Ignacy Jan Paderewski


by Micheal Mieszczanski

Ignacy Jan Paderewski was a famous Polish composer and pianist, renown for both his own compositions and his performances of Chopin pieces. Also a statesman and political activist, his voice spoke strongly for Polish freedom. Ignacy Jan Paderewski was born in 1860, in Kurylówka, which is located in the Ukraine. He developed a strong sense of national pride, growing up in the wake of a failed revolution in 1863, borne out of a desire to free Poland from out of German and Russian control. He also began to study at the Warsaw Conservatory at an early age and began to compose music for the Piano and the Violin. Paderewski rapidly progressed in his playing abilities, and by 1888, was already performing in front of large crowds in Paris, and soon after, London and the United States. Paderewski frequently visited the U.S.A. to perform, appearing in a large number of cities, including multiple appearances in the city of Rochester. After 1910, when he unveiled a monument commemorating the 500th year anniversary of the Battle at Grunwald, Paderewski began using his popularity as a composer and a pianist to further his political career as well, appearing publicly to speak about Polish independence and the cultural importance of being Polish. In fact, he gave a speech at the White House, in front of the US president at the time, Woodrow Wilson, and strongly influenced Wilson’s reestablishment of Poland as a sovereign nation in his Fourteen Points. He served as both Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Poland, before resigning to continue his life as a musician. However, he returned to his role as a statesman during the outbreak of WWII, when Poland was invaded by Germany, and occupied once more by foreign powers. Paderewski spent the last few years of his life living in the United States, where he died, buried in New York City at first, but as by his own orders, moved back to Poland in 1992, after Poland became free again.

Paderewski was very significant both to Poland and the city of Rochester. Aside from his many musical contributions to the world, and his assistance in freeing Poland from occupation, he also made frequent visits to the growing Polish community in the city of Rochester. He performed frequently at the Eastman Theater, and also spoke publicly about Poland’s need to become an independent nation. Paderewski was a beloved figure wherever he went, and was a key figure in the development of both Poland’s independence and the cultural community in Rochester.