Ignacy Jan Paderewski

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Ignacy Jan Paderewski
Ignacy Jan Paderewski.PNG
Paderewski circa 1935
3rd Prime Minister of Poland
2nd Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland
In office
18 January 1919 27 November 1919
President Józef Piłsudski (Chief of State)
Preceded by Jędrzej Moraczewski
Succeeded by Leopold Skulski
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
16 January 1919 9 December 1919
Prime MinisterHimself
Leopold Skulski
Preceded by Leon Wasilewski
Succeeded by Władysław Wróblewski
Chief of the National Council of Poland
In office
9 December 1939 29 June 1941
Personal details
Born(1860-11-06)6 November 1860
Kuryłówka, Podolia
Died29 June 1941(1941-06-29) (aged 80)
New York City, U.S.
Spouse(s)Antonina Korsakówna (d. 1880)
Helena Paderewska
ChildrenAlfred Paderewski
Professionpianist, composer, politician, diplomat
Signature Ignacy Jan Paderewski signature.svg

Ignacy Jan Paderewski (Polish:  [iɡˈnatsɨ ˈjan padɛˈrɛfskʲi] ; 18 November [ O.S. 6 November] 1860 – 29 June 1941) was a Polish pianist and composer who became a spokesman for Polish independence; in 1919 he was the new nation's Prime Minister and foreign minister, during which he signed the Treaty of Versailles ending World War I. [1]


A favorite of concert audiences around the world, his musical fame opened access to diplomacy and the media, as possibly did his status as a freemason, [2] and charitable work of his second wife, Helena Paderewska. During World War I, Paderewski advocated an independent Poland, including in the United States, where he met with President Woodrow Wilson, who came to support it. Creation of a Polish state became among Wilson's Fourteen Points at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, which led to the Treaty of Versailles. [3] Shortly after his resignations from office, Paderewski resumed his concert career to recoup his finances, and rarely visited then-politically chaotic Poland thereafter, the last time in 1924. [4]

Early life, marriage and education

Paderewski was born to Polish parents in the village of Kuryłówka (Kurilivka), Litin uyezd in the Podolia Governorate of the Russian Empire, which had been part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth for centuries. The village today is part of the Khmilnyk raion of Vinnytsia Oblast in Ukraine. His father, Jan Paderewski, administered large estates. His mother, Poliksena, née Nowicka, died several months after Paderewski was born, and he was raised mostly by distant relatives. [5]

Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Portret Ignacego Jana Paderewskiego (1860-1941).jpg
A portrait of Ignacy Jan Paderewski, by painter Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1890
IJ Paderewski young man.jpg
Paderewski photographed early in his career

From his early childhood, Paderewski was interested in music. He initially lived at a private estate near Żytomir, where he moved with his father. However, soon after his father's arrest in connection with the January Uprising (1863), he was adopted by his aunt. After being released, Paderewski's father married again and moved to the town of Sudylkov, near Shepetovka. [6]

Initially, Paderewski took piano lessons with a private tutor. At the age of 12, in 1872, he went to Warsaw and was admitted to the Warsaw Conservatory. Upon graduating in 1878, he became a tutor of piano classes at his alma mater. In 1880, Paderewski married a fellow student at the conservatory, Antonina Korsakówna. The following year, their son Alfred was born severely handicapped; Antonina never recovered from childbirth and died several weeks later. Paderewski decided to devote himself to music; he left his son in the care of friends, and in 1881 went to Berlin to study music composition with Friedrich Kiel [7] and Heinrich Urban.

