And you sir, such a famous artist,
became prime minister? Such a demotion!
Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1860–1941) is one of the most important figures in Polish history. His multifaceted activities as a composer, pianist, politician, statesman, and generous philanthropist distinguished him as one of the greatest personalities of the cultural and political scenes in Poland, and indeed the world, during the first half of the past century.
PIANIST AND COMPOSER
POLITICIAN AND PATRIOT
PIANIST AND COMPOSER
The mould of Paderewski's hand
Ignacy Jan Paderewski`s contemporaries often referred to him as the greatest piano player
since the time of Liszt. His piano career lasted more than 50 years. The artist became widely
known and admired after his Paris debut in Salle Erard in March 1888. In both Paris and London
he was declared the greatest artist since the time of Chopin. Paderewski`s first American tour in
1891 reinforced his worldwide fame.
European royalty attended his public concerts. He performed numerous private concerts for Queen
Victoria of Great Britain. He toured in Europe, North and South America, Southern Africa, Australia,
New Zeland, and Hawaii. The Polish piano player became a “star” and the most admired virtuoso of
his time, and his artistic reputation is the same today.
After his first London concert in St. James Hall on May 9, 1890, Paderewski received
overwhelmingly negative reviews from the English critics. He was criticized for mannerism in his
piano play and sentimentalism in the pieces he composed. He was even referred to as the
“blacksmith of the piano”. Soon, the positive opinions about the pianist and the delight for his
talent outweighed the negative criticism he received. Paderewski`s tour throughout Great Britain
attracted large crowds at every stop. After his successes in Europe, he decided to conquer the
American audience. In spite of the artist`s “struggle” with huge American Steinway instruments,
which were less delicate and not as soft as the European ones, his play was delightful and his
tours of many months drew a large and particular following referred to as “Paddymania”.
The style of Paderewski`s piano playing was unique. He strongly brought out the sounds of the
instrument. He adopted from his Viennese professor the famous and shocking “Leszytycki`s piano
key strike”. Paderewski paid more attention to authentic music experience and avoided cheap
flashiness. One of the main characteristics of his interpretation was his individual approach to
Until his Paris debut, Paderewski was going to devote his time almost exclusively to composing.
However, he was forced to change his plans radically because of his numerous concert obligations.
Although he didn`t compose music as much as he performed on the piano, his compositions
became well known and were played by some of the most famous orchestras and conductors of
the world. Among the pieces included in their repertoire were: "Polish Fantasia" for piano and orchestra (Fantazja polska); "Polonia," a symphony in B minor; "Manru," an opera, which, after
Moniuszko`s work, constituted the second most focal point in the development of Polish opera.
Paderewski also created miniature pieces for the piano, of which the most popular are: "Minuet"
in G major, Op. 14 No. 1 in Mozart style, "Melody," Op. 8, and Nocturne, Op. 16.
Paderewski`s pieces were in neo-romantic style. The composer adhered mainly to classical forms,
the sonata and the variation. Also appearing in his compositions were Polish folk dance forms
such as mazurka, kujawiak and krakowiak. The artist was fascinated by Polish folk music,
especially the kind originating from the highlanders of the Tatras. He used the folk motifs and
composed the pieces in a very original style. Paderewski was called a “romantic with great
style,” but also favoured the sound effects characteristic of Claude Debussy`s work and the
aesthetics of French music.
There have been different opinions regarding the influences on Paderewski`s music. It was said
that Wagner`s influence was undoubtedly present in the opera Manru, because of the leitmotifs
in it. However, many reviewers stressed that Paderewski had his own unique style. It was written:
“Originality, emotion, and imaginativeness constitute the outstanding characteristic of all pieces
by Paderewski. They don't lack a sound scientific base, but above all, great inspiration is
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Paderewski's Room (before remodeling)
The courtesy of the Polish Museum of America
Paderewski`s private life was difficult and marked by much suffering. He grew up without a mother,
his father was arrested because of his involvement in the January Uprising, his first wife died at 20
and left him with an incurably ill son Alfred, his love for Princess Brancovan could never end in
marriage… Paderewski also experienced failures and harsh criticism from the reviewers and critics
of music during his career as virtuoso and a composer. All of his suffering gave birth to the artist`s
extraordinary personality and sensitivity.
Riond-Bosson, the Swiss residence, which Paderwski bought from Prince Le Maroisa, served as his
permanent home for 40 years. The residence was located in the beautiful Vaud district, one kilometer
from Morges, on an elevated North coast of a lake, with a grand view of the Alps. It became a place
for meetings with a friends and acquaintances from the whole world. They remembered the
atmosphere oh the house for a long time as they were looked after in an extremely hospitable way.
There were numerous framed photographs on two Steinway pianos in the drawing room in Riond-
Bosson. Distinguished politicians, artists, and composers had dedicated them to the pianist.
Paderewski was born in the Podolia region, on the outskirts of the former Republic of Poland.
After a few years he settled for a short period of time in Kasna Dolna, near Tarnow, Southern Poland.
His country manor stands there to this day and is a host to annual festivals devoted to his work.
Warsaw was the artist`s home during his youth. He studied and was an educator at the Warsaw
Conservatory. Later, he lived in Berlin, Vienna, Strasbourg and Paris. At that time he was mainly
devoted to composing. During his stay in the aforementioned cities he made many friends and
became acquainted with many people, including such famous artists as Charles Gounod, Eduard
Lalo, Pablo de Sarasate and Camille Saint-Saëns.
