Ignacy Jan Paderewski was born on November 18, 1860, in the village of Kurylivka, Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire. His father was Jan Paderewski who was an administrator of large estates. His mother, Poliksena Nowicka Paderewski, died soon after Paderewski was born. When his father was arrested in connection with the January Uprising (1863), he was adopted by his aunt. His father remarried after being released.
Paderewski was interested in music from very early in his childhood and started lessons with a private tutor.
At the age of 12, in 1872, he went to Warsaw and was admitted to the Warsaw Conservatory. After graduating in 1878, he was asked to become a tutor of piano classes at his alma mater, a position he accepted. In 1880, Paderewski married a fellow student at the conservatory Antonina Korsakówna. The following year, their son was born severely handicapped; Antonina never recovered from childbirth and died several weeks later. Paderewski decided to devote himself to music; he left his son in the care of friends, and in 1881 went to Berlin to study music composition with Friedrich Kiel and Heinrich Urban. A chance meeting in 1884 with a famous Polish actress, Helena Modrzejewska, set him on a course of a career as a virtuoso pianist. Modrzejewska arranged for a public concert and appearance together in Kraków's hotel Saski to raise funds for Paderewski's further piano study. The scheme was a tremendous success and he moved to Vienna, where he became a pupil of the preeminent pedagogue of Polish and Slovak descent, Theodor Leschetizky (Teodor Leszetycki).
Paderewski eventually became a famous Polish pianist and composer as well as a politician, statesman, and spokesman for Polish independence. As he “was a favorite of concert audiences around the world,” he was able to open “access to diplomacy and the media.”
Paderewski married again in 1899 to Baroness de Rosen (1856-1934). He moved to the United States in 1913 and purchased 2,000 acres of land, Rancho San Ignacio, near Paso Robles, in San Luis Obispo County, in the Central Coast area of California. Ten years later he planted Zinfandel vines on his property. 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.”
Paderewski played an important role in meeting with President Woodrow Wilson and obtaining the explicit inclusion of independent Poland as point 13 in Wilson's peace terms in 1918, called the Fourteen Points. He was the prime minister of Poland and also Poland's foreign minister in 1919, and represented Poland at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. He served 10 months as prime minister, and soon thereafter left Poland, never to return.
Apparently, Paderewski had only one son, Alfred Paderewski. He also received the Silver Cross, Grand Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta.
Paderewski died from pneumonia at age 80 on June 29, 1941, in New York City, NY. He was temporarily buried in the USS Maine Mast Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. His body was moved in 1992 to Warsaw where it was placed in St. John’s Archcathedral. “His heart is encased in a bronze sculpture in the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa near Doylestown, Pennsylvania.”
Here is an actual movie of Paderewski playing Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” At this site Paderewski plays Chopin’s “Polonaise in A Flat.”
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