Jan Smeterlin, noted for his interpretations of Chopin's piano music, was born in Poland in 1892. He gave his first public concert at the age of seven playing a Mozart concerto. Despite Smeterlin's wishes to become a concert pianist, he was forced to study law. In the midst of his schooling in Vienna, Smeterlin won a scholarship to study with Leopold Godowsky, one of his most significant teachers. Smeterlin debuted as a performer in 1920, with concerts in Warsaw, Paris, Vienna and Berlin. His concert tours took him to the Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Latin America, Java, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, the United States, and all over Europe, not to mention the annual concerts he gave in London, where he had settled.
In 1910, Smeterlin began a unique relationship with composer Karol Szymanowski. He not only had the privilege of working with Szymanowski as a colleague, but also shared a friendship which was evident in Szymanowski's dedication of a volume of mazurkas to Smeterlin. Szymanowski's works were frequently included in his concerts and were often the highlight of his performances.
When not concertizing, Smeterlin enjoyed cooking. He authored a recipe book which was eventually published after his death. Smeterlin had also begun writing a book on the interpretation of Chopin which was he was unable to complete. He had a fondness for animals, especially his dog, Tuki-Tuki. During the last years of his life, Smeterlin and his wife, Didi, lived in New York. They returned to London for two months when he became ill; he died in 1967 at the age of seventy-five.
Smeterlin recorded mostly Chopin works. He recorded the complete Nocturnes for Philips, and various Waltzes and Mazurkas for Mace. A Chopin recital was recorded on LP for Allegro. Several 78s for Polydor were produced which contain Chopin's music and Schulz-Evler's arrangement of The Blue Danube. A Brahms recital was recorded for RCA Victor and Scripglen recorded works of Chopin and Szymanowski.
SERIES I - PERFORMANCE FILES
Here are found programs, advertising, reviews and other related documents. The materials are organized chronologically by performance date. Several scrapbooks, previously made before donation to IPAM, have been preserved in their original format.
SERIES II - SUBJECT FILES
This series consists of various writings of Jan Smeterlin, contracts, accounting records and other legal documents, passports and biographical materials..
SERIES III - PHOTOGRAPHS
This series contains 65 photographs of Jan Smeterlin, mostly publicity photos.
SERIES IV - MISCELLANEOUS
Included in this series are newspaper clippings, items relating to Mr. Smeterlin's residence in England, and personal notes from Andres Segovia, Malcolm MacDonald, Princess Alice, the Countess of Athlone, Dame Laura Knight, Esther Miller, Neville Chamberlain, and others.