Ignacy Jan Paderewski

Julian Marchwiński
Young Talent Management

Renaissance Man of the 20th Century




Ignacy Jan Paderewski was a Polish pianist, composer, politician and independence activist. He led an incredible life - his amazing music skills brought him fame and fortune, enabling him to speak out for Polish independence. Today, he remains an important figure in Polish history, with numerous schools and streets named after him.


Paderewski was born on November 18, 1860, in the village of Kuryłówka, in the Podolia Governorate of the Russian Empire (today's Ukraine). His mother died several months later, due to complications after childbirth. When he was three, Ignacy saw his father arrested for taking part in the January Uprising of 1863. He was then adopted by his aunt. Even in his youth, Paderewski showed great interest in and ability for music, learning to play on an old, family piano. At the age of 12 he was admitted to the Warsaw Conservatory. Having graduated 6 years later, Ignacy was offered a position of a piano tutor, which he accepted. In 1880, he married a fellow student - Antonina Korsakówna, who sadly passed away in 1881, as a result of childbirth complications (just like his mother), leaving him with a disabled son. He placed the child in the care of his friends and set out to Berlin to continue his musical education. There, he had a chance to meet the famous Polish actress Helena Modrzejewska who, having recognised Paderewski's extraordinary abilites, raised some funds for him to continue studying in Vienna, under the direction of Theodor Leschetizky. Paderewski debuted as a pianist in 1887. From that point on he continued gaining fame and giving concerts.


His first US tour in 1891 was a great success, and a start to Paderewski's American career. He conquered the USA with his unparalleled talent, and grew more popular with each performance. At the turn of the century he married Helena Maria Górska and composed his first and only opera - "Manru", which first premiered in 1901 in Lviv. Its American premiere took place on February 14, 1902 at the Metropolitan Opera. To this day, "Manru" remains the only opera written by a Polish composer to be performed at the Met. After achieving incomparable success in America the artist toured all around the world, acquiring global appreciation and respect.



Paderewski playing the piano

Owing to his wealth, Paderewski was able to help a plethora of charities and various causes. He helped unemployed or aspiring musicians in Poland and the USA, he also supported orphanages in both countries and donated funds for many monuments and concert halls. In addition to his charity work, he became the American representative of the patriotic Polish National Committee in Paris, and publicly spoke out on the topic of Polish independence before his performances. He managed to meet with President Woodrow Wilson. Largely thanks to him, Wilson included independent Poland as one of the Fourteen Points. Paderewski later returned to Poland, where Józef Piłsudski appointed him Prime Minister in January 1919. He held the position until December 1919, when he resigned and began representing Poland internationally, during many conferences and at the League of Nations.


In 1922 he moved to the USA, where he returned to music. He went back to performing, once again achieving great success. His wife died in 1934, and after a while Paderewski returned to his political life. Poland was then moving towards authoritarian forms of government, which forced many public figures to emigrate. He welcomed those exiles in his Swiss home, where in 1936 they formed the Front Morges, an alliance of centrist political parties, which championed a return to democracy in Poland. In 1940 he accepted the position of Head of the National Council of Poland. In 1941 over 6000 concerts were held in his honour in many US cities, celebrating the 50th anniversary of his first American tour. Paderewski died soon thereafter, on June 29, 1941, due to pneumonia. He was initially buried in Arlington, Virginia, near Washington, D.C., but his body was later moved to St. John's Archcathedral in Warsaw. He was posthumously awarded the War Order of Virtuti Militari, Poland's highest military decoration.



Paderewski on
a US postage stamp



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