski: Polish Pianist and Patriot (Greensboro 1999). m. perkowska, "Ignacy Jan Paderewski" in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, vol. 14, ed. s. sadie, (New York 1980) 7375. d. m. randel, ed., The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music (Cambridge 1996) 660661. n. slonimsky, ed., Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Eighth Edition (New York 1992) 13521353.

[h. e. meyers]

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Paderewski, Ignacy Jan (b Kurylówka, 1860; d NY, 1941). Polish pianist, composer, and statesman. Pf. teacher at Warsaw Cons. 1879–83. Début Paris 1888, London 1890, NY 1891. Became one of the most famous int. pianists. Began composing at age 6. Up to 1899 he wrote mainly pf. solos, incl. the Tatra Album (1885), based on songs and dances of the Polish Tatra mountain-dwellers. In the 1890s he comp. a vn. sonata, the 6 Humoresques de Concert for pf. (No.1 of which is the famous Minuet in G), a pf. conc. in A minor, and the Polish Fantasy for pf. and orch. His opera Manru (1897–1900) had its f.p. in Dresden 1901 and was given at the NY Met in 1902. In 1903 he wrote a pf. sonata, 12 songs to Fr. poems by Mendès, and a set of Variations for pf. His Sym., avowedly patriotic, was completed in 1907 and f.p. Boston, Mass., 1909. In 1910 he spoke at the unveiling of a monument in Kraków and thereafter symbolized Polish aspirations. During the 1914–18 war he worked ceaselessly for the Polish cause. When Poland was created an independent nation in 1919 he became Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the first govt. but retired a year later after disagreement with other politicians. In 1922 he resumed his recitals, raising large amounts of money for war victims. He sponsored several competitions and est. scholarships. In 1936 he appeared in a film, Moonlight Sonata, and in 1936–8 supervised a complete Chopin edn. pubd. in Warsaw. He died when Poland was again enslaved. Hon. GBE 1925.

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Paderewski, Ignacy Jan (1860–1941) Polish pianist, composer and statesman. He wrote a piano concerto (1888) and a symphony (1907), and his opera Manru was first produced in Dresden in 1901. He became prime minister and minister of foreign affairs of the newly created Polish state in 1919.

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