Ignacy Jan Paderewski
Ignacy Jan Paderewski GBE (18 November 1860 – 29 June 1941) was a Polish pianist, composer, diplomat,
politician, and the third Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland.
Ignacy Jan Paderewski was born in the village of Kurilovka, Litin uyezd in the Podolia Governorate, the Russian
Empire. Today the village is part of the Ukraine. His father, Jan Paderewski, was an administrator of large estates.
His mother, Poliksena (née Nowicka), died several months after Paderewski was born, and he was brought up by his
In his childhood he lived at the private estate near Zhytomyr with his father, and there developed his interest in music.
Soon after he was adopted by his aunt. His father was arrested for his connections with the January Uprising 1863.
After his release, Paderewski's father remarried and moved to the city of Sudylkov near Shepetovka.
His first piano lessons were with a private tutor. At the age of 12 he was admitted to the Warsaw Conservatorium.
After graduating in 1878, became a tutor of piano classes at the Conservatory, and two years later married Antonina
Korsakowna. Their first child was born but a year later they discovered that he has handicapped. Soon afterward
Paderewski devoted himself to music, and went to Berlin in 1881 to study music composition with Friedrich Kiel and
Heinrich Urban. He moved to Vienna in 1884, where he was a studied under the direction of Theodor Leschetizky.
His musical debut was in Vienna in 1887, and he rose very quickly in popularity making numerous appearances
there and in London. He created a furore among the public with his brilliant playing and was lavished with
extravagant lengths of admiration. His success was repeated in the United States in 1891, his name becoming
synonymous with the highest echelons of piano virtuosity. Moriz Rosenthal, upon hearing Paderewski for the first
time commented, 'Yes, he plays well, I suppose, but he's no Paderewski."
He composed many pieces for piano and his only opera Manru received its world premiere at Dresden, followed by
its American premiere in 1902 at the Metropolitan Opera. It is till the only Polish opera by a Polish composer ever
Paderewski, his second wife, Baroness de Rosen, their entourage, parrot and Erard piano travelled to Auckland,
New Zealand from Sydney, Australia aboard the steamer Zealandia on 28 August 1904. On September 12, he
performed a concert at Wellington. He was devoted to philanthropic causes. In 1910 he funded the erection of the
Battle of Grunwald Monument in Kraków, to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the event. In 1913, Paderewski
settled in the United States.
Before World War I broke out, and at the height of his popularity, Paderewski bought a 2,000-acre (8.1 km2) ranch
"San Ignacio" near Paso Robles on the central coast of California. Ten years later he planted Zinfandel vines, and
upon maturity, the wine was produced for him at the nearby winery at York Mountain. It is still one of the best-known
wineries in the area.
He was so popular internationally, that a music hall duo known as "The Two Bobs" had a hit song in 1916 throughout
Britain, called, "When Paderewski plays".
During World War I, Paderewski was an active member of the Polish National Committee in Paris and was soon
accepted by the Entente as the representative of Poland. He was a spokesman and formed other social and political
organisations, one of which was the Polish Relief Fund in London. He met English composer Edward Elgar, who
used a theme from Paderewski's Fantasie Polonaise in his work Polonia. It was written for a concert for the Polish
Relief Fund in London on 6 July 1916.
In April 1918 in New York City he met with leaders of the American Jewish Committee, including Louis Marshall. He
attempted to reach a deal with organized Jewish groups to support Polish territorial ambitions, in exchange for his
support for equal rights. His efforts failed and it became clear to him that no plan could be devised whereby Jewish
groups and Roman Dmowski (head of the Polish National Committee) would come to any agreement.
At the end of the war, Paderewski visited Poznan, a city whose future, and that of the entire country was yet
undecided. His speech of December 27, 1918 instigated a military uprising against Germany, called the Greater
Poland Uprising. In 1919 Poland became once again an independent country, and Paderewski, its Prime Minister
and Minister of Foreign Affairs (from January 1919 to December 1919). He represented Poland at the Paris Peace
Conference. That summer he signed the Treaty of Versailles, which restored to Poland, the territories of Greater
Poland and Pomerania around Gdansk. (Though it was less than what Polish delegates were demanding).
