Ignacy Paderewski was born on November 18, 1860, in the village of Kurylowka, Poland. He was playing the piano and attracting notice by age eight. He studied piano with a variety of great musicians in Berlin and Vienna and started to compose. He debuted as a pianist and composer in March 1888 in Paris in front of a large audience which included Tchaikovsky and two famous orchestra leaders. He became known as the ‘Lion of Paris”. He played for Queen Victoria in 1891 at Windsor Castle and then left to tour America. House of Steinway, the famous manufacturers of American pianos, sponsored his concerts. He played at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.
During his third tour in America in 1896 Paderewski funded a competition for young composers by establishing a fund with $10,000 to provide triennial prizes for the best compositions. During his fourth tour of America and Mexico in 1899, he established a similar fund for playwrights.
He purchased a beautiful estate, Riond-Bosson, at Morges on Lake Geneva in Switzerland where he composed and grew a variety of plants and produce. Riond-Bosson became one of the famous estates of Europe, known for its orchards, greenhouses and chicken farm. Wine was made from his vineyards. His luscious table grapes grown in hot houses on the estate were as large as ping pong balls. Paderewski sent them as gifts to the royalty of Europe. He entertained guests from all over the world who enjoyed his gardens and his company. He wrote his “Piano Sonata”, “Variations”, twelve French Songs, and a sketch of his Symphony during 1903 while he stayed at the estate.
He toured the U.S. many times from 1913 to 1939. He traveled with his wife and staff in his own privately appointed Pullman railroad car, equipped with his library, his piano, a dining room for entertaining, and sleeping quarters. Paderewski first played in California in February of 1896 in the Bay area. He later played in San Diego, Riverside, Fresno, San Francisco, Pasadena, and Los Angeles.
During his 9th American tour in Seattle, Washington, Ignacy Paderewski suffered from physical exhaustion and acute pain in his right arm. He went to San Francisco with his wife for treatment. His friend, Mr. Ernest Urchs of Steinway and Sons (who supplied Paderewski with his pianos) introduced Ignacy to a musician, Sir Henry Heyman, who suggested the healing waters and hot springs of Paso Robles. Paderewski arrived in Paso Robles on January 17, 1914, and stayed at the Paso Robles Inn where he was attended by a physician and enjoyed treatments in the local hot springs.
His physician, Dr. Frank Sawyer, encouraged Paderewski to purchase land west of the Paso Robles. On February 4, 1914, Paderewski purchased 1520 acres naming it Rancho San Ignacio after his patron saint. In March he purchased a second tract of 900 acres. He hired a young Polish patriot as the ranch manager and initiated the planting of almonds and various fruit trees on the property.
By the middle of March Paderewski was able to resume his tour of the U.S., traveling by railway car and ending in New York City with a concert at Carnegie Hall.
In the early 1920s, Paderewski consulted with Professor Frederic T. Bioletti at the University of California on the soils and the varietals of grapevines to plant on 200 acres at Rancho San Ignacio. He planted 35,000 Zinfandel cuttings purchased from the Borden Nursery in Riverside, California and an acre of Muscat for his wife who loved these table grapes. The California Grape Grower published an article on August 1, 1922, stating that a crop of 12 ½ tons of Mission Grapes was harvested at Madam Paderewski’s Santa Helena Ranch last fall from 1 ½ acres of full bearing grapes. There is no mention as to whether these grapes were used for table grapes or wine making.
Paderewski’s Zinfandel grapes were later crushed and wine was made at the York Mountain Winery. Paderewski’s Zinfandel won gold medals at the California State Fair in 1934.
And no California grand tour would be complete without revealing that Paderewski was featured performing in the romantic film Moonlight Sonata. In October 1938 the Los Angeles newspapers announced the opening at the Grand Theatre where it showed for eighteen consecutive weeks.
He died in 1941 having performed thousands of concerts in three dozen countries on four continents. His wine and music are celebrated in Paso Robles each November at the Paderewski Festival with music, education , and events dedicated to promoting the legacy of Ignacy Jan Paderewski.
This year the festival begins on November 1 to 4, 2018. For the first time, the Paderewski Musical will premier on Friday, November 1, at the Park Ballroom in Paso Robles. Please see the website to purchase tickets to attend this musical, student performances, and concerts during the weekend.
By Libbie Agran