Ignacy Jan Paderewski (6 November 1860 – 29 June 1941) was a Polish pianist, composer, diplomat, politician, and the third Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland.
He was born in the village of Kuryłówka in the province of Podolia, then in the Russian Empire (now Ukraine). His father was an administrator of large estates. His mother, Poliksena (née Nowicka), died several months after Paderewski was born, and he was brought up by his distant relatives.
From his early childhood, Paderewski was interested in music. Initially he took piano lessons with a private tutor. At the age of 12, in 1872, he went to Warsaw and was admitted to the Warsaw Conservatorium. After graduating in 1878, he was asked to become a tutor of piano classes at his alma mater, which he accepted. In 1880 Paderewski married Antonina Korsakówna, and soon afterwards, their first child was born. The following year, they discovered that the son was handicapped; soon afterward, Antonina died. Paderewski decided to devote himself to music, and in 1881 he went to Berlin to study music composition with Friedrich Kiel and Heinrich Urban. In 1884 he moved to Vienna, where he was a pupil of Theodor Leschetizky. It was in Vienna that he made his musical debut in 1887. He soon gained great popularity and his subsequent appearances (in Paris in 1889, and in London in 1890) were major successes. His brilliant playing created a furore which reached to almost extravagant lengths of admiration; and his triumphs were repeated in the United States in 1891. His name at once became synonymous with the highest level of piano virtuosity.
He was also a substantial composer, including many pieces for piano. In 1901 his sole opera Manru received the world premiere at Dresden, then it had American premiere in 1902 at the Metropolitan Opera and to this day remains the only Polish opera by a Polish composer ever performed there.
He was also active in pursuing various philanthropic causes. In 1910 he funded the erection of the Battle of Grunwald Monument in Kraków, in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the event. In 1913, Paderewski settled in the United States.
On the eve of World War I, and at the height of his fame, Paderewski bought a 2,000-acre (8.1 km2) property, Rancho San Ignacio, near Paso Robles, in San Luis Obispo County, on the central coast of California. A decade later he planted Zinfandel vines on the California property. When the vines matured, the wine was made for him at the nearby York Mountain Winery, then, as now, one of the best-known wineries between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
He was extremely popular internationally, to such an extent that the music hall duo "The Two Bobs" had a hit song in 1916, in music halls across Britain, with the song "When Paderewski plays".
During World War I, Paderewski became an active member of the Polish National Committee in Paris, which was soon accepted by the Entente as the representative of Poland. He became a spokesman of that organisation and soon also formed other social and political organizations, among them the Polish Relief Fund in London. It was then that he met the English composer Edward Elgar who used a theme from Paderewski's Fantasie Polonaise in his work Polonia written for the Polish Relief Fund concert in London on 6 July 1916.
In April 1918, he met in New York City with leaders of the American Jewish Committee, including Louis Marshall, in an unsuccessful attempt to broker a deal whereby organized Jewish groups would support Polish territorial ambitions in exchange for support for equal rights. However, it soon became clear that no plan would satisfy both Jewish leaders and Roman Dmowski, head of the Polish National Committee.
At the end of the war, with the fate of the city of Poznań and the whole region of Greater Poland (Wielkopolska) still undecided, Paderewski visited Poznań. With his public speech on 27 December 1918, the Polish inhabitants of Poznań began a military uprising against Germany, called the Greater Poland Uprising.
Portrait from Léon Bonnat In 1919, in the newly independent Poland, Paderewski became the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs (January 1919-December 1919), and he thus represented Poland at the Paris Peace Conference. In the summer of that year, he signed the Treaty of Versailles, which restored the territories of Greater Poland and Pomerania around the City of Gdańsk to Poland. Although this fell short of what the Polish delegates had demanded, these territories provided the core of the restored Polish state.
After being abandoned by many of his political supporters, Paderewski handed Piłsudski a letter of resignation on 4 December 1919, whereupon he took on the role of Polish Ambassador to the League of Nations.
In 1922 he retired from politics and returned to his musical life. His first concert after a long break, held at Carnegie Hall, was a significant success. He also filled Madison Square Garden (20,000 seats) and toured the United States in a private railway car..
Soon he moved to Morges in Switzerland. After Piłsudski's coup d'état in 1926, Paderewski became an active member of the opposition to Sanacja rule. In 1936 in his mansion a coalition of members of the opposition was signed; it was nicknamed the Front Morges after the name of the village.
By 1936, two years after the death of his wife, Paderewski consented to appear in a film presenting his talent and art on the screen. This proposal had come at a time when Paderewski did not wish to appear in public. However, the film project did proceed and the selected film script was rather an opportunity to feature Paderewski. The film Moonlight Sonata was filmed throughout 1936.
In November 1937 Paderewski agreed to take on one last pupil for piano. This musician was Witold Małcużyński, who had won second place at the International Frederick Chopin Piano Competition.
After the Polish Defensive War of 1939 Paderewski returned to public life. In 1940 he became the head of the Polish National Council, a Polish parliament in exile in London. The eighty-year-old artist also restarted his Polish Relief Fund and gave several concerts (most notably in the United States) to gather money for it. However, his mind was not what it had once been: scheduled again to play Madison Square Garden, he refused to appear, insisting that he had already played the concert, presumably remembering the concert he had played in the 1920s.
In addition to his concert tours, Paderewski was a popular speaker who was renowned for his wit, and was often quoted. He was once introduced to a polo player with the words: "You are both leaders in your spheres, though the spheres are very different." "Not so very different," Paderewski replied. "You are a dear soul who plays polo, and I am a poor Pole who plays solo."
During a concert tour in 1941, Paderewski was taken ill on 27 June. Physicians were called in for consultation and diagnosed pneumonia. Despite increasing health and signs of recovery Paderewski died suddenly in New York, at 11:00 p.m. on 29 June. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington Virginia, near Washington DC. In 1992, his body was brought to Warsaw and placed in St. John's Cathedral. His heart is encased in a bronze sculpture in the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa near Doylestown, Pennsylvania.