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Paderewski in Lincoln, 1900

In March of 1900 the first issue of a small literary publication, The Pebble, appeared in Omaha. Edited and published by Mary D. Learned and Louise McPherson, it included a review of the recent concert at Lincoln by Polish pianist Ignace Jean Paderewski (1860-1941). The world-renowned musician played to an overflow audience but according to the reviewer, experienced some acoustical problems at the Lincoln Auditorium:

"Last Monday evening, February the twelfth [1900], Paderewski played in Lincoln, at the Auditorium. It was my first chance to hear the great pianist and I had been living in a fever of excitement ever since I discovered he was coming west.

"The Auditorium, with its seating capacity of four thousand, was full. The greatest difficulty was experienced in handling the crowd. My friends and I started from the Lindel[l] hotel at eight o'clock. For three-quarters of an hour we were swallowed up in a most fearful crowd, just moving ahead by inches. . . . A few minutes past nine Paderewski walked upon the stage. He has the most remarkable, compelling personality I ever felt. He made me think of Bagheera, Kipling's black panther. His physique is fine and he has a courtly, graceful bearing: there is a peculiar charm about his head, as everybody knows.

"The first part of the program was marred by the most irritating and blasphemous noises. It was inconceivable how they were all perpetrated. Poor Paderewski had no chance at all. . . ; there upon the stage was the greatest pianist of his time, magnificently equipped and ready to give us of his genius-we forsooth must cough, scrape our chairs and altogether annoy him so that his inspiration all but left him. . . .

"To cap the climax and put a worthy finish upon the evening, a woman fainted near me. A physician was called for, no response was made, and Paderewski had partial revenge by immediately coming out and playing the Liszt Second Hungarian Rhapsodies as an encore (some minutes long), while this unfortunate female lay limp and unconscious under his very eyes. . . . Toward the end of the evening the hall grew quieter and one had a chance to rest under the spell of his playing. I went back to my room [at the Lindell Hotel] in a daze."

(May 2004)



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