[EDITOR'S NOTE. - The peculiar and inimitable gifts of
M. Vladimir de Pachmann have attracted such unusual attention
in all art-loving countries that it seems hardly
necessary to give the biography of this well-known artist
or to comment upon his playing.
THE MEANING OF ORIGINALITY.
Born at Odessa, Russia, July 27, 1848, he was taught at
first by his father, who was a musical enthusiast and a fine
performer upon the violin. The elder de Pachmann was a
professor of law at the University of Vienna and at first did
not desire to have his son become anything more than a
cultured amateur. Art, however, is always tyrannical, and
when it points the way, the wishes of stern parents usually
amount to nothing. De Pachmann is probably the best
living example of a pianist who has been largely self-taught.
His father gave him little more than paternal advice - never
lessons in the generally accepted sense of the term. In 1866
he went to the Vienna conservatory to study with the then
celebrated teacher, Joseph Dachs. Dachs was a concert
pianist of the old and somewhat academic school. Academic
perfection was his goal and he could not understand a pupil
like de Pachmann, who apparently could not do things in
the academic way. Dachs had been a pupil of Czerny and
Sechter, and numbered among his pupils besides de Pachmann,
Hans Schmitt, author of "The Pedals of the Pianoforte",
and Laura Rapoldi ,
who later gained a great European reputation.
The instruction of Dachs was rather amusing and
irritating to de Pachmann, who chose to get results in his own
individual way. Nevertheless, he made a very successful
concert tour in Russia in 1869, and since then has toured the
musical countries of the world many times. When de
Pachmann toured Russia, Paderewski was only ten years old
and many of the celebrated pianists of our day were not yet
born. Naturally a philosopher and keen observer, this long
experience has given de Pachmann a wealth of information
which makes the following interview very valuable.
One of the most notable characteristics of de Pachmann
is that he has never ceased to work, never ceased to practice
with the view of making himself a better and greater pianist.
He has not appeared in public in America for some years.
Recent London criticisms declare that he has made an
entirely new pianist of himself, and that, while he has
preserved all of the velvety touch of other days, he has
developed a Bravura style which has not been approached since
the days of Franz Liszt. De Pachmann, like many virtuosos,
is a fluent linguist, being equally at home in many languages.
The interviewer has tried to keep something of the polyglot
flavor of this interesting educational conference.]
"Originality in pianoforte playing, what does it really mean?
Nothing more than the interpretation of one's real self
instead of the artificial self which traditions, mistaken advisors
and our own natural sense of mimicry impose upon us.
Seek for originality and it
is gone like a gossamer shining in the morning grass.
Originality is in one's self. It is the true voice of the heart. I
would enjoin students to listen to their own inner voices. I do not
desire to deprecate teachers, but I think that many teachers
are in error when they fail to encourage their pupils to form
their own opinions.
"I have always sought the individual in myself. When I
have found him I play at my best. I try to do everything in
my own individual way. I work for months to invent, contrive or
design new fingerings — not so much for simplicity, but to
enable me to manipulate the keys so that I may express the
musical thought as it seems to me it ought to be expressed.
See my hand, my fingers — the flesh as soft as that of a child,
yet covering muscles of steel. They are thus because I have
worked from childhood to make them thus.
"The trouble with most pupils in studying a piece is that
when they seek individuality and originality they go about it
in the wrong way, and the result is a studied, stiff, hard
performance. Let them listen to the voice, I say; to the inner
voice, the voice which is speaking every moment of the
day, but to which so many shut the ears of their soul.
"Franz Liszt — ah, you see I bow when I mention the
name — you never heard Franz Liszt? Ah, it was the great Liszt
who listened — listened to his inner voice. They said he was
inspired. He was simply listening to himself.
"Nun, passen Sie mal auf!
I abominate machine teaching.
A certain amount of it may be necessary, but I hate it. It
seems so brutal — so inartistic. Instead of leading the pupil
to seek results for himself, they lay down laws and see that
these laws are obeyed, like
gendarmes. It is possible, of course by means of systematic
training, to educate a boy so that he could play a concerto
which he could not possibly comprehend intelligently until
he became at least twenty years older; but please tell, what is
the use of such a training? Is it artistic? Is it musical? Would
it not be better to train him to play a piece which he could
comprehend and which he could express in his own way?
[Photo of de Pachmann by Elliot & Fry, London, not reproduced here.]
