Ignacy Jan Paderewski

1860 - 1941

Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1860–1941), a virtuoso pianist, composer, politician (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.

Listen to Paderewski

Paderewski’s Melody, performed by Marek Zebrowski (piano), Joel Pargman (violin) and Lars Hoefs (cello). Transcribed by Marek Zebrowski. Courtesy of the Polish Music Center, USC.

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.
  • 1919: As the representative of Poland, signs the Versailles Treaty, which restores Polish sovereignty after more than 120 years.
  • 1919: Becomes 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.