Every week there are newly-offered Paderewski items for sale on eBay. His long career yielded thousands and thousands of pieces of ephemera, programs, Paderewski postcards, Paderewski soap, tobacco cards, coins, candles, postage stamps, newspaper photos, piano rolls, sound recordings.
For a long time, I wanted to acquire an old photograph of Ignaz Jan Paderewski. (Is it because I know Horowitz kept a Paderewski photo near his piano?) Paderewski’s playing is documented in sound recordings, piano rolls, and even film. My sense of his powerful impact as a musician comes more from the reception of it — accounts of his playing, and the intense reaction to Paderewski’s music-making that all this memorabilia constitutes. All this stuff is a recording of Paderewski!
“Away with all cynics! To perdition with the scoffers! Throw criticism to the dogs! Let us praise, applaud, and be merry, for tomorrow some other piano manufacturer will import a pianist who cannot play thus. Let us sound the loud timbrel of praise o’er Egypt’s dark sea of analysis. Great is Paderewski, and thank heaven for it!”
“When Paderewski comes this way, I’m so delighted, if I’m invited / To hear that long haired genius play.”
The movie remains to be made. Famous teacher tells aspiring youngster he will never be a pianist. Youngster practices a lot. Plays 19 public concerts in New York in 1891-92. (His Carnegie Hall debut featured a performance of a then 17-year-old concerto by Saint-Saëns. Equivalent to playing John Adams’s Century Rolls today?) Earns fortune from American tours. Travels in private railroad car. Becomes prime minister of Poland! Knows Queen Victoria, Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt. Initially buried at Arlington Cemetery.
Not Quentin Tarantino perhaps… Steven Spielberg?