A painting of Ignacy Jan Paderewski (2018) Author: Edward Dwurnik Private collectionTeatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
Public admiration of Ignacy Jan Paderewski manifested itself in its most extreme with displays of wild enthusiasm at the sight of the artist and huge media interest in his personal life. Some fans even believed he possessed supernatural powers. The term Paddymania was coined in America, where he was referred to as Paddyroosky or simply Paddy.
Portrait of Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1890) Author: Elliott & Fry, London Private collectionTeatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
‘Everyone was telling me (and I started to believe that) that I’d never be a pianist.’
At first, Paderewski’s talent for the piano went unnoticed. A professor at the Warsaw conservatory told him: ‘Let me give you some advice: don’t try the piano, because you’ll never be a pianist – never.’ Because of his deficient technique, he was advised to focus on composing.
Theodor Leschetizky (1911) The University of AdelaideTeatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
Paderewski’s career took off thanks to his friendship with star actress Helena Modjeska (Modrzejewska) and studies with renowned teacher Theodor Leschetizky (Teodor Leszetycki). He shot to European fame after his debut at the Salle Érard in Paris, then took the world by storm.
Cover of the newspaper La Domenica del Corriere with a drawing of I. J. Paderewski performing before Pope Pius XI (1925) Private collectionTeatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
Critics started to call him ‘the king of pianists’,
‘the wizard of the keyboard’, ‘a pianist of global stature’.
He was particularly adored by women.
Paddymania has reached the point where three New York ladies embroidered their stockings with musical phrases from his Minuet .
‘The long-haired pianist has the same effect on New York women as a jar of confiture has on children in the orphanage.’
A portrait of Helena Modejska (Modrzejewska) with a dedication to I.J. Paderewski (1903) Author: Józef Sebald National Museum, WarsawTeatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
Women of his life
If it weren’t for women, though, Paderewski wouldn’t have achieved the kind of success he did. Women were his most loyal protectors and supporters as he embarked on his musical and political career.
Helena Modrzejewska was a major Polish actress, most famous for her Shakespearian roles. She met Paderewski in the mountain resort of Zakopane in the summer of 1884. Enchanted by the performance and personality of the young pianist, she decided to support his developing music career. Proceeds from a concert she helped him organise on 3 October 1884 in Kraków enabled Paderewski to go to Vienna to train under the renowned teacher Theodor Leschetizky.
Anna Yesipova (1894) Library of the Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University Frankfurt am MainTeatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
Anna Nikolayevna Yesipova-Leschetizky was a prominent pianist of Russian origin, who married, and then divorced her one-time teacher Theodor Leschetizky. Paderewski studied with her and her husband in Vienna, and she championed his work. She premiered Paderewski’s Piano Concerto in A minor Op. 17 in 1889 at the Wiener Musikverein. She used her connections to arrange for Paderewski’s debut in Paris in 1888.
Laurence Alma-Tadema (1907-1908) Library of CongressTeatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
Laurence Alma-Tadema was a British poet, writer, and translator of Polish literature. She was a daughter of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, a Dutch academic painter and author of one of Paderewski’s first portraits. Ms Alma-Tadema was a friend of Paderewski and his wife Helena, whom she would often visit at their villa in Riond-Bosson, Switzerland. She campaigned for the Polish cause and supported the pianist’s in his efforts to alleviate the circumstances of the victims of war in Poland. She wrote for the English-language newspapers about the tragic situation on the war-ridden country calling for aid.
From concert halls to big screen!
‘Paderewski enjoyed the cinema a lot, yet he tried take his seat after the film has started because every time he entered during a pause, the audience would jump to their feet and give him an ovation, and this happened all over the world (…). One time, around a dozen of adoring fans hoisted Paderewski off the ground and, widely excited, carried him to his car. He never saw the movie.’
Poster for the film Moonlight Sonata (1937) Theatre Museum, WarsawTeatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
As popular as he was, he was invited to appear in a film himself.
The Moonlight Sonata is the only audiovisual record of him playing the piano.
A fragment of the film "Moonlight Sonata" featuring I.J. Paderewski and directed by Lothar Mendes (1937)Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
Celebrity of his times
Being a proper celebrity as he was, Paderewski liked to act the part by surrounding himself with luxurious objects.
