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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 2, Issue 3 (July 1, 1927)

Slightly built and Graceful

Slightly built and Graceful.

The artist and his works are thus described, in part, in Cassell's “Famous Lives.”

On the concert platform Paderewski has never failed to establish an “atmosphere” individual to himself. In appearance he is slightly built, graceful and neat to a degree. His hair is that of the musician of tradition, a mane of fine thick fair hair which stands page 11 out from his head like an aureole—though politics have turned his halo silvery grey. A reporter once suggested to Mme. Paderewski that her husband's hair had caused such notoriety, and had been the object of so many cartoons, that he ought to have its exuberance moderated. “Certainly not,” answered the lady; “besides, the public would be disappointed if his hair were short.” This answer reflects the gently ironic but entirely good humoured spirit which Paderewski has maintained towards a world so ready to applaud and yet so chary in understanding an artistic genius.

He plays consummately without any apparent effort. His eyes, so deeply set in his head that it is hard to tell their colour, are generally closed when he is at the piano, his clear-cut immobile features are pale and inexpressive as the Sphinx. In all things his performance is perfectly finished. He walks to the piano without self-consciousness, yet without assumed indifference; while his bowing is an art in itself. All these things, however, are but the niceties of a great artist. Once he touches the keys with his hands the audience forgets all things saving his music. He can thunder and storm with the most powerful of pianists; he can charm with cantabile passages of exquisite tenderness. All emotions, all moods, seem equally at his disposal, waiting to be called forth from the piano by the touch of his magic fingers. Above all, his interpretations are intelligent and poetic. One may disagree with his rendering of a particular passage, but one can never criticise a note as harsh, unmeaning, or not carefully considered.

Wherein lies the secret of this marvellous playing? In practice, more practice, and yet again practice. Liszt, himself the first virtuose of his day, used to say that the secret of piano-playing lay only in technique, and, until Paderewski made his debut, this dictum held good as final.

The more dexterous a pianist might be, the larger the number of notes he could contort his fingers into striking in the smallest number of seconds, the greater was the esteem in which he was held. Then Paderewski appeared, accepting technique as a matter of course, performing the most difficult digital gymnastics without flurry, fuss, or effort. His wrists scarcely moved as he played, fortissimo passages seemed as easy as pianissimo ones. Musicians and musical critics gasped at one who took for granted the skill after which his fellows strove throughout their lives.