Consequently, Paderewski was abandoned by many of his political supporters, and on December 4, 1919 he gave
Pilsudski his letter of resignation. From there he assumed the role of Polish Ambassador to the League of Nations.
Three years later he retired from politics and returned to his music. After a long absence he held his first concert at
Carnegie Hall, in 1922, filling Madison Square Garden, and toured the United States in a private railway car.
Soon afterward he moved to Morges in Switzerland. After Piłsudski's coup d'état in 1926, Paderewski returned to
Poland and became a member of the opposition, actively working against Sanacja rule. In 1936 a coalition of
members of the opposition was signed the "Front Morges" in his mansion.
In 1936, two years after the death of his wife, Paderewski appeared in a film " Moonlight Sonata" showcasing his
talent and art. Though Paderewski did not want to appear in public, the film project was accepted.
In November 1937 Paderewski agreed to take on one last pupil for piano, Witold Małcużyński, who went on to win
second prize at the International Frédéric Chopin Piano Competition.
Paderewski returned to public life after the Polish Defensive War of 1939. In 1940 he became the head of the Polish
National Council, in the Polish government-in-exile, in London. Then eighty years old, he restarted his Polish Relief
Fund and performed several concerts in London, and in the United States. However, his mind was not what it had
once been. He was scheduled play again at Madison Square Garden but refused because he insisted that he had
already played a concert. (He remembered that he played there in the 1920s..)
Paderewski was also a popular speaker and renowned for his wit. He was frequently quoted. He was once
introduced to a polo player with the words: "You are both leaders in your spheres, though the spheres are very
different." "Not so very different," Paderewski replied. "You are a dear soul who plays polo, and I am a poor Pole who
Paderewski recalled another incident : "I established a certain standard of behaviour, that, during my playing, there
must be no talking. When they began to talk, I would stop. I would say, 'I am sorry to interrupt your conversation. I
deeply regret that I am obliged to disturb you, so I am going to stop for a while to allow you to continue talking.' You
can imagine the effect it had..."
During a tour on June 27, 1941, Paderewski was suddenly taken ill. Physicians diagnosed pneumonia and
Paderewski showed signs of recovery. Despite an improvement in health, Paderewski died suddenly in New York at
11:00 pm on June 29. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, in Virginia. 1992, his body was brought to
Warsaw and placed in St. John's Cathedral. His heart is encased in a bronze sculpture in the National Shrine of Our
Lady of Czestochowa near Doylestown, Pennsylvania.
The Polish Museum of America in Chicago received a donation of the personal possessions of Ignacy Jan
Paderewski following his death in June 1941. Ignacy Paderewski and his sister, Antonina Paderewska Wilkonska
were generous sponsors of the Museum. Antonina decided to donate his personal possessions to the Museum. The
Buckingham Hotel in NYC permitted Antonina to obtain the furnishings from his suite for donation to the museum.
Memorials and tributes
At the initiative of the Polish community in New York, in 1948 the Ignacy Paderewski Foundation was established in
with the objective of promoting Polish culture in the United States. The Paderewski Association in Chicago as well as
the Paderewski Music Society in Southern California are also committed to promoting the legacy of the Maestro.
Paderewski possessed an unusual combination of notable achievements: being a world class pianist as well as
successful politician. He has become the source of inspiration to philosophers, and is often discussed in relation to
Saul Kripke's "A Puzzle about Belief".
Today, there are many streets and schools named after Paderewski throughout Poland, as well as in Perth Amboy,
New Jersey, Buffalo, and New York. The Academy of Music in Poznan is named after him and Paderewski even has
his own star on the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angelos.
He was made an Honorary Knight of the Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire in 1925. This conferred upon
him the postnominal letters GBE, though it did not include the title of "Sir".
He was recipient of the Doctorate honoris causa of universities in Lwów (1912), Kraków (1919) and Poznań (1924),
as well as several universities in the United States