IGNACE JAN PADEREWSKI (1860-1941) Polish Pianist and Composer
Ignace Jan Paderewski is one of the most famous pianists in history. He was a superstar pianist, a movie star, and a Prime Minister of Poland. So why is he today treated with less than the respect he deserves? It may be the natural inclination to look for the Achilles heels of the rich and famous. It may be that he made many records late in life at a time when his playing was less than it had been. It may be the outgrowth of somewhat malicious comments made by jealous peers. Or it may be that familiarity breeds contempt, he did record an awful lot. And his Hollywood appearances playing the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 have certainly not helped. But on the basis of a few recordings alone, Paderewski deserves the fame and glory that are his.
Enough has been written about Paderewski that I do not need to go into the detail of his life. (If you are interested, there is a Wikipedia article that covers the salient points.) Suffice it to say that he was a pupil of Theodor Leschetizky in Vienna, and as with so many of Leschetizky's better pupils, embarked on what was to become, in his case, a phenomenally successful career as a concert pianist.
Less widely known is the fact that Ignace Jan Paderewski was also a very accomplished composer. His only opera, Manru, was performed by the Metropolitan Opera in 1902 and is to this day the only Polish opera by a Polish composer ever to have been performed there. And no less a composer than Sir Edward Elgar borrowed a theme from Paderewski's Fantasie Polonaise. Paderewski wrote piano music, songs, chamber music, a
dedicated to Leschetizky, and a symphony.
Perhaps the only work by Paderewski that is widely known is his Minuet in G, so I'll start there with two recordings, one from 1917 and another from 1937. Even though Paderewski was well past his prime by the time of the later recording, the gorgeous playing for which he was so admired is still evident. And you will hear an infinately superior minuet to the one we have all massacred as young piano students. What will be a huge surprise to those who only know Paderewski from recordings like the Liszt second Hungarian Rhapsody is the delicacy and subtlety of his playing.
The Chopin C sharp minor Waltz from Opus 64 is just beautifully played, certainly one of the finest performances of this piece I know. The Chopin Etude Op 25 No 2, I can easily imagine myself swooning in the aisle. And his Beethoven and Schumann (just listen to his recording of The Prophet Bird from Wladszenen)just make me wish desperately that he had recorded more.
As for those who make disparaging comments about his technique, It's the MUSIC ....
I should add that Paderewski edited the complete works of Chopin in a very handsome edition which I have been using, along with the Cortot edition, for much of my life. I have always found his fingerings to be excellent and based on facility rather than dogma. You could not tell it from my playing, but I owe him much.
Paderewski Humoresques de Concert Op 14 Cahier 1 a l'antique
1 Minuet in G major 4 Caprice (genre Scarlatti) in G major recorded in 1917
1 Paderewski Minuet in G recorded in 1937
Paderewski Cracovienne Fantastique in B major 6 from Humoresques de Concert, Op 14 Cahier 2 recorded in 1912
Paderewski Nocturne in B♭ major, Op 16~4 (preceded by a 1920 recording of the work by Guiomar Novaes) recorded in 1911
Chopin Waltz in C♯ minor, Op 64~2 recorded in 1917
Chopin Waltz in A♭ major, Op 34~1
recorded in 1911
and in 1922
Chopin Mazurka, Op 17~4 recorded in 1912
Chopin Mazurka in F♯ minor, Op 59~3 (preceded by a recording of the work by Vladimir de Pachmann)
Chopin Nocturne in E♭ Major, Op 9~2
Chopin Nocturne in F Major, Op 15~1 recorded in 1911
Chopin Nocturne in F♯ major, Op 15~2 recorded in 1927
Chopin Nocturne in B major, Op 62~1 recorded in 1938
Chopin Nocturne in E Major, Op 62~2 recorded in 1911
Chopin Etude, Op 10~5 recorded in 1917
Chopin Etude, Op 10~12 "Revolutionary"
Chopin Etude Op 25~1
Chopin Etude in C♯ minor, Op 25 n7 recorded in 1917
Chopin Ballade 3 in A♭ major, Op 47 piano roll recorded in 1925
Chopin Berceuse in D♭ major, Op 57
Chopin Mazurka in B♭ minor, Op 24~4 piano roll recorded in 1922
Chopin Polonaise in A♭ Major, Op 53 recorded in 1938
Chopin Sonata 2 in B♭ minor, Op 35 (movements 3 and 4) recorded in 1928
Chopin/Liszt "The Maiden's Wish" recorded in 1912
Schumann "Des Abends" n1 and "Aufschwung" n2 from Fantasiestucke, Op 12 recorded in 1912
Schumann "Warum" from Fantasiestucke, Op 12 recorded in 1914
Schumann Nachtstücke, Op 23~4
Schumann Waldszenen, Op 82~7 "Vogel as Prophet" recorded in 1926