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Between Romanticism and Modernism

Ignacy Jan Paderewski’s Compositional Œuvre


Boguslaw Raba

This is the first monograph on the Polish composer Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1860–1941). It aspires to be part of the process of restoring his compositional legacy to European musical culture. Reinterpreting the legend surrounding the great Pole, the study is based on Paderewskis works that are listed in the Paderewski catalogue, but also includes sketches, unfinished pieces and student exercises. Raba’s analysis and interpretation of the composer’s work is carried out in formal-structural, stylistic-critical and aesthetic contexts, revising the image of the composer, that has been distorted in the historical reception of his œuvre.
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Chapter 2: Early Romantic Output (i): Between Historicism and Folklorism (1876–84)


Chapter 2:Early Romantic Output (i): Between Historicism and Folklorism72 (1876–84)

2.1The compositional interpretation of Romantic historicism

At the outset of Paderewski’s compositional path, artistic reality resembled a kind of ‘dual historicity’: of the living artistic tradition and of the aspects of nineteenth-century historicism that were penetrating musical practice with ever greater strength. At a time when the elements of the composer’s musical language had not yet crystallised, that language manifested the dialectic of retrospection and relativisation73 that underlay the historicism of that time. The idea of resurrecting the art of the past in the form of retrospection – an idea that is ← 31 | 32 → alien to the nature of every creative artist and is rather the domain of research, editing or performance practice – lent Paderewski’s first compositions the stamp of historicism. Already in the initial phase in his compositional output, Paderewski appears to have imparted a different orientation to works which in reality are stylistically not too far apart (the Suite in E flat major, Trois Morceaux, Op. 2 and Stara Suita [Old suite], Op. 3). In a way, this also reflects the undeveloped historical awareness that characterised the reception of past eras at that time. Today, deciphering the aesthetic code when the message seems blurred – oscillating between an attempt at resurrecting the art of the past and a still unformed aptitude for stylisation – seems a very difficult task. That is because the natural historical process blurs such subtly encoded content, which in contemporary interpretation,...

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