Photography: Wladyslaw Duleba

Ignacy Jan Paderewski

1860 - 1941

Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1860–1941), a virtuoso pianist, composer, politician (the first Prime Minister of independent Poland after World War I), humanitarian and orator, was universally acclaimed as a "Modern Immortal" by his contemporaries. His charismatic personality and popular appeal made him one of the most cherished figures of the 20th century. Although his bold political vision for a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural United States of Poland was never realized, his musical legacy continues to inspire generations of musicians all around the world.

A Brief Timeline of Paderewski’s Life

  • 1860
    Born on November 6 in the village of Kuryłówka, in the Podolia Province of southeastern Poland (now Ukraine).
  • 1872–1878
    Studies piano, harmony, counterpoint and trombone at the Music Institute in Warsaw..
  • 1879
    First published composition, Impromptu for Piano, appears in the journal Echo Muzyczne in Warsaw
  • 1880
    Marries a fellow-student, Antonina Korsak, who dies a year later in childbirth. Paderewski's son, Alfred, is an invalid throughout his life.
  • 1881–1886
    Paderewski studies composition with Friedrich Kiel and Heinrich Urban in Berlin, befriends Anton Rubinstein, Richard Strauss and the music publisher Hugo Bock. Studies with Teodor Leszetizky in Vienna; afterwards begins teaching at the Strasbourg Conservatory in 1885 and performing solo and chamber music concerts.
  • 1888
    Plays concerts in Poland, Austria, Germany and Belgium. Makes a triumphant debut at the Salle Erard in Paris in March followed by highly-acclaimed recitals in major European capitals.
  • 1891
    Performs in New York City for the first time. Gives over 100 concerts in U.S. and Canada follow during a four-month period. Initiates international annual concert tours of North America.
  • 1897
    Purchases Kąśna Dolna estate about 60 miles southeast of Kraków.
  • 1899
    Marries a long-time companion, Helena Górska and spends his honeymoon at Kąśna Dolna. In late summer rents a villa Riond-Bosson on the outskirts of Morges, Switzerland; after purchasing it a year later, it becomes Paderewski's principal residence until 1940.
  • 1901
    Death of Alfred Paderewski. Premiere of Paderewski's only opera, Manru, in Dresden. American premiere at the Metropolitan Opera follows in 1902.
  • 1903
    Sells the Kąśna Dolna estate.
  • 1906
    Takes his first piano-roll recordings for Welte-Mignon. Also records for Aeolian Company and HMV.
  • 1909
    Symphony in B Minor, Op. 24, "Polonia," premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Later performed in Philadelphia, New York and Baltimore.
  • 1914-1916
    Purchases Rancho San Ignacio and Rancho Santa Helena in Paso Robles, California. Over the next 25 years plants almond trees, fruit orchards and Zinfandel grapes. His land holdings cover 2864 acres, contributing to the development of the Central Coast agriculture. Also purchases 2626 acres in Santa Maria, conducting oil drilling exploration.
  • 1915–1918
    Gives over 300 speeches and lecture-recitals, soliciting support for Polish casualties of World War I and rallies worldwide on behalf of Polish independence. Raises millions of dollars in aid for Poland, working with US President Wilson and Herbert Hoover.
  • 1918
    As the representative of Poland, signs the Versailles Treaty, which restores Polish sovereignty after more than 120 years.
  • 1919
    Becomes the first Prime Minister of independent Poland, as well as the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Poland's representative to the League of Nations.
  • 1922
    Resigns from all political posts and resumes international concert tours.
  • 1923
    Receives the honorary Doctor of Law degree from the University of Southern California for his political achievements. Other universities that honored Paderewski include Lwów, Yale, Jagiellonian, Oxford, Columbia, Poznań, Glasgow, Cambridge, and New York University.
  • 1932
    Performs at the Madison Square Garden for an audience of about 15,000. The concert raises $37,000 for unemployed American musicians.
  • 1934
    Paderewski's wife, Helena, dies in Switzerland after a long illness.
  • 1937
    Appears in British film, Moonlight Sonata, portraying himself in a 21-minute recital of works by Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt and his own Menuet.
  • 1938
    Performs a 40-minute radio recital, broadcast live around the world and carried in North America by the NBC Network.
  • 1939
    Last tour of the United States cut short, when Paderewski becomes indisposed before the New York concert in May; sails for Europe on May 30.
  • 1939–1941
    Following the outbreak of World War II, Paderewski conducts anti-Nazi campaign from his home in Switzerland, but does not join Polish government in exile. Evacuated via France, Spain, and Portugal, he reaches New York in November 1940. Dies in New York on June 29, 1941, and receives a state burial at the Arlington National Cemetery.
  • 1992
    Paderewski's body is returned to Poland and buried in the Royal Crypt of the Warsaw Cathedral in a ceremony attended by the presidents of Poland and the United States.

