IGNACY JAN PADEREWSKI
by Wanda Wilk
November 6th marks the anniversary of the birth of the most famous and popular pianist of all times - Ignacy Jan PADEREWSKI
(1860-1941). Although discouraged by his teachers from becoming a pianist, he launched his artistic career in 1885 and literally swept the world with his playing and his dynamic personality.
In 1932 American president Franklin Delano Roosevelt called him a Modern Immortal and two years later in a book written by author Charles Phillips, The Story of a Modern Immortal,
the introduction began as follows, "It is difficult to write of Paderewski without emotion. Statesman, orator, pianist and composer, he is a superlative man, and his genius transcends that of anyone I have ever known. Those of us who love Poland are glad that she can claim him as a son, but let her always remember that Ignace Jan Paderewski belongs to all mankind."
Yes, here was a personality that was not one in a million, but perhaps one in a century; an "artist of such a distinctly pronounced individuality as to be an exceedingly rare occurence -indeed -
phenomenal." Paderewski was a genius, an intellectual, a "statesman par excellence;" a beautiful orator in a language that was not his; a linguist who spoke no less than seven languages fluently; a great
musician; a patriot; and most of all, a humanitarian who was so generous that every act of kindness to him was always returned manifold.
He was befriended and adored not only by the most prominent people of
his time, but by people from all walks of life. He travelled all over the world from Africa to Australia and across the European continent; crossing the Atlantic more than thirty times. He gave more than 1500 concerts
in the U.S., appearing in every state and drawing the largest crowds in history at a time when the solo recital was still in its infancy. Up until then, all artists appeared with others during a recital to give it
interest and variety. He was the first to give a recital alone in the newly built Carnegie Hall in New York City, which held almost 3,000 people. He was such a great showman and drawing card that he could be his own
rival, as the newspaper headlines raved in 1902. While his opera was being performed at the Met, he was giving his recital in Carnegie Hall, and both places were filled to overflowing.
throughout the U.S. in his own private railroad cars with several pianos, not only for practical purposes, but also because he enjoyed living in a grand style. Whole towns would go out to meet him and escort him to the
concert hall or would just come to see his train pass by. Trainloads of people would come in from outlying towns to hear him play. Once when a train from Montana was delayed by a snowstorm he waited for the arriving
audience before beginning his recital. His audience did the same whenever he was delayed. They could not get enough of his playing and would refuse to go home even hours past the end of his program. He gladly continued
to play encore after encore. ....