"Of course I am not speaking now of the boy Mozarts, the
boy Liszts or other freaks of nature, but of the children who
by machine-made methods are made to do things which
nature never intended that they should do. This forcing
method to which some conservatories seem addicted remind
one of those men who in bygone ages made a specialty of
disfiguring the forms and faces of children, to make dwarfs,
jesters and freaks out of them. Bah!
ORIGINALITY THE ROAD TO PERMANENT FAME.
"Originality in interpretation is of course no more
important than originality in creation. See how the
composers who have been the most original have been the
ones who have laid the surest foundation for permanent
fame. Here again true originality has been
merely the highest form of self-expression. Non e ver?
When the composer has sought originality and contrived to get it
by purposely taking out-of-the-way methods what has he
produced? Nothing but a horrible sham — a structure of cards
which is destroyed by the next wind of fashion.
"Other composers write for all time. They are original
because they listen to the little inner voice, the true source of
originality. It is the same in architecture. Styles in architecture
are evolved, not created, and whenever the architect has striven
effects he builds for one decade only. The architects who build for
all time are different and yet how unlike,
how individual, how original is the work of one great
architect from that of another.
THE MOST ORIGINAL COMPOSERS.
"The most original of all composers, at least as they appear to
me, is Johann Sebastian Bach. Perhaps this is because he is
the most sincere. Next I would class Beethoven, that great
mountain peak to whose heights so few ever soar. Then
would come in order Liszt, Brahms, Schumann, Chopin,
Weber and Mendelssohn. Schumann more original than
Chopin? Yes, at least so it seems to me. That is, there is
something more distinctive, something more indicative of a
great individuality speaking a new language.
"Compare these men with composers of the order of Abt,
Steibelt, Thalberg and Donizetti, and you will see at once
what I mean about originality being the basis of permanent
art. For over twenty years my great fondness for
mineralogy and for gems led me to neglect in a measure the
development of the higher works of these composers, but I
have realized my error and have been working enormously for
years to attain the technic which their works demand. Some
years ago I felt that technical development must cease at a
certain age. This is all idiocy. I feel that I have now many times
the technic I have ever had before and I have acquired it all
in recent years.
SELF-HELP THE SECRET OF MANY SUCCESSES.
"No one could possibly believe more in self-help than I.
The student who goes to a teacher and imagines that the
teacher will cast some magic spell about him which will
make him a musician without working, has an unpleasant
surprise in store for him. When I was eighteen I went to
Dachs at the Vienna Conservatory. He bade me play
something. I played the Rigoletto paraphrase of Liszt.
Dachs commented favorably upon my touch but assured me
that I was very much upon the wrong track and that I should
study the Wohltemperierte Clavier of Bach.
He assured me
that no musical education could be considered complete
without an intimate acquaintance with the Bach fugues,
which of course was most excellent advice.
"Consequently I secured a copy of the fugues and
commenced work upon them. Dachs had told me to prepare
the first prelude and fugue for the following lesson. But
Dachs was not acquainted with my methods of study. He
did not know that I had mastered the art of concentration so
that I could obliterate every suggestion of any other thought
from my mind except that upon which I was working. He
had no estimate of my youthful zeal and intensity. He did
not know that I could not be satisfied unless I spent the
entire day working with all my artistic might and main. Soon I
saw the wonderful design of the great master of Eisenach.
The architecture of the fugues became plainer and plainer.
Each subject became a friend and each answer likewise. It
was a great joy to observe with what marvelous
craftsmanship he had built up the wonderful structures. I
could not stop when I had memorized the first fugue, so I
went to the next and the next and the next.
A SURPRISED TEACHER.
"At the following lesson I went with my book under my
arm. I requested him to name a fugue. He did, and I placed
the closed book on the rack before me. After I had finished
playing he was dumfounded. He said, 'You come to me to
take lessons. You already know the great fugues and I have
taught you nothing'. Thinking that I would find Chopin
more difficult to memorize, he suggested that I learn two of
the etudes. I came at the following lesson with the entire
twenty-four memorized. Who could withstand the alluring
charm of the Chopin etudes? Who could resist the
temptation to learn them all when they are once
"An actor learns page after page in a few days, and why
should the musician go stumbling along for months in his
endeavor to learn something which he could master in a
few hours with the proper interest and
the burning concentration without which all music study
is a farce?
"It was thus during my entire course with Dachs.
He would suggest the work and I would go off by
myself and learn it. I had practically no method. Each
page demanded a different method. Each page
presented entirely new and different technical ideas."
(The second section of Mr. de Pachmann's article
will be presented in the November