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Pianos and Pianists - Consultant Editor Ates Orga

Ignacy Jan Paderewski

(1860 - 1941)

Pre-Raphaelite London, May 1890

'An Archangel with a splendid halo of golden hair'
Edward Burne-Jones on Paderewski

'There's a beautiful fellow in London named Paderewski and I want to have a face like him, and look like him and can't ... there's trouble. He looks so like Swinburne looked at twenty that I could cry over past things, and the pretty ways of him ... courteous little tricks ... and low bows and a hand that clings in shaking hands, and doesn't want to go ... and a face like Sir Galahad, and the Archangel Gabriel ... very like Swinburne's only in better drawing, and little turns and looks so like that it makes me jump ... and knowing people say he is a great master of his art ... which might well be for he looks glorious. I praised Allah for making him ... how nice it must be to look as fine as one is inside.'

- Rom Landau, Ignace Paderewski: Musician and Statesman, New York 1934


'An extremely amusing and lively man'
Paderewski remembers Burne-Jones

'I was driving gaily along in a hansom cab one day on my way to St John's Wood, when suddenly I saw a gentleman approaching. He was walking slowly along and even at that distance he radiated an unusual kind of power and nobility. He had the expression of an apostle, I thought. Instinctively I raised my hat from the depths of my hansom cab and saluted his dignity. I did not know then that it was Burne-Jones, the great portrait painter. A few days later I was taken by a friend to his studio when he made four or five [silver-point] sketches of me, one of which acquired a very wide popularity. It was done in two hours - it was marvellous. I remember that he drew very rapidly, even violently. It became one of his most famous drawings and was known everywhere. The original is here in my house - he was gracious enough to give it to me. A princely gift.'

- Ignace Jan Paderewski & Mary Lawton, The Paderewski Memoirs, London 1939 ('the authentic record of my life, and the only one that has my authorization and approval,' New York, April 19th 1933)


'... more champion pianists in the world at present than any previous age has seen ...'

Corno di Bassetto reports

'I went to hear the famous Paderewski [London debut, St James's Hall, Friday May 9th 1890, 3 pm] without the slightest doubt that his execution would be quite as astonishing as everybody else's; and I was not disappointed. He plays as clearly as von Bulow - or as nearly so as is desirable, and he is much more accurate. He has not enough consideration for the frailty of his instrument; his fortissimo, instead of being serious and formidable like that of [the Liszt disciple] Stavenhagen, is rather violent and elate. He goes to the point at which a piano huddles itself up and lets itself be beaten instead of unfolding the richness and colour of its tone. His charm lies in his pleasant spirit and his dash of humour: he carries his genius and his mission almost jauntily, which is more than can be said for Stavenhagen, whose seriousness, however, is equally admirable in its way. He began with Mendelssohn [a Prelude and Fugue from Op 35, unspecified], and knocked him about rather unceremoniously; then he took the Harmonious Blacksmith [Handel] and spoiled it by making it a stalking-horse for his sleight-of-hand - playing it too fast, in fact; then he went on to Schumann's Fantasia [C major, Op 17], which seems so hard to fathom because there is next to nothing in it; and then the way was cleared for Chopin. His playing of that great composer's studies - three of them - was by far the best thing he did. The other Chopin pieces [a nocturne, mazurka and waltz, likewise unspecified] were not specially well played; and his execution of the Liszt rhapsody at the end [following Paderewski's own Trois Humoresques a l'Antique, Op 14, in reverse order, and a Rubinstein barcarolle] was by no means equal to Sophie Menter's. Still his Parisian vogue is not to be wondered at: he makes a recital as little oppressive as it is the nature of such a thing to be.'

- George Bernard Shaw, 'Gas and Gaiters,' The Star, May 16th 1890 [Shaw's final contribution to that newspaper]


"... disastrous opening ... bad press ..."

Shaw according to Paderewski

'... it was during my first season in London in 1890 that [Shaw] wrote his famous criticisms in a periodical which was called The World [sic: Shaw only began contributing to The World with the issue of May 28th 1890], a fashionable weekly edited by Edmund Yates, the novelist. Shaw's criticism, or perhaps I might say, his attack upon me was almost as violent as he declared my attack was upon the piano! It was his criticism of my first concert and he said among other devastating things that I was a harmonious blacksmith who laid a concerto on the piano as upon an anvil, and hammered it out with exuberant enjoyment - words not easily forgotten! ... he treated me not only severely but, I may say, ridiculously.'

- Paderewski & Lawton, The Paderewski Memoirs


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