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Paderewski's Minuet in G, Op. 14 No. 1

Paderewski was an extraordinary character. Not only was he a world-renowned concert artist, but he was also the prime minister of Poland for a brief period. He maintained a ferocious touring schedule and was adored by audiences everywhere he went. He was so admired that people in the US would gather in their thousands just to see his train go by. The fact that Irving Berlin mentions the great virtuoso in his popular 1920 song, I Love a Piano, is a further testament to his fame and success:

“And with the pedal I love to meddle

When Padarewski comes this way

I'm so delighted if I'm invited

To hear that long haired genius play …”

While Paderewski was best known for his interpretations of works by Chopin and Liszt, he also wrote some charming music of his own. The Minuet in G, Op. 14 No. 1 is a piece that became world-famous, even overshadowing his larger-scale works such as the Piano Concerto in A Minor. The Minuet in G is very much a pastiche of the classical style, full of musical jokes and witticisms to tease and delight the listener.

The few opening bars of the piece present material that is incredibly simple: a narrow-ranged melody clothed in diatonic harmony. This continues for several bars until a rising left hand line (bar 15: C - C - C# - D); it is at this point that the strap of the gown is lowered off the shoulder, the champagne is poured, and the piece broadens into an effervescent musical treat. The piece offers many opportunities for the player to display their pianistic gifts: raucous octaves that thunder into the bass register, light-as-a-feather trills, a central lyrical section, and a nimble-fingered coda to finish. There’s also plenty of opportunity for a suggestive rubato here or the bringing out of an inner line there, if you’re in the mood, which I often am!

Many pianists have recorded the Minuet in G from Rachmaninoff to Liberace. You can hear (and see!) Paderewski himself playing the work here:

Rachmaninoff’s recording is a particular favourite of mine. He turns this small musical bonbon into a beautifully crafted jewel:

I’d also like to share with you my recording from a recital I recently gave in London:

If you enjoyed this blog post and would like to show your support then you can buy me a coffee at 😁

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