MUSIC FROM CHOPIN’S LAND
In 2020, I was commissioned by PWM Edition to record five films showcasing Polish piano music. I was captivated by new musical discoveries, asked to see a wider selection, and have subsequently continued to independently review and introduce this repertoire to Pianodao readers…
Most piano lovers will of course have heard of Ignacy Paderewski: a seminal figure from the “golden age” of the piano whose brilliant career as a touring virtuoso was interrupted when he became Poland’s Prime Minister from 1919-21.
Aside from the popular Minuet in G (which I will be discussing in the tutorial film below) however, his fabulous and highly accessible piano music is far too little-known…
Ignacy Jan Paderewski was born to Polish parents in 1860 in the village of Kuryłówka, then part of the Russian Empire, now part of Ukraine.
Paderewski studied at the Warsaw Conservatory from the age of 12, and later on, composition in Berlin. He made his concert debut in Vienna in 1887, and soon established himself as a performing sensation. But his passion for Polish independence led him at the height of his international fame to pursue a second career in public office: with such celebrity status he became a strong public voice for Polish nationalism.
After his stint as Prime Minister of Poland, during which he was a signatory of the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I, Paderewski returned to the life of the touring virtuoso musician. He died in New York City in 1941, aged 80.
Paderewski’s music is abundantly Romantic in tone, with lush melodic interest, rich harmony, enough technical fireworks to please his audiences, and all served up in a sauce of easy accessibility.
To help repopularise Padarewski’s music PWM Edition bring us The Most Beautiful Paderewski, a collection of 13 of his solo piano pieces to treasure, including the famous Minuet and a dozen other delights. Here’s the full contents:
- Danses polonaises Op.5
- Chants du voyageur Op.8, No.3: Mélodie
- Album de Mai Op.10, No.2: Chant d’amour
- Humoresques de Concert Op.14, I: a l’antique
No.1: Menuet in G
- Humoresques de Concert Op.14, II: moderne
No.6: Cracovienne fantastique
- No.1: Légende
- No.2 Mélodie
- No.3: Thème varié
- No.4: Nocturne
- No.6: Un Moment musical
- Tatra Album Op.12, No.1
The selection of pieces is excellent, and having listened to all of Paderewski’s music in recordings, I couldn’t have suggested a more ideal compilation than this. All of this music is for the “advanced” player (UK Grades 6-8) or higher, as one would expect perhaps.
Incidentally, the delightful Cracovienne fantastique is the piece used for the main title sequence in all the tutorial videos, in case you were wondering!
The Most Beautiful Paderewski appears in a series of Most Beautiful collections showcasing Poland’s most famous musicians (others in the series including Chopin, Moníuszko, Lutosławski, Szymanowski, and for violin/piano Wieniawski, Bacewicz).
The cover is in fairly stiff card, the 72 pages within printed on ivory/cream paper, and almost all given over to the scores of the 13 pieces. The notation is detailed, the edition (mostly by Zdzisław Śliwiński) impeccable, engraving clear to read, and fingering suggestions are included throughout.
In this tutorial video for PWM Edition, I focus on introducing the popular Minuet in G and offering some tips for playing and teaching this smashing piece.
A second tutorial, presented by the French pianist Ernestine Bluteau, focusses on Légende, and includes English subtitles:
Next, Maddalena Giacopuzzi considers the Mazurka Op.5 No.2:
And finally, German pedagogue Hubert Rutkowski looks at the Nocturne Op.16 No.4:
The Minuet in G is such a delightful piece, with enormous audience appeal, and is so much fun to play and teach. I hope you found my suggestions useful for getting into the piece, and that you will take time to explore the various other pieces in this great collection, too!
Paderewski’s hugely appealing contribution to the solo piano repertoire fully deserves its place at the centre of the classical literature. Don’t miss it!
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