In these days when every self-respecting pianist has beside him on the platform a fresh glossy extra piano in waiting—as a huntsman has his second horse—the gentle art of Vladimir de Pachmann comes like warmth in May or a rose in December.
Under his gracious hand the fiery piano curvets and caracoles exquisitely as a circus steed, answering rather to some subtle sympathy than to mere technical skill.
But when stiff five-barred octave passages have to be taken, the rattling of hoofs is not inaudible, and one sighs for the Vaquero-like notemanship of a Mark Hambourg, who, without the aid of the blurring Pedal, sails right over the most incredible obstacles that the devilish ingenuity of a Liszt could devise.
However, Pachmann's rare art has no more to do with vulgar virtuosity than has faint exquisite attar of roses with the sweet red flower on the bush.
Never was there an art more limited or more entrancing!
lt is earnest as child's play, prismatic and airy as a soap-bubble, poetic as the evening star.
It lacks passion no more than lilies of the valley lack colour.
It has scarcely a trace of artifice, merely a naive perfection of coquetry as natural as the blush on a roseleaf.
is the king, I would venture to call Pachmann the May queen of pianists.
His Spring magic is not of Europe at all, the North has no part in him, nor the mystic East, nor the hurrying West: he is of the heady entrancing South.
To me his music suggests all the frail starry flowers with symbolic names—tuberoses, oleanders, champak blossoms, and the warm indolent night airs that are faint with heavy perfumes.
At heart, he is doubtless an Algerine.
His poetic temperament draws his fingers towards that fairy prince of composers Chopin.
George Sand herself was not more amorous of Frederic than is this musical magician, this magical musician.
Yet he evokes the spirit of Chopin rather than Chopin's self, sharpening delicately the finer features of that fine soul—reducing the whole man to a ray of moonlight and a breath of honeyed orange blossom.
Suggestion is his most potent spell: he is a master of dim suggestion of an intolerable richness—the buried gold burns through the covering earth!
He hints the subtler half of what Wagner declares; the April ecstasies of 'The Valkyrie' and the wild hues of the Venusberg are held by him in most ethereal pianistic solution.
By ecstatic whispers
he sets the mind rioting among unheard songs.
This musical Keats finds in Chopin a Belle Dame Sans Mercy, a ravishing tormentor, a perilous perfect medium for self-expression.
But he plays well only what pleases his amorous taste; less significant or more vigorous passages are slighted and slurred over.
Yet his natural style is graceful as a swallow and debonair as a cock-sparrow; moreover, his music radiates vivid delicate colour, changeful and emotional as an opal.
He pictures a dream within a dream; a Southern night wild with the soft-sung ecstasies of bull-frogs and the intoxicating odour of jasmine flowers; a pink sumptuous ice such as only Budapest can freeze; the lovely ruined Ptolemaic temples on the drowned island of Philae far up the Nile; and Her, who
'left his straight neck bent,
And round his heart one strangling golden hair.'
Like Grieg, Pachmann makes you think of your first love, never of your last.
His audience is, therefore, composed almost exclusively of minor poets, since only a few of those rare souls ever attain to the inverted passion expressed by Disillusion.
His is a fairy horse, shod, like Caligula's, with gold.
We forgive the rattling hoofs.