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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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Creation […] is the only thing that gives a person complete satisfaction: ideas are eternal values, and in expressing them one scales the loftiest heights, regardless of the medium through which they are expressed […] Creation vanquishes death.1

The compositional output of Ignacy Jan Paderewski made a lasting impression on European music of the period straddling romanticism and modernism. Sensitive to all manifestations of change in the arts, and at the same time a seeker of immutable values, he was a composer whose work displays a strong stylistic diversification. Paderewski’s greatness is reflected in the range of ideas he employed, which lends his works, irrespective of the kind and scope of influences they reflect, a genuine quality. Thus his creative output reconciles a number of apparent paradoxes: it is both original and eclectic, of the salon (functional) and artistic, native and universal, confounding the antithetic nature of the aesthetics of German and French modernism, of programme and absolute music. In this context, the oft-emphasised ethical dimension to Paderewski’s stance during tempestuous times of reevaluation in Polish and European art takes on particular value.

This first comprehensive study of Paderewski’s entire compositional output (including his exercises, student works, sketches and projects) satisfies the postulate according to which an oeuvre is perceived not just as a collection of compositions, but above all as an integral structure, fully reflecting, in its dynamism, the changes to the composer’s artistic personality. Understood in this way, Paderewski’s output, taking into account the...

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