6 février 2010 6 06 /02 /février /2010 17:58

Born 18 November 1860, Kurylówka (Poland)- 29 June 1941, New York (USA) Born 26 years before the death of Liszt and 37 years before the death of Brahms, Paderewski is a pianist steeped in the musical traditions of the nineteenth-century. Elegance, charm, a beautiful singing tone, these were the hallmarks of the day and Paderewski had them all. Ignacy Jan Paderewski was one of the 20th century’s most controversial artists, both for his piano playing and for his life-style, the subject both of mystic reverence and of flat rejection as a charlatan. Paderewski was constantly told by his teachers that he would never make a successful concert pianist (and would later often say that he had not learnt to play or practise properly at the time). But he persevered, and in October 1884, when Theodor Leschetizky accepted him as a pupil, things changed: his first recital in Paris’s Salle Erard and orchestral debut with Saint-Saens’s Fourth Piano Concerto in 1888 catapulted him into orbit around the Parisian music scene, not least thanks to his magnetic stage presence and personal charisma. Still with a limited repertoire, he developed new programs with Leschetizky.

After successes throughout Europe, Paderewski made a sensational debut in New York’s Carnegie Hall in November 1891, launching a lifetime of American tours. His standard repertoire mainly Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Brahms and Chopin plus selected pieces by Anton Rubinstein and other contemporaries  also took him to Australia, New Zealand, South America and South Africa. Paderewski actively supported the Polish struggle for independence with a fierce patriotism that in 1919 made him Poland’s first Prime Minister and its delegate to the Versailles peace conference. On the political stage, he was a brilliant orator with an encyclopedic knowledge of history. His return to the concert platform in November 1922 aroused equal enthusiasm in America, where he was the first classical artist to be comprehensively marketed  with Paderewski dolls, candles, toys and even Paderewski soap. And he needed the money  a big spender, he loved luxury and always traveled in a private railway car with grand piano and full entourage including secretary, valet, piano tuner, tour manager, masseuse and porter. At the height of his career he was noted for his delicate touch, eloquent phrasing and rich expressiveness. He could make the piano sing a whole spectrum of colors, with brilliant use of the pedal. This is impressively documented by the some 100 recordings he made between 1911 and 1938, especially the early ones.

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