April 24, 1915
Page 3

Paderewski Declares End of an Age of Luxury and Over-Abundance of Means Will Force Composers to Regard Primarily What They Are Expressing and Not How They Are Expressing It—Pianist Now in America Solely as Missionary for Stricken Poland—Impossible to Conceive, He Declares, the Woes That War Has Brought to His Countrymen—Their Relief Now His One Aim in Life.

IT has been said that, if Poland should ever again become an independent kingdom, Paderewski ought to be chosen king. Certainly if the famed pianist occupied its throne to-day he could not be more concerned than he is over the dreadful fate of his unhappy country, nor could he throw himself with more sacrificial devotion and intensity into the work of its relief. Paderewski has now one preponderant aim in life—to mitigate the agonies of his nation and to assuage its martyrdom. To that end he is consecrating his life and bending his dearest energies. To that purpose he has abjured the practice of his art and is become a missionary, journeying from land to land to organize ways and means of succoring as best possible the thousands whose plight cries for assistance of the most heroic kind.
Mr. Paderewski arrived from Europe last week and in six more will return thither. In the meantime there is much to be accomplished. Then, when matters are working as he desires them to work, he will repair to London, to Paris and elsewhere to labor in similar fashion. He will not play, he avers—though one strongly suspects that if his art might benefit the cause he would strive successfully to overcome the disinclination to artistic expression which just now he professes.
It is a rare experience to encounter the artist to whom the well-being of his country is so personally relevant as is the case with Paderewski. Much has been made in the past of the fact of his patriotism, but the practical revelation of its intensity and fullness is enormously impressive. One is struck with the changed appearance of the man; in a year he seems to have gained ten years. A penetrating grief has graven deeper the lines of his face and imprinted on it new furrows. Even the• affability and apparent good humor which he evinced in a brief colloquy with the present writer could not conceal the difference in his aspect.
A Genius for Organization
Paderewski has a genius for organization and he will spare no effort to utilize his gifts in this direction on his present American visit. Just how matters will be arranged so as best to assist his compatriots one must wait a while to see. Centers of relief will be established in a number of the leading cities and divers methods of securing funds will be tried. It is even mentioned that merchants in various localities will be be sought to contribute the proceeds of certain days to the fund. Upon the cooperation of nobody does Paderewski lay greater stress than that of Mme. Sembrich, whose labors have already born rich fruit.
“If you imagined all the people of New York State deprived of everything they owned, left a prey to starvation and disease and hopelessly crushed under the iron heels of contending armies, you might form a slight idea of what the Poles are enduring at present,” declared the artist. “One of the worst phases of the situation lies in the inability of the inhabitants of one half of the country to communicate with those in the other. Compared with their lot even that of the Belgians loses some of its horror, for my unhappy countrymen have no France, Holland or England in which they can seek refuge.
“I speak of collecting funds for the amelioration of conditions. But the fact is that, however generous contributions may be, the sum total is bound to fall short of anything like the amount necessary. Nevertheless, we must do the best we can, realizing that whatever we can do is insignificant in comparison with what must be accomplished to achieve even a partial relief. I say this without any feeling of bitterness whatsoever toward the various combatants. My feelings are first and last humanitarian. So, I think, should be those of every neutral nation.”
War's Effect on Music
The question of the probable influence of the war on music, as on art and life in general, has appealed powerfully to the great pianist’s imagination. “I have pondered deeply upon it,” he relates, “but I cannot see the solution clearly in all of its complexities. Of one thing I do feel convinced—that the art of music will react to this supreme tragedy of humanity by acquiring qualities of simplicity such as it has long since renounced. In the first place material conditions are bound to supply a strong incentive to this end. For a time at all events, the mammoth size of orchestras will in all probability be cut down for want of funds to pay for the maintenance of these huge bodies of instrumentalists for which composers have so long been writing. That must of necessity affect the nature of compositions put forth, to the extent, at least, of reducing swollen instrumentation and excesses of counterpoint.”
“At last we shall see the musician put to it to regard primarily what he is expressing, not how he is expressing it. Luxury, the over-abundance of means that stifles the spirit, must be discarded before true advancement can take place and the age which is passing unquestionably gave itself too freely to luxury of one kind or another. In every walk of life, in every function of existence it has had its baleful effect. In our art on the one hand, as in our food on the other, we have suffered from this handicap of excess.
“True, much has been written of late; and I should be far from denying the existence of many clever composers. But humanity will feel the need of more than cleverness. What has been given us for a number of years is oratory, not poetry. And by such we cannot live, however polished, elegant and graceful its expression. We may evolve a Beethoven, we may not. But Beethoven is the supreme summit and we shall also require our small hills and even our valleys. The awakening must bring lesser as well as greater prophets.
“The precedent of history would lead us to look for a great renaissance at the close of this struggle. After the French Revolution came Beethoven, and when the Napoleonic wars ended there emerged Chopin, Schumann, Liszt, Wagner and lesser though talented men such as Mendelssohn, Meyerbeer and others. In poetry Heine, de Musset, Poushkin, and a number of great Polish writers insufficiently known to other nations sprang up. And in other arts were analogous figures. May we not look for a similar resurgence of the artist spirit when this catastrophe has run its course? I see no reason to doubt it, since history has a manner of repeating itself.” —H. F. P.


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