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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 5: Stylistic Polarisation in the Face of Modernist Trends (1893–1909)


Chapter 5:Stylistic Polarisation in the Face of Modernist Trends (1893–1909)

5.1Manru. Lyrisches Drama, Op. 20 – eclecticism or syncretism?

At present, no opera composer can break free of his style, because Wagner impressed his stamp on opera for all time. To my mind, the ideal form of opera should be sought between Wagner’s school and Italian composers.290

In the wake of his Paris debut, which marked Paderewski’s ultimate choice of a pianistic career, his compositional work became subordinated to performance. In actual fact, his pianistic success stirred a sense of longing for composing, which appeared to be passing into the shadows. Music lovers appreciated his virtuosic talent above all else. The lapses of time between successive works gradually increased. At the European watershed between the decline of romanticism and the emergence of modernism, Paderewski attained a creative maturity as a composer that finally allowed him to write large Romantic works. However, their currency would soon be historiosophically questioned. Paderewski’s brilliant performance technique, enabling him to forge an aesthetic close to modernism, helped him to outstrip in his piano works the style of his orchestral works. That stylistic asynchronicity did not just mark Paderewski’s reaction to the Romantic-modernist watershed; it was to some extent the result of the pianistic profile of his output up to that point – the influence of performance, dominated by the Romantic literature.

Although in his Six Songs, Op. 18 and his sketches for the Sonata and the Variations,...

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