Programs honor Polish pianist Paderewski

Critic's Choice: Classical Music

November 04, 2001|By Tim Smith

Ignace Jan Paderewski may no longer be a household name, but it's still listed among history's greatest pianists. At his peak, he was downright lionized. Many a female fan fainted upon experiencing his startling technical prowess and individualistic, insightful interpretations -- not to mention a fabulous burst of red hair upon a nobly chiseled head.

Paderewski's superstar status lasted for decades. And as if his sublime playing and considerable success as a composer on the side weren't enough, he excelled at politics, too. In 1919, he became the first prime minister and minister of foreign affairs for his newly independent Polish homeland; Paderewski's signature was affixed to the Treaty of Versailles.

In 1922, the pianist resumed his musical career, still adored by the public. As the next world war loomed, Paderewski made a valiant effort to arouse American public opinion against the Nazis. When he died in this country in 1941, he was buried on President Roosevelt's orders in a crypt at Arlington National Cemetery on the understanding that the body would be returned to his Poland when that country was free again.

After the Cold War ended, President Reagan ordered the return of the remains (except the heart, which Paderewski had wanted to stay in America -- it's now buried in Pennsylvania).

To mark this year's 60th anniversary of the pianist's death, cellist Cecylia Barczyk will lead a "Tribute to Paderewski" that includes works by him, Chopin and other Polish composers; tenor Gerald Phillips, pianist Reynaldo Reyes and others will participate. The concert is at 3 p.m. today at Towson Univer-sity's Center for the Arts, Osler and Cross Campus drives. Tickets are $12 and $15. Call 410-704-2787.

Another Paderewski tribute -- this one featuring pianist Janusz Olejniczak and soprano Anna Bajor with the Sinfonia Varsovia from Poland, and again offering music by Chopin, Paderewski and other Poles -- will be at 8 p.m. tomorrow at Lisner Auditorium, George Washington University, 21st and H streets Northwest, Washington. Tickets are $20 to $45. Call 301-808-6900 or 202-994-1500.

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