None of the pianists who ever lived had such an amazing career as Ignacy Jan Paderewski had. The performer’s talent developed relatively slowly, but when it reached its full maturity, Paderewski conquered the entire musical world and received wide recognition. The audience in Europe and America was insatiable in willing to hear the outstanding pianist performances. His playing fascinated not only the most demanding and scrupulous listeners, but those who had never before came in touch with the great art as well.
Paderewski was born on November 18, 1860 in the Polish family in the village of Kurylovka, which at that time was part of the Russian Empire, and nowadays it is a part of Ukraine. Mother of Ignacy died a few months after his birth and his father was imprisoned due to participation in the Polish uprising in 1863. Aunt raised the child. After a while, his father was released from arrest and married for the second time. He moved to Sudylkiv with his new family.
Ignacy was passionate about music from his early childhood. He received his first piano lessons from a private teacher, however, life at his father’s isolated farm kept him out from systematic lessons. At the age of 12, the young musician went to Warsaw and entered the Institute of Music (now the Warsaw Conservatory). Stories about how people tried to dissuade Paderewski, who just started learning, from his piano ambitions, got around to our time. He was even advised to change the piano for the trombone when he joined the student orchestra! "You waste your time injudiciously playing piano, there is nothing to be had here for you." The trumpet teacher said, "With your good lips and lungs, you will definitely get a place in the orchestra in a variety theater." Others advised to play a flute. Some laughed or even sympathized - his hands were small, the third and fourth fingers were almost equal in length, his thumbs were short. In all respects, Paderewski’s hands did not resemble the hands of a genuine pianist. When the musician began his professional training, he barely covered one octave. Piano playing was his passion, and he stoically overcame all the difficulties in order to gain mastery.
He received his first piano lessons at the Conservatory from Józef Śliwiński. Later he studied under the tutelage of Rudolf Strobl, Juliusz Janotha and Paul de Schlözer. The pianist was good-handed and was well regarded not only among the teachers, but by the Conservatory director - the well-known violinist Apolinary Kątski as well. However, the l deficiency of regular classes before the admission to the Conservatory adversely affected the quality of the pianist’s performance. When Paderewski set off on his first concert tour to Russian Empire in 1876, his technique was still not good enough - the pianist was forced to improvise in order to substitute the awkward places that were technically inaccessible to him to perform. Paderewski graduated from the Conservatory in 1878 and spent some time teaching students in Warsaw.
In 1880, the pianist marries Antonina Korsak. The woman died a year after the wedding, not recovering from complicated delivery; a son remained on the hands of Paderewski.
In 1881, Paderewski left for Berlin and took composition lessons from Friedrich Kiel and orchestrating lessons from Heinrich Urban. A chance meeting in 1884 with the famous Polish actress Helena Modjeska became crucial for the pianist and encouraged him to start active concert activities again, leaving the teaching. Hearing the young musician playing, she decided that the musical path was the predestination of Ignacy, and volunteered to pay for his further education.
To improve his piano skill, Paderewski went to Vienna to take lessons from Theodor Leschetizky. Acquaintance with the outstanding teacher was a turning point in the career of the pianist. In 1884, a 24-year-old and still unknown musician became the apprentice of Leschetizky. When the famous music teacher first heard Paderewski playing, he took a few steps back and forth and said “You could have become a great pianist - but it’s too late. Too late!"
Leschetitzky decided to meet the challenge. He altered the technique of Paderewski, quickly realizing what could be improved. He suggested that Ignacy should practice daily. Following his advice, the pianist began to exercise 11 hours a day. During the period of three years, Paderewski received only 30 lessons from Leschetitzky. Hence, they became the turning point in his development as a pianist. Later he attributed his worldwide success entirely to the lessons of Leschetitzky and worshiped his teacher.
Paderewski’s education under Leschetitzky was finished in 1887, and soon his name became known all over the world. The pianist’s onward movement was so rapid and brilliant that everyone wondered - "Who was the teacher of this pianist?" The answer was obvious – Leschetitzky. From this time onwards crowds of students strived to take lessons from the renowned teacher.
Ignacy Jan Paderewski debuted in 1887 in Vienna, after three years of diligent study and teaching in Strasbourg, the position that he obtained due to Leschetizky. Subsequent performances (Paris in 1889 and London in 1890) also were tremendously successful. In 1891, he went on his first tour in the USA at the invitation of Steinway company. During this tour in 1891-1892, he performed 117 concerts. The USA became his second home.
In 1897, the pianist purchased a manor in Switzerland, near the city of Morges, where he spent his leisure time. Two years later, he married Elena Gurtskaya. In 1913, Paderewski moved to the USA.
The active political career of the musician started 1910. He supported the idea of Poland independence. When World War I began, he left for Europe, where he became a member of the Polish National Committee in Paris.
The pianist incredible charisma contributed to the success of Poland, and his friendship with the USA President Woodrow Wilson had a great influence on the future of his native country. By the end of the War, the alliance of the three state collapsed and the country gained independence. In January 1919, Ignacy Jan Paderewski became the Prime Minister of Poland and signed the Versailles Peace Treaty, which ensured the restitution of territories to Poland. Having spent a short time in this position, he resigned the same year. The musician headed the Polish delegation at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919-1920. Finally disappointed in the prospects Poland development that were proposed by the Triple Entente, he was through with politics and returned to music in 1922.
After a long pause in his creative work, Paderewski performed in Carnegie Hall, selling out the concert hall. He gave a series of concerts in several USA cities. Then he returned to his estate in Switzerland. However, the May 1926 the Coup headed by Józef Piłsudski forced him to return to the political issues. Paderewski opposed the reorganization of the country. The declaration of opposition members, called the Morges Front, was signed in his estate.
In 1932, a record number of 16 thousand people attended the performance of Paderewski at the Madison Square Garden. The proceeds from this concert - 50 thousand dollars, were donated to help the unemployed musicians in the USA.
At the age of eighty, the pianist joined the Polish government situated in London. He resurrect his Foundation. He gave concert tours in the USA to support it financially. During one of the concerts, the pianist fell ill with pneumonia and died on June 29, 1941 in New York.
The geography of Paderewski’s concerts was immense, he was loved and revered everywhere, and his every concert was accompanied by full houses. In the USA, he even had his own personal railway carriage in which his instruments were transported. The pianist tended towards performing the works of Chopin and Liszt. The complete set of Chopin compositions was published in 1935-1940 under his editorship.
Despite countless performances, important political and philanthropic activities that took his time from composing music, he created 70 orchestral, instrumental and vocal compositions. Paderewski included many of his own works in his concerts, for example, the Piano Concerto of 1889 and Fantasy on the Polish themes of 1903. His piano miniatures, Minuet in G-major (from a series of six concert humoresques op.14) were immensely popular with the public as well. Paderewski wrote the opera “Manru” – the only opera that was staged at the Metropolitan Theater, as well as the only opera staged there in the Polish language. Alfred Nossig was the author of the libretto that was written after the novel “House by the Country” by Józef Ignacy Kraszewski. Paderewski started working on Manru in 1893 and finished in 1901. The pianist was the author of 75 minutes’ duration symphony - the Symphony in B-minor, or “Polish Symphony”. Paderewski’s compositions were widely known in the twentieth century and were part of the popular orchestral repertoire.