The most important place in Paderewski`s long life was Switzerland. The Swiss citizens “adopted”
the Polish artist with pride and granted him an honorary citizenship.
Paderewski`s house in Riond-Bosson was surrounded by particularly well kept farm buildings,
vegetable garden, fruit garden, orchard, vineyards, arable fields, greenhouses, and fishponds.
Helena Paderewska, the wife of the pianist, also bred hens that were brought to the farm from the
best breeders in the world. She wanted to set a good example of “work from the basics,” especially
to wives of Polish farmers. Unfortunately, in 1960 the whole Paderewski estate was knocked down
for the construction of highway.
Paderewski started his extended Swiss concert tour in Dive`s Hall in Geneva on February 8, 1893.
He continued with concerts in Morges, Zurich, Lausanne, Vevey, and Geneva. He devoted the
income from these recitals to local charities.
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POLITICIAN AND PATRIOT
Paderewski was not only a talented composer and a pianist, but also a devoted and effective
community activist and a politician who worked for his homeland in its most difficult times of
captivity and subsequent insecure independence.
As he was born in the Podolia region he absorbed the rich tradition of national uprisings, as well as
the landscape, colours, and sounds of the Polish Eastern borderland, where Polish, Ukrainian,
Jewish and Gypsy cultures existed together for centuries. He was a conscious heir of the romantic
idea of independence and the return to the former borders of the Republic of Poland. He wanted to
unite the nations that had been living and respecting their national identity within these borders,
according to the American federation model.
Paderewski was a co-architect of the Second Republic of Poland, a country that was reborn at the
end of World War I, after 123 years of captivity. He fought for the New Republic as a member of the
Polish National Committee, during meetings in the White House and in the State Department in
Washington, as an ideological leader of Polish Americans (1915–1918), as a president of the
Cabinet in 1919, an as a leader of the Polish Delegation to the Versailles Conference. In 1919
Paderewski became the head of the Polish government. His Cabinet, which worked under very
difficult socio-economic conditions (famine, unemployment, epidemics, and unstable borders),
attained many important goals. It conducted democratic Parliamentary and governmental elections;
calmed, down Polish internal social and political conflicts; gained international respect for Poland;
ratified the Treaty of Versailles and the treaty on the protection of national minorities by the
Legislative Parliament; undertook the economic reconstruction of the country; created the state
apparatus; developed the public educational system on all levels; and established a radical social
After he had resigned from the post of a Prime Minister and the Minister of Internal Affairs on July 18
1920, Paderewski was appointed the Delegate of the Republic of Poland to international conferences
and congresses. On November 15 of the same year he became the first delegate of the Republic of
Poland to the League of Nations. Polish citizens can be grateful to the delegate for many of his
achievements for the fatherland: the first establishment of peaceful relations with Semes Petlura`s
democratic Ukraine, the establishment of the status of Gdansk as a Free City, and the weakening
of Polish-German conflicts in the Upper Silesia region.
On October 10, 1921 Paderewski resigned from the function of Delegate of Republic of Poland to the
League of Nations and withdrew from public life to return to the world of art. However, from time to
time he still made official statements regarding public matters. Exposing Stalinist and Hitlerite
crimes in the thirties is one example.
He toured and devoted a portion of income from his piano recitals to charities. On June 28 1933,
he gave a grand concert in Paris and aid of Jewish intellectuals, the victims of Hitler.
Paderewski very often stood up for people who were oppressed because of their political views.
In his residence in Morges, Switzerland, he created a coalition of political authorities, abiding to the
rules of Polish parliamentary democracy. The coalition (1936–1939) served as the basis of the
Polish government in exile, which was created by General Wladyslaw Sikorski after the German
Nazi attack on Poland on September 1, 1939.
The ailing and exhausted Maestro from Morges was very dramatically affected by the tragedy that
his nation faced in September. He supported the activities of General Sikorski`s government in France and England, both morally and financially. He returned to the political scene by accepting
the post of leader of the National Council of the Republic of Poland at General Sikorski`s and President Wladyslaw Raczkiewicz`s request.
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“I know that I won`t make a fortune and that I won`t always be able to afford living comfortably,
but I will work with passion, with love for the arts and for the country as I don't want to be its worst
son.” When in 1885 the young artist wrote these words he didn`t foresee the great results of his
talent and hard work. He achieved great popularity, which was accompanied by financial success.
To a great extent he used the latter for public activities. He shared his fortune generously with fellow
countrymen, as well as with citizens of many other countries around the world. He provided for many
funds and foundations. Among them were: the foundation for young American musicians and for the
students of Stanford University (1896), the fund in aid of the Treasury of the Professor of the Parisian
Conservatory (1909), the scholarship fund for Ecole Normale (1924), for the students of Moscow
Conservatory and Petersburg Conservatory (1899), the funds for the spas in the Alps (1928), for the
British Legion. Paderewski generously supported the unemployed (e.g. in Switzerland in 1937) and
unemployed musicians in the United States (1932). He also came out in support of the insurance
fund for musicians in London (1933) and in aid of Jewish intellectuals (Paris, 1933). He financially
supported orphanages and the Maternity Centre in New York.
Many concert halls and monuments were built with the artist`s
financial participation. Among the
One week before his death Paderewski spoke to Polish veterans
in America for the last time.
Ignacy Jan Paderewski served his fatherland until the
last days of his life. His extraordinary nobility
© 2006-2012 The Paderewski Association