Dinner Topics for Friday
“Culture is defined as the way of life of a people. There is a unique gospel culture, a set of values and expectations and practices” common to all Christians. ~L. Tom Perry
YouTube Video: Paderewski Plays his Minuet in G, Op. 14, No 1; Recorded 1937: Listen Here
Ignacy Jan Paderewski was born in the village of Kurilovka, Litin uyezd in the Podolia Governorate, the Russian Empire. Today the village is part of the Khmilnyk raion of Vinnytsia Oblast, Ukraine. His father, Jan Paderewski, was an administrator of large estates. His mother, Poliksena (née Nowicka), died several months after Paderewski was born, and he was brought up by his distant relatives.
Initially he took piano lessons with a private tutor. At the age of 12, in 1872, he went to Warsaw and was admitted to the Warsaw Conservatorium. After graduating in 1878, he was asked to become a tutor of piano classes at his alma mater, which he accepted. In 1880 Paderewski married Antonina Korsakówna, and soon afterwards, their first child was born. The following year, they discovered that the son was handicapped; soon afterward, Antonina died. Paderewski decided to devote himself to music, and in 1881 he went to Berlin to study music composition with Friedrich Kiel and Heinrich Urban. In 1884 he moved to Vienna, where he was a pupil of Theodor Leschetizky. It was in Vienna that he made his musical debut in 1887. He soon gained great popularity and his subsequent appearances (in Paris in 1889, and in London in 1890) were major successes. His brilliant playing created a furore which reached to almost extravagant lengths of admiration; and his triumphs were repeated in the United States in 1891. His name at once became synonymous with the highest level of piano virtuosity. However, not everyone was impressed. After hearing Paderewski for the first time, Moriz Rosenthal said: “Yes, he plays well, I suppose, but he’s no Paderewski”.
From his early childhood, Paderewski was interested in music while living at the private estate near Zhytomyr where he moved with his father. However soon after his father’s arrest in connections with the January Uprising (1863), he was adopted by his aunt. After being released, Paderewski’s father married again and moved to the city of Sudylkov near Shepetovka.
He was extremely popular internationally, to such an extent that the music hall duo “The Two Bobs” had a hit song in 1916, in music halls across Britain, with the song “When Paderewski plays”.
During World War I, Paderewski became an active member of the Polish National Committee in Paris, which was soon accepted by the Entente as the representative of Poland. He became a spokesman of that organisation, and soon also formed other social and political organisations, among them the Polish Relief Fund in London. It was then that he met the English composer Edward Elgar, who used a theme from Paderewski’s Fantasie Polonaise in his work Polonia written for the Polish Relief Fund concert in London on 6 July 1916.
In April 1918, he met in New York City with leaders of the American Jewish Committee, including Louis Marshall, in an unsuccessful attempt to broker a deal whereby organized Jewish groups would support Polish territorial ambitions in exchange for support for equal rights. However, it soon became clear that no plan would satisfy both Jewish leaders and Roman Dmowski, head of the Polish National Committee.
At the end of the war, with the fate of the city of Poznań and the whole region of Greater Poland (Wielkopolska) still undecided, Paderewski visited Poznań. With his public speech on 27 December 1918, the Polish inhabitants of Poznań began a military uprising against Germany, called the Greater Poland Uprising.
In addition to his concert tours, Paderewski was a popular speaker who was renowned for his wit, and was often quoted. He was once introduced to a polo player with the words: “You are both leaders in your spheres, though the spheres are very different.” “Not so very different,” Paderewski replied. “You are a dear soul who plays polo, and I am a poor Pole who plays solo.”
In another incident, Paderewski once recalled, “I established a certain standard of behaviour, that, during my playing, there must be no talking. When they began to talk, I would stop. I would say, ‘I am sorry to interrupt your conversation. I deeply regret that I am obliged to disturb you, so I am going to stop for a while to allow you to continue talking.’ You can imagine the effect it had…”