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Mr. Vladimir de Pachmann's first pianoforte recital, which he gave yesterday
afternoon in Mendelssohn Hall, was crowded with an audience eager to admire and
to applaud, but evidently somewhat puzzled at the extreme reserve and, indeed, at
some points, almost indifference of his playing. Not till he reached the last half of
his program, which was devoted to Chopin, did he seem to shake off the heavy weight
that hung upon his spirits. He was also in a chastened mood as to his demeanor
toward his public and behaved very much as any pianist is expected to behave at
the piano—which was a cheering and pleasing feature of the afternoon. Whether or
not there was any connection between the two facts could only be conjectured.
Mozart's Fantasia in C minor, which opened the program, Mr. de Pachmann played
with a certain circumspection and a grave and decorous feeling for its formal
beauty, with warmth of tone and refinement of style, yet somehow without the life
and the bigness of idea that Mozart managed to confine within the means at his
disposition. In Beethoven's sportive little Rondo in G major, Op. 129—the descriptive
title of which ought to have been given in full—there was little of the "rage," of the
"capriciousness" or of the mischievous humor that Beethoven intended to express
in his music. It was a brilliant coloratura piece under his hands, beautifully clear and
smooth, but it made no reference to the lost groschen.
Least satisfactory of all he did was his playing of Schumann's fiery
G minor sonata. Where was the heaven storming exuberance of the first movement,
the flooded romantic impulse that courses through it all? The lyric theme of this
movement was delicately and poetically set forth at its several recurrences; but the
"main stream of tendency" was diverted. The third movement had much of the
effervescent life that belongs to it; but with all the delicacy that the player put into
the song of the andantino it seemed scarcely warm and heartfelt enough. There was
a great deal of phrase clipping and unrhythmical delivery in both the first and the
last movement; and though admirers of Schumann's work found details to admire in
the performance, they could not accept it as a true interpretation.
How different when Mr. de Pachmann came to the Chopin that he has made so
peculiarly his own! There was something of his short phrasing in the A flat ballade,
though as a whole it was a beautiful, kind, finely felt interpretation. The D flat
nocturne was truly poetic, melting in its delicious tonal quality, and as the carving
of a cameo in the exquisite clarity of its outlines and gradations at the extreme
vanishing point of pianissimo. The Mazurka in B minor was full of capriciousness
and wanton humor; and the four Etudes and the A flat waltz, old stalking horses of
Mr. de Pachmann's, were played as he has played them of old, with exquisite charm.
It is difficult for Mr. de Pachmann to carry conviction as a truly great artist; but as a
wonderful one, as a worker of a magical spell of his own, there is no one like him.
Mr. de Pachmann was twice recalled and each time played an additional one of