A chance meeting in 1884 with a famous Polish actress, Helena Modrzejewska, began his career as a virtuoso pianist. Modrzejewska arranged for a public concert and joint appearance in Kraków's Hotel Saski to raise funds for Paderewski's further piano study. The scheme was a tremendous success and Paderewski soon moved to Vienna, where he studied with Theodor Leschetizky (Teodor Leszetycki). [8] [9] He married his second wife, Helena Paderewska (1856–1934) shortly after she received an annulment of a prior marriage, on May 31, 1899. While she had previously cared for his son Alfred (1880-1901), they had no children together. [8]

Pianist, composer, and supporter of new composers

Paderewski the pianist IgnacyJanPaderewski.jpg
Paderewski the pianist

After three years of diligent study and a teaching appointment in Strasbourg which Leschetizky arranged, Paderewski made his concert debut in Vienna in 1887. He soon gained great popularity and had popular successes in Paris in 1889 and in London in 1890. [8] Audiences responded to his brilliant playing with almost extravagant displays of admiration, and Paderewski also gained access to the halls of power. In 1891 Paderewski repeated his triumphs on an American tour; he would tour the country more than 30 times in the following five decades and it became his second home. [8] His stage presence, striking looks and immense charisma contributed to his stage success, which later proved important in his political and charitable activities. His name became synonymous with the highest level of piano virtuosity. [8] Not everyone was equally impressed, however. After hearing Paderewski for the first time, Moriz Rosenthal quipped: "Yes, he plays well, I suppose, but he's no Paderewski". [10]

Paderewski kept up a furious pace of touring and composition, including many of his own piano compositions in his concerts. He also wrote an opera, Manru , which to date has been the only opera by a Polish composer ever performed in the Metropolitan Opera's 135-year history. A “lyric drama,” Manru is an ambitious work formally inspired by Wagner's music dramas; it lacks an overture and closed-form arias, instead employing Wagner's device of leitmotifs to represent characters and ideas. The story centers on a doomed love triangle, social inequality and racial prejudice (Manru is a Gypsy) and is set in the Tatra Mountains. In addition to the Met, Manru was staged in Dresden [8] (a private royal viewing), Lviv (its official premiere in 1901), Prague, Cologne, Zurich, Warsaw, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Baltimore, Moscow, and Kiev. In 1904, Paderewski, accompanied by his second wife, entourage, parrot, and Erard piano, gave concerts in Australia and New Zealand, in collaboration with Polish-French composer, Henri Kowalski. [11] Paderewski toured tirelessly around the world, and was the first to give a solo performance at the new 3,000-seat Carnegie Hall. In 1909 came the premiere of his Symphony in B minor "Polonia", a massive work lasting 75 minutes. Paderewski's compositions were quite popular during his lifetime and for a time entered the orchestral repertoire, in particular his Fantaisie polonaise sur des thèmes originaux (Polish Fantasy on original themes) for piano and orchestra, Piano Concerto in A minor, and Polonia symphony. His piano miniatures became especially popular; the Minuet in G major, Op. 14 No. 1 written in the style of Mozart became one of the most recognized piano tunes of all time. Despite his relentless touring schedule and political and charitable engagements, Paderewski left a legacy of over 70 orchestral, instrumental and vocal works.

Portrait photograph of Ignace Paderewski.jpg


In 1896, Paderewski donated US$10,000 to establish a trust fund to encourage American-born composers. The fund underwrote a triennial competition that began in 1901 called the Paderewski Prize. Paderewski also launched a similar contest in Leipzig in 1898. He was extremely popular internationally, to such an extent that the music hall duo "The Two Bobs" had a hit song in 1916, in music halls across Britain, with the song "When Paderewski Plays". He was a favorite of concert audiences around the globe; women especially admired his performances. [12]

