This relatively insignificant postcard has modest postal history appeal but is of considerable social philatelic interest. Early on, I recognised the interest but it remained in my postcard collection for a decade as I was not in a writing mode in those days.
The front shows that it was sent from Parkville Victoria and the red 1d and the green bantam ½d ‘Postage’ stamps were postmarked with the duplex PARKVILLE/ JL 13/ VICTORIA with an incompletely shown barred numeral MCCC/ 85 (1385). It was addressed to Mr. T. Robin, ‘Mouilpied’ St. Martins, Guernsey, Channel Islands, an uncommon address (Figure 1).
The dwelling Mouilpied is named after the family of that name, and 11 of 12 family members lived on Guernsey and the twelth lived on Alderney, another Channel Island. The position of the 3 largest Channel Islands is shown in Figure 2.
The reverse has a photograph (Atlas Press, Copyright) of the junction of the Yarra and Watts Rivers when the river partly submerged some of the trees. The written message was of major interest to me, for it read: “12.7.04. Have heard Paderewski & think him wonderful, marvellous & great. He holds us spellbound & whilst at one moment we are at the highest pitch of excitement, the next a calm comes over me, oh he is grand.” Sounds like a ringing endorsement. (Figure 3).
I was surprised to find information about Paderewski’s piano recital tour of Australasia in 1904 with performances in at Melbourne, Sydney and Queensland, as well as Auckland New Zealand. He graduated from the Warsaw Conservatorium in 1878, he appeared in piano recitals in Vienna in 1897, Paris 1889 and London in 1890. His brilliant playing created a furor which reached to almost extravagant lengths of admiration. His triumphs were repeated in a tour across the USA in 1891.
The Bulletin, July 14, 1904 described his first concert in Melbourne with a subsequent one in Sydney: “Paderewski enraged. Never probably since Melbourne became a city has such a scene been witnessed as was furnished at the Town Hall three weeks ago, when M. Ignacy Paderewski, made his first appearance in Australia. No need to ask the crowds which thronged the building, applauding till their hands were sore and shrieking until they were hoarse, what they thought of the newcomer, or whether his talents had been overrated. From the very start he gripped his audience and had them at his mercy.” A caricature of M. Paderewski and an unnamed politician is seen in Figure 4.
The Bulletin continues: “He comes to us with all his unrivalled gifts at their utmost pitch of perfection. His name is one to conjure by alike in Europe and America, in the wildest mining settlements in the west as in the crowded cities of the east. This was in marked contrast yesterday evening (July 12, 1904), when M. Paderewski gave a recital at the Sydney Town Hall in the presence of a large audience. Although the programme was greatly enjoyed, at the close the artist left the platform in a towering rage.”
“During the performance some non-musical members of the audience drifted out of the hall as soon as their curiosity was satisfied. A stirring ovation at the end of the evening, though leading to the addition of two more pieces, found the artist playing to a rapidly diminishing audience. M. Paderewski played, as he stated later, with genuine pleasure to those whose appreciation had led them to remain. But he resented the lack of honour shown to a visiting artist by something like 500 people in hurrying away at such juncture. They are nothing but savages said the irate artist. In Melbourne no one went out, and I played a longer programme. I have never had an audience behave like that – even in the Wild West”.
The Otago Daily Times on 13/09/1904 reported that Paderewski, his wife, entourage, parrot and his piano travelled from Sydney to Auckland, New Zealand aboard the steamer Zealandia on August 28, 1904. They travelled to Wellington by train and Paderewski gave a concert there on September 12. He never returned to Australia again, but he returned to New Zealand again in 1931.
Did you notice the date that the sender wrote the card was the same night of the fateful concert in Sydney? The entranced sender did not mention the disgraceful behaviour of a segment of the audience.
A painting of the young Paderewski and a photo of him performing at the piano are seen in Figures 5 & 6.
The following is an abridged version of Wikipedia’s biography of Ignacy Jan Paderewski, in addition to his musical career, detailed above: Born Nov. 18, 1860; Died June 29, 1941; Polish pianist, composer, diplomat and politician, and third Prime Minister of Poland; born in village of Kurylovka; father was administrator of large estates, mother died soon after his birth; he was raised by distant relatives. In 1880 married Antonina Korsakówna, they had one son, and his wife died soon afterwards. In 1899 he remarried Baroness de Rosen. He was a substantial composer of piano music and of one opera, Manru, world premiered in Dresden 1901, then in 1902 at the Metropolitan Opera, N.Y. Active in philanthropic causes, and in 1913 settled in U.S.
During WWI he was an active member of the Polish National Committee in Paris and spokesman for the Polish Relief Fund in London. In 1919, in the newly independent Poland, Paderewski became the Polish Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs (Jan-Dec 1919), representing Poland at the Paris Peace Conference, and signed the Treaty of Versailles. He resigned on December 4, 1919 and became the Polish Ambassador to the League of Nations. In 1922 he resigned from politics and returned to his musical life.
His first concert after a long break, held at Carnegie Hall, was a significant success. He also filled Madison Square Gardens’ 20,000 seats and toured the USA in a private railway car. He moved to Morges, Switzerland and by 1936, 2 years after the death of his wife, he agreed for his life to be filmed. In 1937 he agreed to take on his last piano pupil, who came second in the Chopin Competition. During WWII he gave a few concerts in the USA (now aged 80) to raise money for the Polish Relief Fund. He died suddenly on June 27, 1941 after recovering from a bout of pneumonia, in New York, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. His body was reburied in Warsaw’s St. John’s Cathedral in 1992.
Addendum (April 6, 2008): The Bulletin’s cartoon intrigued me and I asked the Victorian Parliamentary Library whether the man shaking Paderewski’s hand and the man shown framed on the wall could be identified. There was an enthusiastic response, and I was amazed again at the power of serendipity, for I had previously written an article featuring both men for my website (‘Sir Malcolm Donald McEacharn vs. Dr. William Maloney’). The descriptive title includes ‘Smalcolm’ referring to Sir Malcolm and he is shaking hands, whereas Dr. William Maloney was shown in the picture on the wall. These 2 men were locked in several election battles and on one occasion the result was declared void on a technicality, as outlined in the aforementioned paper. In 1904 Sir Malcolm was Mayor of Melbourne. When you see the next figure, you will have no doubts about the veracity of this identification (Figure 7).
Debra Reeves, Victorian Parliamentary Library, provided important information in The Age and The Argus on the identification of the two politicians, as well as remarkably long and incredibly glowing reviews of Paderewski’s performance in Melbourne. I apologise to her for not including a summary of these.