Paderewski, Ignace

Jan. 1860-


One of the greatest, and popularly, the greatest living pianist. He was born at Padolia, in Russian Poland, on the estate of his father, a. gentleman farmer and patriot. Ignace inherited his musical taste from his mother, but her death when he was very small, left him to develop that taste unaided. His ear was always acutely sensitive to the sounds about him, and he soon learned to distinguish notes unerringly. He frequently experimented with tonal effects on the piano, and when only three years old played at a party for the children to dance. At six years of age he had his first piano lessons from a fiddler, and soon after an old teacher paid monthly visits to his home to instruct him and his sister in piano. His first composition, written at the age of seven, was a set of dances. When twelve he began his systematic study at the Warsaw Conservatory under Roguski in harmony, and in piano under Janothra, then eighty years old, from whom he received the traditions of the past generation. In the Conservatory library he became familiar with the masterpieces of both classical and romantic composers, and laid the foundation of his splendid general education. At sixteen he made a tour of Russia, playing his own compositions, and those of others, though the difficult passages forced him to improvise in nearly every number on his programs, making them all practically his own. On his return he renewed his studies with great zeal, and after being graduated was appointed professor at the early age of eighteen. The next year he married, but in another year was a widower with an invalid son. To assuage his grief, Paderewski applied himself more closely to his studies and in a short time went to Berlin, where he studied composition under Kiel and Urban, and about 1882 published some of his compositions. In 1884, then but twenty-three years old, he became a teacher in the Strasburg Conservatory, and had it not been for a chance meeting with Mme. Modjeska during a vacation he might have continued his career merely as a teacher. It was she who gave him the hope of better things, and, encouraged by her he went to Vienna and placed himself under Leschetizky in 1886. These two compatriots Paderewski holds in the highest esteem, for to them he feels his success is due. He made his debut as a virtuoso at Vienna in 1887, but did not make a remarkable impression, and it was not until he was almost thirty that he was made famous by the great enthusiasm which the people and the press showed on his Paris debut in 1888. He next went to England, where, though his first appearance failed to make a favorable impression, his second recital not only gained popular favor but caused a reversion of feeling among the critics, who, to use Paderewski's own words, "joined in the campaign of kindness which has since been my reward in every part of England." In America, where the former excess of enthusiasm, practical idolatry, has been replaced by a healthier and more genuine admiration, he made his first appearance in 1891, and at New York as in London  his genius was not recognized until after the second performance, and even more tardily by the critics. During his visit in 1900 and 1901 he founded the Paderewski Fund, for the encouragement of native American composers, which every three years gives prizes for the best orchestral, choral and chamber work presented. To the original gift of $10,000 he added $1,500 more in 1897. He toured Russia in 1899 and was in England the same year, but has not appeared very often in Germany, though in that country too he has become popular. Of late his tours are becoming less frequent, and it is said that he would like to give them up entirely and devote himself to composition. His works already number twenty-three compositions, of which the latest is Variations et Fugue sur un Theme original, played for the first time on his seventh American tour 1907 and 1908. Others are a Prelude; Minuet; Legende; Melodic; Theme varie in A; Nocturne in B flat; Elegie; Introduction and Toccata; four songs; Chant du Voyageur; Album de Mai, five romantic scenes; Variations and fugue; two sonatas; Humoresques de Concert, in two parts of three pieces each, among which is the Minuet en Sol, which is his most popular work; toccata, Dans le Desert; Concerto in A minor; Fantaisie Polonaise for piano and orchestra; four songs of which Ach die Qualem (Ah! the Torment) is especially good; also Polish dances, and Tatra Album. He also edited The Century Library of Music published in 1900 and 1902. His gypsy opera, Manru, was heartily received on its first presentation at Dresden, May 19, 1901, and was given at the Metropolitan, New York, February 14, 1902. It is remarkably strong for a first attempt. The score shows delicate and beautiful music, and it is richly orchestrated. Paderewski's works all show great individuality and promise much for the future, if, as has been his long-cherished wish, he retires and devotes himself to composition. Such sensational success as Paderewski's has been experienced only by Liszt and Rubinstein, and critics have been inclined to be hard on him because of this great popularity, some even laying his great charm to hypnotism. His playing is phenomenally brilliant and has a magic power of holding at once the musically educated, and ignorant. His interpretations are poetic and emotional but also intellectual. His touch is perfect, his tonal effects, his shading, remarkably varied, at times even orchestral, which to a great extent is due to his peculiar use of the pedal, upon which he lays especial stress in teaching, but his great power lies in that indescribable something called personality. In February, 1908, Paderewski accepted the directorship of the Warsaw Conservatory. In 1899 he married Baroness Gorsky von Rossen, widow of the Polish violinist. Paderewski, the gentleman farmer at his home, Riond-Bosson, on Lake Geneva, near Merges, Switzerland, or at Kasnia, his Polish estate, is a most interesting individual, gentle, charitable and modest; beloved by his tenants and the people round about. In 1908 an interesting volume on Paderewski by Edward Baughan was added to the Living Masters of Music series.