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

Sir Ignace Paderewski — World's Most Wonderful Pianist Tours New Zealand by Train

page 10

Sir Ignace Paderewski
World's Most Wonderful Pianist Tours New Zealand by Train.

Paderewski, pianist, statesman, and knight, has revisited these shores after a period of twenty-three years during which his title to world supremacy in his chosen art has not been seriously challenged, whilst his intense patriotism and humanitarian activities have gained universal respect and admiration.



An old man in years, he retains a wonderful vigour and vivacity, and the great reception which awaited him at the commencement of his itinerary through New Zealand shows how high he stands in the esteem and affection of the people of this Dominion.

The railways of this country are having the privilege of carrying the painist and his party between the principal centres, and for this purpose the cars which were recently used for the Royal tour will be requisitioned.

Before arriving in New Zealand, Paderewski had completed 33,000 miles of train travel by special car during a seven months tour in Canada and the United States. It is hoped that he may find the accommodation and conveniences provided on our own system to his liking. Certainly the Department will do all in its power to make the travel of our distinguished visitor as comfortable as possible.

For the highest emotional interpretation of the musical masterpieces of the ages, tempermental poise is essential. It is said of his previous visit that Paderewski declared if he had known what the long sea voyage meant he would never have undertaken it. His nerves are so highly strung that the vibration of the ship made him suffer acutely.

Paderewski has not changed much in appearance since he was here before. The same fine facial contours, the wavy hair—now streaked with grey,—the black piercing eye, the moustache, and the small imperial are still characteristic features. His manner is grave and dignified, a result, no doubt, induced by the stress of troublous times and the responsibility of state and national affairs; he speaks more deliberately than before, but he is as impressive and as magnetic in personality as ever. In manner he is charmingly polite.

Ignace Jan Paderewski was born at Kurybowka, Podolia, a village of Russian Poland, on the 6th November, 1860. When only three years old he began to play the piano; when he was seven his father placed him with a local teacher of some talent and in 1872 he was sent to the Warsaw Musical Conservatorie, where he remained continuously until his eighteenth birthday.

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.

Hours of Practice Daily.

Paderewski's physical development has been modified by the tremendous amount of his piano practice. His hands are so delicate that quite an ordinary hearty handshake will make him wince. Yet his forearm shows a muscular development of which an athlete might be proud. Such a specialisation, resulting from years of practice, gives him an unrivalled command over his instrument. Perfect technique being taken for granted by him, he still deems hours of daily practice essential to perfect his interpretative powers. An interviewer once asked him how long he spent each day at the piano. “Why, always,” he answered, “one must always be at it to keep the fingers right and the memory active.” For weeks before a concert he has often played during fifteen hours out of each four-and-twenty.

It is understood that our distinguished visitor still practises ten hours daily.

Interior of parlour car used by Paderewski in New Zealand.

Interior of parlour car used by Paderewski in New Zealand.