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Ignacy Jan Paderewski

Ignacy Jan Paderewski


Born November 6, 1860 Kurilovka in Podolia, died June 29, 1941 in New York, Polish pianist, composer, teacher and politician. Paderewski’s parents, Poliksena of the Nowicki family and Jan were musical; his father was an amateur violinist. In the years 1873-1878 Paderewski was a student of the Institute of Music in Warsaw, and then he worked there as a piano teacher. He also toured the country as a pianist and accompanied the violinist W. Górski. In 1880 Paderewski married Antonina Korsak, who died in childbirth, leaving a son, Alfred. Paderewski wanted to be a composer, so in 1882 and 1884 he undertook half-year courses in Berlin with F. Kiel and H. Urban. He held his first concert as a composer in January 1883 in Berlin, and in 1885 - in Warsaw. Paderewski was one of the first to take an interest in folklore and highland music, spending the summers of 1883 and 1884 in Zakopane (this is how 'Tatra Album’, op. 12 came into being). Thanks to Helena Modrzejewska, with whom Paderewski appeared in X 1884 in Kraków, he was able to go to Vienna to study piano with T. Leszetycki; he also taught harmony and counterpoint at the conservatory in Strasbourg.

The first recital in a series of several performances by Paderewski in France was on 3 March 1888 in the Salle Erard in Paris. He started his European, and eventually global, career as a pianist, which spanned over 50 years. This progressed with important moments such as in London (1890) and New York (1891); from this time on the artist appeared in the United States 29 times on many-month tours (up until 1939), travelling with over a dozen assisting artists and a fully equipped saloon equipped with a silent keyboard. His tours included not only Europe and the United States, but also South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania. He achieved successes everywhere and made a fortune; he often donated large sums for artistic, educational, social and national purposes, including establishing a foundation for young composers in the United States in 1896, and in 1897 - a competition for Polish composers and writers.

Piano playing, composing and then political activity are intertwined with each other in his life. At the peak of his career Paderewski composed his "Polish Fantasy", op.19, his op.21-23 works and pieces without opus numbers, among others – an opera and symphony, which were performed many times by the top ensembles in Europe and America and renowned conductors. Interest in Paderewski as a pianist intensified this, and caused propagation of his compositions which brought him fame comparable to that of Chopin.

In 1910 he participated as a sponsor in the unveiling of the Grunwald Monument in Kraków, becoming the spiritual leader of his countrymen from all partitions and from overseas.

After the outbreak of World War I, Paderewski stood, along with Henryk Sienkiewicz and others, at the head of the General Committee of Assistance to War Victims in Poland (founded in Switzerland in 1915); he focused on charitable, political and patriotic work, with the goal of gaining Polish independence. In 1917 he presented the U.S. President W. Wilson with a memorandum regarding Poland which was later included in Wilson’s peace arrangements. Upon arrival in Poland with the British peacekeeping mission on January 16, 1919 he was appointed President of the Council of Ministers and minister of foreign affairs. June 28, 1919, together with Roman Dmowski he signed the peace treaty of Versailles on behalf of Poland.

In 1922 he returned triumphantly to the stage, recorded albums, and appeared in the film "Moonlight Sonata" (dir. L. Mendes, 1936). He also gave piano lessons and his students included future winners of the Chopin Competition (H. Sztompka, W. Małcużyński). In Autumn 1929 Paderewski made his will, in which he made a bequeath to the Jagiellonian University. In 1937 he became editor of the "Complete works" Fryderyk Chopin. In September 1940 he moved to the United States, where he organized aid for his compatriots at home and prepared for the visit of General Sikorski and S. Mikołajczyk with the president of the United States. The last time he spoke publicly was a week before his death, to Polish army veterans. He was buried at Arlington Cemetery in Washington, where President JF Kennedy funded a commemorative plaque in 1963. In 1992, Paderewski's ashes were placed in the crypt of the St John Cathedral in Warsaw.

He was the winner of many state and academic awards.