The Boneyard

Ignacy Jan Paderewski
in Evansville, Indiana

The Evansville Boneyard - Winter 2014

Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1860–1941) is one of the most important figures in Polish history. His multifaceted activities as a composer, pianist, politician, statesman, and generous philanthropist distinguished him as one of the greatest personalities of the cultural and political scenes in Poland, and indeed the world, during the first half of the past century.

Ignacy Jan Paderewski`s contemporaries often referred to him as the greatest piano player since the time of Liszt. His piano career lasted more than 50 years. The artist became widely known and admired after his Paris debut in Salle Erard in March 1888. In both Paris and London he was declared the greatest artist since the time of Chopin. Paderewski`s first American tour in 1891 reinforced his worldwide fame

European royalty attended his public concerts. He performed numerous private concerts for Queen Victoria of Great Britain. He toured in Europe, North and South America, Southern Africa, Australia, New Zeland, and Hawaii. The Polish piano player became a “star” and the most admired virtuoso of his time, and his artistic reputation is the same today.

Paderewski was a co-architect of the Second Republic of Poland, a country that was reborn at the end of World War I, after 123 years of captivity. He fought for the New Republic as a member of the Polish National Committee, during meetings in the White House and in the State Department in Washington, as an ideological leader of Polish Americans (1915–1918), as a president of the Cabinet in 1919, an as a leader of the Polish Delegation to the Versailles Conference. In 1919 Paderewski became the head of the Polish government. His Cabinet, which worked under very difficult socio-economic conditions (famine, unemployment, epidemics, and unstable borders), attained many important goals. It conducted democratic Parliamentary and governmental elections; calmed, down Polish internal social and political conflicts; gained international respect for Poland; ratified the Treaty of Versailles and the treaty on the protection of national minorities by the Legislative Parliament; undertook the economic reconstruction of the country; created the state apparatus; developed the public educational system on all levels; and established a radical social legislative system.

Paderewski very often stood up for people who were oppressed because of their political views. In his residence in Morges, Switzerland, he created a coalition of political authorities, abiding to the rules of Polish parliamentary democracy. The coalition (1936–1939) served as the basis of the Polish government in exile, which was created by General Wladyslaw Sikorski after the German Nazi attack on Poland on September 1, 1939.

The ailing and exhausted Maestro from Morges was very dramatically affected by the tragedy that his nation faced in September. He supported the activities of General Sikorski`s government in France and England, both morally and financially. He returned to the political scene by accepting the post of leader of the National Council of the Republic of Poland at General Sikorski`s and President Wladyslaw Raczkiewicz`s request.

Ignacy Jan Paderewski served his fatherland until the last days of his life. His extraordinary nobility was not for show and was not empty gesture. He was different from many politicians as he did not like their intrigues and the masks they put on to cover up their real views and emotions. He was always loyal to his friends and opponents. **

** Text courtesy of the Paderewski Association

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