Focus on History: The day Padrewski played in Amsterdam


Ignacy Paderewski, world-famous pianist and composer who also was the first prime minister of Poland in 1919, performed at Amsterdam’s former junior high school on Guy Park Avenue on Sunday, March 26, 1933.

Paderewski was invited to Amsterdam by Reverend Anton Gorski, pastor of St. Stanislaus Church, one of the city’s predominantly Polish-American parishes.  Paderewski and Gorski were distant relatives by marriage. 

The concert was a benefit for the Sisters of the Resurrection. The Sisters had relocated their local orphanage to the former Gardiner Blood home, 118 Market St. on the southwest corner of Market and Prospect.

Paderewski’s benefit performance raised nearly $2,000 and enabled the Sisters to pay off their bank debt.

Amsterdam Recorder columnist Hugh Donlon was in the audience for Paderewski’s 1933 performance and wrote about it after the pianist died in 1941. In addition to his newspaper work, Donlon spent many years as a Catholic Church organist. 

He wrote, “Those of us who were fortunate enough to get into the auditorium—and it was crowded—are now even more privileged to claim with pride, ‘I heard him.’”

Donlon said that Paderewski performed as though he was among “a small group of personal friends.”

Among the first to greet the pianist was local physician Dr. Julius Schiller who had heard Paderewski when he played for the first time in America with the Chicago Symphony in 1891.

The local program began with a Bach fugue, Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and a Schumann sonata.

Donlon wrote, “Before the evening was over he had wandered far from that musical fare.  In response to wild enthusiasm, he went from one Chopin composition to another and finished with the brilliant Military Polonaise that left his spellbound audience wishing the joys of the evening might never end.

“He was an old man then, Paderewski was. The passing years, with their heartaches, were taking their toll, and there were times when he played as one tired, very, very tired.  But then he would rouse himself and show flashes of his old-time technical mastery and poetic fire, his weariness concealed beneath flawless stage posture.

 “Those who were there need no jogging of the memory. Those who were not there-well, they missed Amsterdam at its musical best.”

The Resurrection Sisters Home on Market Street remained open until the sixties when the state began relying more on foster care than orphanages for children in need. The Albany Diocese closed the Amsterdam Resurrection home in 1960. The building was demolished in 1966 for Amsterdam’s Route 30 arterial.

The Sisters of the Resurrection for many years staffed the Mount Loretto nursing home on Swart Hill Road in the town of Amsterdam. 

The Protestant-oriented Children’s Home on Guy Park Avenue in Amsterdam, built in 1896 had 23 residents when it closed at the end of the summer of 1957.  The building was later torn down.

Jackie Murphy of the Historic Amsterdam League wrote that from time to time the Resurrection Home helped young adults, “A student from Poland who was unable to return to his home because of the world situation spent seven years under the care of the Sisters who made it possible for him to complete his medical studies, another individual was helped after he had escaped from a concentration camp in Spain.”

Dan Weaver in a 2018 Recorder history column wrote, “Dr. Norbert Fethke, fought with the Polish army in France in World War II, was captured and spent two years in a concentration camp in Miranda, Spain. He eventually opened an ophthalmology practice in Amsterdam, and at one point was president of the Montgomery County Medical Society.”





Categories: Fulton Montgomery Schoharie

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