In his day, Paderewski’s name became synonymous with the highest level of piano virtuosity. A student of Theodor Leschetizky, his brilliant musical career saw him perform in all corners of the world. He crossed the Atlantic more than thirty times, and played more than 1500 concerts in the US alone. A contemporary critic wrote, “Each recital was a spiritual happening! He excelled in the art of producing beautiful and varied tone colors never before dreamt of in a piano—from the lightest and most sparkling to the most violent extremes, which sounded almost orchestral.” However, Paderewski also knew how to sell his talents, as his long, red hair became the hallmark of his physical appearance. His magnificent carrot top soon inspired the creation of candies, soaps and even a highly popular Christmas toy! Audiences simply could not get enough, and when his opera Manru was performed at the Met, he was giving his recital in Carnegie Hall, and both places were filled to overflowing.
Paderewski plays Chopin
In 1910, Paderewski appeared in the opening concert of the Warsaw Philharmonic and gave a rousing speech urging independence for his native Poland. His friendship with many of the leading statesmen of Europe and America paved the way for his future political activities, and he became an active and highly valued member of the Polish National Committee in Paris. In addition, he was chosen to represent Polish-American organizations, and he drafted a memorandum on Poland that was delivered to President Wilson. In 1919, Paderewski signed the Treaty of Versailles as Poland’s Prime Minister. The treaty restored the territories of Great Poland and Pomerania around the City of Gdańsk to Poland, providing the core region of the restored Polish state. The American Secretary of State, Robert Lansing wrote, “What Mr. Paderewski has done for Poland will cause eternal gratitude. His career is one which deserves to be remembered not only by his countrymen, but by every man whom love of country and loyalty to a great cause stand forth as the noblest attributes of human character.”
Ignacy Jan Paderewski: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 17