By the turn of the century, the artist was an extremely wealthy man generously donating to numerous causes and charities, he also sponsored monuments, among them the Washington Arch in New York in 1892. Paderewski shared his fortune generously with fellow countrymen, as well as with citizens and foundations from around the world. He established a foundation for young American musicians and for the students of Stanford University (1896), another at the Parisian Conservatory (1909), yet another scholarship fund at the Ecole Normale (1924), funded students of the Moscow Conservatory and the Petersburg Conservatory (1899), as well as spas in the Alps (1928), for the British Legion. During the Great Depression, Paderewski supported unemployed musicians in the United States (1932) and unemployed in Switzerland in 1937. Paderewski also publicly supported an insurance fund for musicians in London (1933) and aided Jewish intellectuals (Paris, 1933). He also supported orphanages and the Maternity Centre in New York. Paderewski-sponsored concert halls and monuments included: Debussy (1931) and Édouard Colonne (1923) monuments in Paris, Liszt Monument in Weimar, Beethoven Monument in Bonn, Chopin Monument in Zelazowa Wola (the composer's birthplace), Kosciuszko Monument in Chicago, Washington Arch in New York, and many, many others. [13]


In 1913, Paderewski settled in the United States. On the eve of World War I, and at the height of his fame, Paderewski bought a 2,000-acre (810-ha) property, Rancho San Ignacio, near Paso Robles, in San Luis Obispo County, in California's Central Coast region. A decade later, he planted Zinfandel vines on the Californian property. When the vines matured, the grapes were processed into wine at the nearby York Mountain Winery, then, as now, one of the best-known wineries between Los Angeles and San Francisco. [14]

Politician and diplomat

Ignacy Jan Paderewski - Project Gutenberg eText 15604.png

In 1910, Paderewski funded the Battle of Grunwald Monument in Kraków, to commemorate the 500th anniversary. The monument's unveiling led to great patriotic demonstrations. In speaking to the gathered throng Paderewski proved as adept at capturing their hearts and minds for the political cause as he was with his music. His passionate delivery needed no recourse to notes. Paderewski's status as an artist and philanthropist and not a member of any of the many Polish political factions became one of his greatest assets: he rose above the quarrels, he could legitimately appeal to higher ideals of unity, sacrifice, charity, and work for common goals.

During World War I, Paderewski became an active member of the Polish National Committee in Paris, which was soon accepted by the Entente as the representative of the forces trying to create the state of Poland. Paderewski became the organization's spokesman, and soon he and his wife also formed others, including the Polish Relief Fund in London, and the White Cross Society in the United States. Paderewski met the English composer Edward Elgar, who used a theme from Paderewski's Fantasie Polonaise [15] in his work Polonia written for the Polish Relief Fund concert in London on 6 July 1916 (the title no doubt recognising Paderewski's Symphony in B minor).

Paderewski urged fellow Polish immigrants to join the Polish armed forces in France, and he pressed elbows with all the dignitaries and influential men whose salons he could enter. He spoke to Americans directly in public speeches and on the radio, appealing to them to remember the fate of his nation. He kept such a demanding schedule of public appearances, fundraisers and meetings, that he stopped musical touring altogether for a few years, instead dedicating himself to diplomatic activity. On the eve of the U.S. entry into the war, in January 1917, President Woodrow Wilson's advisor, Colonel House, turned to Paderewski to prepare a memorandum on the Polish issue. Two weeks later, Wilson spoke before Congress and issued a challenge to the status quo, “I take it for granted,” he said, “that statesmen everywhere are agreed that there should be a united, independent, autonomous Poland." The establishment of "New Poland" became one of Wilson's famous Fourteen Points [3] – principles which Wilson followed during peace negotiations to end World War I. In April 1918, Paderewski met in New York City with leaders of the American Jewish Committee in an unsuccessful attempt to broker a deal whereby organised Jewish groups would support Polish territorial ambitions in exchange for support for equal rights. However, it soon became clear that no plan would satisfy both Jewish leaders and Roman Dmowski, head of the Polish National Committee, who was strongly anti-Semitic. [16]

At the end of the war, with the fate of the city of Poznań and the whole region of Greater Poland (Wielkopolska) still undecided, Paderewski visited Poznań. With his public speech on 27 December 1918, the Polish inhabitants of Poznań began a military uprising against Germany, called the Greater Poland Uprising. Behind the scenes, Paderewski worked hard to get Dmowski and Józef Piłsudski to collaborate, but Piłsudski won out.