‘A perfectionist at the piano, he was a refined dandy. When it came to outfits, he would spend a fortune on silk shirts, waistcoats, tailcoats, patent leather shoes and loafers that were custom made in London, fur coats, Lock’s hats, luxury watches, cufflinks, tiepins, or cigarette boxes.’
Wills’s cigarette card featuring a caricature of I.J. Paderewski (obverse) Author: Spy Private collectionTeatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
He was admired as a man who was able to earn a quarter of a million of dollars with his own hands during a tour that lasted less then half a year; he was admired as a pianist that was able to give 117 performances, including 109 recitals, between November (1891) and March (1892), while 18 of the concerts were held in New York itself.
I.J. Paderewski in a train carriage travelling in the USA (1896) Library of CongressTeatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
Considering the numbers of concerts and gigs he was giving, it comes as no surprise that Paderewski would travel in a private train carriage, which only contributed to the aura of celebrity that surrounded him.
‘(…) in the carriage, the virtuoso practiced wonderful compositions all day (…). Yesterday, admiring train cleaners could listen to him play and keep their daily wage as long as they were busy at work. This explains why the two carriages on both sides of the pianist’s carriage were cleaned so many times.’
Group scene from the opera Manru with Edward Pawlak as Jagu in the foreground (1961) Theatre Museum, WarsawTeatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
Manru is Paderewski’s only opera and until now the only Polish opera ever staged at the Metropolitan Opera. It received an enthusiastic welcome from the NY audience. It was put on nine times, bringing the composer a financial success.
Fragment of a review of Manru in The Theatre Magazine (1902) Private collectionTeatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
‘The New York Times has reported on the sums fetched by international artists at the end of the season. The list was topped by Paderewski alongside Enrico Caruso.’
Between music and politics
Paderewski is a rare example of an artist who consciously, and consistently, used his fame and renown to influence his country’s political future. He gave up performing for four years to focus on his diplomatic work and went into debt as a result.
A meeting of the General Relief Committee for the Victims of the War in Poland in Vevey, Switzerland (1916) Author: Leon KaufmannTeatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
He made use of his global renown, personal relations with the mighty of this world, and great oratory skills to advocate for Polish independence. Pictured: A meeting of the General Relief Committee for the Victims of the war in Poland in Vevey, Switzerland, which managed to raise huge sums of money from donors in 52 countries.
Ignacy Jan Paderewski
Maria née Babska Sienkiewicz (wife of Henryk Sienkiewicz, Polish Nobel Award-winning novelist)
Helena Paderewska (wife of Ignacy)
Władysław Mickiewicz (son of Adam, major Polish Romantic poet)
American newspaper photograph. I.J. Paderewski and Tadeusz Styka, author of Paderewski’s portrait New York (1930) Private collectionTeatr Wielki - Polish National Opera
As George Bernard Shaw once said, Paderewski had an unprecedented career – two, actually. He was probably the only pianist who became a prime minister.
Translated into English by:
Paddymania is presented in conjunction with the exhibition Ignacy Jan Paderewski. The Anatomy of Genius (Opera Gallery, Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera, 27 September-2 December 2018)
Ignacy Jan Paderewski: The Anatomy of Genius
Monika Chudzikowska, Marcin Fedisz
Sylwia Wachowska, Aleksander Laskowski
Galeria Opera, Muzeum Teatralne, Fundacja Opera
Supported by the NIEPODLEGŁA Multi-Year Programme for 2017-2021 as part of the ‘Niepodległa’ Grant Programme
Sources of the quotes used in the Paddymania exhibition:
1. Paderewski – Antologia, selected and edited by J. Jasieński, Poznań 1996.
2. Z panteonu wielkich Polaków. Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Album Międzynarodowego Towarzystwa Muzyki Polskiej im. Ignacego Paderewskiego w Warszawie, selected by K.R. Czekaj Haag, Bazylea-Kraków-Warszawa 2010.
3. Ignacy Jan Paderewski – artysta, społecznik, polityk – w opiniach jemu współczesnych, Antologia tekstów historycznych i literackich dla uczczenia 150. Rocznicy urodzin Wielkiego Polaka, selected and edited by M.M. Drozdowski, X. Pilch-Nowakowska, Warszawa 2012.
4 A. Nossig, I.J. Paderewski, trans. A. Laskowski, Warszawa 2018.