Historic Polish piano leaving city for California

A historic piano that accompanied a famed concert pianist and prime minister of Poland on a tour of North America in the early 1900s will soon move from Vancouver to a new home in California.

The 19th-century piano played by Ignacy Jan Paderewski will move from its home at the Polish consulate on the 16th floor of an office tower downtown to a historic ballroom in a hotel in Paso Robles, Calif. where it will be played during gala events at the annual Paderewski Festival.

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The Paderewski Heritage Committee has searched for six years for a permanent home for the hand-carved rosewood Weber grand piano that Paderewski played during his 1907-1908 North American tour.

Marek Zebrowski, director of the Polish Music Center at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, first heard about Vancouvers Paderewski piano from the Polish consul general in L.A.

I was slightly skeptical, he said.

Zebrowski visited Vancouver for the first time last February, checked out the instrument and told the committee the festival he revived in 2004 wanted to provide the piano a permanent home.

But it wasnt until Polands Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced in November that Vancouvers consulate would move to Edmonton this year that work on the transfer of the piano began in earnest.

Paderewski was not only a pianist and composer but also the first prime minister of an independent Poland after the First World War and a patron of the arts. Zebrowski said Paderewski also kickstarted the cultivation of Zinfandel and Petite Syrah grapes in Paso Robles where he owned more than 3,000 acres of land.

The Paderewski Heritage Committee exhausted all avenues of keeping the piano in Vancouver. Committee member Tamara Szymanska said they considered transferring the piano to Poland or to the Polish consulate in Montreal, but in the end, the Paderewski Festival in Paso Robles seemed like the best option.

Paderewski is quite celebrated there and it was quite impressive, she said. Our mandate of the committee was to find him a space where he could act as an ambassador of Polish people, of Polish culture.

Zebrowski expects to ship the piano south by the beginning of April. A farewell concert and a presentation on Paderewski by Zebrowski are scheduled for the consulate at 4 p.m., March 15. The Polish consulate in Vancouver is expected to close in May.

crossi@vancourier.com

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