Monument to Paderewski in Warsaw's Ujazdow Park 5 Warszawa 114.jpg
Monument to Paderewski in Warsaw's Ujazdów Park

In 1919, in the newly-independent Poland, Piłsudski, who was the Chief of State, appointed Paderewski as the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs (January 1919 – December 1919). He and Dmowski represented Poland at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, dealing with issues regarding territorial claims and minority rights. [17] Paderewski, at the time, tried to somehow whitewash to the press the role of the recreated Polish Army in the Jewish pogroms happening at the time in the Polish–Soviet War. [18] He signed the Treaty of Versailles, which recognized Polish independence won after WWI and the subsequent Soviet invasion was halted.

Paderewski's government achieved remarkable milestones in just ten months: democratic elections to Parliament, ratification of the Versailles Treaty, passage of the treaty on protection of ethnic minorities in the new state, establishment of a public education system. It also tackled border disputes, unemployment, ethnic and social strife, the outbreak of epidemics and it averted looming famine after the devastation of war. After the elections, Paderewski resigned his Prime Minister's post, but, however, he continued to represent Poland abroad at International conferences and at the League of Nations. Thanks to his diplomatic skills – he was the only delegate who was not assigned a translator, as he was fluent in seven languages – and great personal esteem, Poland was able to negotiate thorny issues with her neighbours Ukraine and Germany and gain international respect in the process.

Return to music

In 1922, Paderewski retired from politics and returned to his musical life. His first concert after a long break, held at Carnegie Hall, was a significant success. He also filled Madison Square Garden (20,000 seats) and toured the United States in a private railway car. [19]

His manor house (bought in 1897) in Kasna Dolna near Tarnow in Poland Manor House Ignacy Paderewski Kasna Dolna Ciezkowice Tarnow Poland1.JPG
His manor house (bought in 1897) in Kąśna Dolna near Tarnów in Poland

In 1897 Paderewski had bought the manor house of the former Duchess of Otrante near Morges in Switzerland, where he rested between concert tours. [20] After Piłsudski's coup d'état in 1926, Paderewski became an active member of the opposition to Sanacja rule. In 1936, two years after his second wife's death at their Swiss home, a coalition of members of the opposition met in the mansion; it was nicknamed the Front Morges after the name of the village.

By 1936, Paderewski agreed to appear in a film presenting his talent and art. Although the proposal had come at a time when the mourning Paderewski avoided public appearances, the film project did proceed. It became notable, primarily, for its rare footage of his piano performance. Exiled German-born director, Lothar Mendes directed the feature, which was released in Britain as Moonlight Sonata in 1937, and re-titled The Charmer for United States distribution in 1943.

In November 1937, Paderewski agreed to take on one last piano student. This musician was Witold Małcużyński who had won third place at the International Chopin Piano Competition.

Return to politics

After the Polish Defensive War of 1939, Paderewski returned to public life. In 1940, he became the head of the National Council of Poland, a Polish parliament in exile in London. He again turned to America for help. Paderewski spoke to the American people directly over the radio, the most popular media at the time; the broadcast carried by over a hundred radio stations in the United States and Canada. In late 1940, he crossed the Atlantic again to advocate in person for European aid as well as to defeat Nazism. In 1941, Paderewski witnessed a touching tribute to his artistry and humanitarianism as U.S. cities celebrated the 50th anniversary of his first American tour by putting on a Paderewski Week with over 6000 concerts in his honour. The 80-year-old artist also restarted his Polish Relief Fund and gave several concerts to gather money for it. However, his mind was not what it had once been: scheduled again to play Madison Square Garden, he refused to appear, insisting that he had already played the concert, presumably remembering the concert he had played there in the 1920s. [19]

Paderewski's Steinway & Sons grand piano at the Polish Embassy in Washington, D.C. Fortepian Paderewskiego.jpg
Paderewski's Steinway & Sons grand piano at the Polish Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Death and legacy