Paderewski in Paso Robles

Paso Robles is justly proud of its most famous resident, Ignacy Jan Paderewski, who visited this Central California spa on many occasions between the years 1914 and 1939. He stayed at the El Paso Hotel (now the Paso Robles Inn), and took cures in Paso's hot springs and, shortly after his arrival, also became an owner of two large ranches, Rancho San Ignacio and Rancho Santa Helena.

He first purchased land in the area in February of 1914, eventually amassing a parcel of land encompassing three miles from east to west and four miles north to south, covering an impressive total of 2864 acres. On his land Paderewski planted Zinfandel wine grapes, almonds, and a variety of fruit trees. His farming methods and keen interest in wine making transformed the Central Coast agriculture. In addition to his musical and political accomplishments, he also is remembered as a pioneer of vine cultivation in California. Wishing to enlarge his holdings and hoping to strike it rich through oil-drilling, Paderewski bought 2,626 acres of ranchland near Santa Maria in September 1917. Although several geological explorations and test drillings were carried out, oil was never discovered on his Santa Maria property, and the land was eventually sold in November 1933.

For even more information on Ignacy Paderewski, visit the USC Polish Music Center website.

The History of the Festival

To commemorate Paderewski's association with the area, the Paderewski Festival was launched in Paso Robles in 1993. Annual concerts, featuring a variety of artists, were presented to local audiences. Right from the start, the idea was a resounding success with the townspeople. Tours of vineyards, wine tasting, and presentations of Polish culture and history were held in a variety of venues around town. The death of one of the Paderewski Festival organizers and a destructive earthquake in 2003 temporarily suspended the annual concert series.

Under the leadership of the Polish Music Center at University of Southern California Thornton School of Music and Paso Roblans led by Steve Cass of Cass Winery and Joel Peterson, grandson of the Paderewski Festival's founder Virginia Peterson, the Paderewski Festival was re-launched in October 2006 with a solo recital by the English pianist, Jonathan Plowright. The event, held at Cass Winery, brought many individuals, organizations and local businesses together, underscoring a continued interest in preserving Paderewski's legacy in Paso Robles.

Building upon the success of the 2006 concert, a committee of volunteers was formed and charged with preparing the 2007 Paderewski celebration. Under the leadership of Paso's Mayor, the Dean of Cuesta College, Paso's Chamber of Commerce, the Paso Robles School District, the Rotary Club, representatives of several wineries, and other civic leaders, the 2007 Festival included a noontime concert of winners of the Paso Robles Young Pianists Competition and a Gala Concert, both held in the historic ballroom of the Paso Robles Inn.

The Paderewski Festival in Paso Robles offers many exciting opportunities for the future. The February 2007 letter of Frank Mecham, the Mayor of Paso Robles, suggesting a sister city agreement between Paderewski's former estate in Poland, Kąśna Dolna, and Paso Robles was met with great enthusiasm by the officials at the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage in Poland. As a result, a delegation representing the Paderewski Festival Board of Directors was officially invited to visit Poland in June of 2008. Headed by Mayor Frank Mecham, the visit began in at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, and continued to Paderewski's estate of Kąśna Dolna, located about 60 miles east of Kraków, where the residence and grounds were recently restored to their former splendor. Concerts and conferences are now regularly held in the manor house, which also has bed and breakfast facilities. The surrounding park with a river and a lake provide a perfect backdrop for a cultural experience or a relaxing visit.

A sister city agreement between Tarnów, Poland, and Paso Robles, California, was signed in 2008 with a goal of establishing cultural, educational, personal and commercial exchanges between the two cities that share their historical ties to Ignacy Jan Paderewski. The first such exchange program was held in June 2009, when three young pianists from California’s Central Coast—finalists from the 2007 and 2008 Paderewski Youth Piano Competitions in Paso Robles—participated in a series of piano workshops and master classes alongside three Polish students. The program was held at the manor house of Paderewski’s former estate, Kąśna Dolna in the province of Tarnów. American and Polish students performed jointly in concerts in Kąśna Dolna and at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. Wines from Paso Robles were featured in tastings during receptions following each of the youth concerts. In turn, young musicians from Poland will be invited to Paso Robles to perform in the Paderewski Festival in Paso Robles.

Another exciting opportunity is the newly-formed cooperation of Paso Robles and the Polish city of Bydgoszcz, where the Paderewski International Piano Competition is held every three years. As a result, laureates of the Paderewski International Piano Competition are now invited to perform in Paso Robles. There is no doubt that concerts of classical music given by world's most prominent artists and free performances by students and area educators will elevate the cultural atmosphere of Paso Robles. Thus, Paderewski's legacy and love for the region will continue, enriching all who will participate in the rapidly growing list of Paso's cultural events.