Biography of Pianist Ignace Jan Paderewski Part 1

About the famous pianist Ignace Jan Paderewski, biography and history of the performer.

GALLERY OF PROMINENT PERFORMING AND CREATIVE ARTISTS

IGNACE JAN PADEREWSKI (1860-1941)

Among history's great pianists, only Franz Liszt and Anton Rubinstein rank above Ignace Paderewski. No other pianist, however, has ever enjoyed the Polish virtuoso's worldwide popularity and financial success, and few performing artists of any kind have matched his political achievements.

In the pattern of many other musical greats, Paderewski started playing the piano as a young child. However, he struck no one as a prodigy, and some of his early teachers at the Warsaw Conservatory even discouraged him from studying piano. Despite opposition, he was determined to master the instrument and spent long hours practicing. At 15 he was expelled after a fight with the conservatory's orchestra director, whom Paderewski believed was making excessive demands on his study time. The young rebel was eventually reinstated, and by condensing two years of work into six months, he graduated in 1878. Shortly afterward, he married Antonina Korsak, a student at the conservatory. The following year Antonina died in childbirth, but on her death-bed she extracted a promise from Paderewski that he would continue his piano studies.

Leaving his infant son with his mother-in-law, Paderewski continued his musical education in Berlin, where he became acquainted with the foremost musicians of his day. Back home in Poland, while vacationing in the Tatra Mountains, he met actress Helen Modjeska. She was so impressed with his playing that she became his patron and encouraged him to apply for lessons with Viennese master Theodor Leschetizky. Unimpressed by Paderewski's audition, Leschetizky told him, "It is too late. Your fingers lack discipline. You can never become a great pianist." Paderewski's determination won out, however, and Leschetizky accepted him as a pupil on the condition that he begin his training from scratch. Leschetizky was a notoriously harsh taskmaster. At one point Paderewski fled the old man's studio in such a rage that he had consciously to suppress an impulse to pick up a rock and throw it through Leschetizky's window. But the grueling work was worth the effort. Paderewski later stated that he learned more from Leschetizky in a few lessons than he had learned in all of his previous studies. After three years the master pronounced him ready for the concert stage.

Paderewski scored unexpectedly big successes in a quick series of concerts in Vienna and Paris, then returned to Leschetizky for more study. In 1889 he launched his professional career in earnest. Building his repertory around the works of Bach, Beethoven, Schumann, and, especially, his fellow countryman Chopin, with sprinklings of his own compositions, Paderewski created a sensation in France. Although his first appearance in England met with mixed reactions--one critic claimed that his performance had been like "the march of an abnormally active mammoth across the keyboard"--he soon won widespread praise from the British, too. In late 1891 he began the first of 20 concert tours in the U.S. From that point on, he enjoyed unwaning success as a performer. He commanded several thousand dollars for each concert and earned around $10 million during his career. Characteristically, however, Paderewski gave many benefit concerts and contributed his money to various causes almost as fast as he earned it.

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