Paderewski fell ill on June 27, 1941, while on tour. Sylwin Strakacz bypassed his secretary and other tour personnel to summon physicians, who diagnosed pneumonia. Despite signs of improving health and recovery, Paderewski died in New York at 11:00 p.m., June 29, aged 80. He was temporarily laid in repose in the crypt of the USS Maine Mast Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington, Virginia, near Washington, D.C., despite anecdotal accounts that he wished to be buried near his second wife and son in France. In 1992, following Poland's renewed independence, his remains were transferred to Warsaw and placed in St. John's Archcathedral. His heart is encased in a bronze sculpture in the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa near Doylestown, Pennsylvania. [22]

Early in 1941, the music publisher Boosey & Hawkes had commissioned 17 prominent composers to contribute a solo piano piece each for an album to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Paderewski's American debut in 1891. It became a posthumous tribute to Paderewski's entire life and work, Homage to Paderewski (1942). Also, Helena Paderewska had prepared a memoir of her husband's political activities between 1910 and 1920, which typescript was not published during either of their lifetimes, but discovered by an archivist at the Hoover Institution in 2015, and then published. [23]

Museum displays

The Polish Museum of America [24] in Chicago received a donation of the personal possessions of Ignacy Jan Paderewski following his death in June 1941. Both Ignacy Paderewski and his sister, Antonina Paderewska Wilkonska were enthusiastic supporters and generous sponsors of the Museum. Antonina, executor of Ignacy's will, decided to donate these personal possessions to the Museum, as well as artifacts from his apartment in New York. This space was officially opened on 3 November 1941. Another museum in his honor exists at Morges, Switzerland, although Paderewski's mansion was razed in 1965. [25]

Memorials and tributes

Paderewski's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Paderewski hollywood.jpg
Paderewski's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Alfred Gilbert's bust of Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1891), at the V&A Alfred Gilbert - of Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1891) (V&A).jpg
Alfred Gilbert's bust of Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1891), at the V&A

In 1948, the Ignacy Paderewski Foundation was established in New York City, on the initiative of the Polish community in New York with the goal of promoting Polish culture in the United States. [26] Two other Polish-American organizations are also named in his honor and dedicated to promoting the legacy of the maestro: the Paderewski Association in Chicago as well as the Paderewski Music Society in Southern California.

In the Irving Berlin song, "I Love a Piano", recorded in 1916 by Billy Murray, [27] the narrator says:

"And with the pedal, I love to meddle/When Paderewski comes this way./I'm so delighted, when I'm invited/To hear that long-haired genius play." [28]

Due to his unusual combination of being a world-class pianist and successful politician, Saul Kripke used Paderewski in a famous philosophical example in his article "A Puzzle about Belief". [29] Paderewski was so famous that in the 1953 motion picture The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T, written by Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, piano teacher Terwilliker tells his pupils that he will "make a Paderewski" out of them.

Two music festivals honouring Paderewski are celebrated in the United States, both in November. The first Paderewski Festival has been held each year since 1993, in Paso Robles, California. The second Paderewski Festival - Raleigh has been held since 2014 in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The facade of White Eagle Hall in Jersey City, New Jersey is adorned with busts of Polish heroes Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Casimir Pulaski, Tadeusz Kosciuszko and Henryk Sienkiewicz. [30]

Honours and awards

United States commemorative stamp honoring Paderewski, 1960 issue
4-cent version Paderewski 1960 issue.JPG
United States commemorative stamp honoring Paderewski, 1960 issue
4-cent version

The Academy of Music in Poznań is named after Paderewski and many major cities in Poland have streets and schools named after Paderewski. Streets are also named after him in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, and Buffalo, New York. In addition, since 1960 Paderewski has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles. [31]

On 8 October 1960, the United States Post Office Department released two stamps commemorating Ignacy Jan Paderewski. [32] Poland also honored him with postage stamps on at least three occasions.

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