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This Day in UMS History: “Paderewski’s Piano Recital” (Feb 15, 1892)

February 15, 1892
University Hall, Ann Arbor

During my time at UMS, I’ve become used to seeing the ghosts of famous musicians.  I’ve stumbled across signed photos of Jascha Heifetz (for whose violin classes current U-M Professor Martin Katz played) and records of Sergei Rachmaninov’s appearances at Hill.  Even so, I did a double take when I found the program for Ignace Paderewski.  The billing simply said “Paderewski’s Piano Recital”, adding that it was “For the Benefit of the Woman’s Annex to the WATERMAN GYMNASIUM.”  I figured it was a society named after the Polish composer-pianist, and was very excited to discover that it was in fact a recital by Paderewski himself.  I was even more excited to learn more about this pianist – I knew from Arthur Rubinstein’s memoirs that he was an inspirational pianist, mentor, and composer – but I also found out that he was an ardent Polish patriot, and was even Prime Minister of Poland for a brief time.

His recital program was formidable (Beethoven, Schumann, Chopin, Liszt transcriptions of works by Schubert and Mendelssohn, and his own compositions), as befits a pianist who had just conquered the musical capitals of Europe (UMS’ archives includes a biography of Paderewski by a London reviewer) and was in the process of doing the same to America’s musical capitals – then as now including Ann Arbor.  Paderewski returned to Ann Arbor five more times, the last in 1933.  He died while on tour in New York City in 1941.  He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery until 1992, when his remains were brought to Warsaw.

“This day in UMS History” is an occasional series of vignettes drawn from UMS’s historical archive.   If you have a personal story or particular memory from attending the performance featured here, we’d love to hear from you in the comments.