CHAPTER V. OLD FOGY DISCUSSES CHOPIN
. . . The most versatile — and — also delightful —
Chopinist is Pachmann.
From his very first afternoon recital at old Chickering Hall, New York,
in 1890, he gave a taste of the unfamiliar Chopin. . . .
To Pachmann belongs the honour of persistently bringing forward to our
notice such gems as the Allegro de Concert, many new mazurkas,
the F minor, F major — A minor Ballades, the F-sharp
and G-flat Impromptus, the B minor sonata, certain of the
Valses, Fantasies, Krakowiaks, Preludes,
Studies and Polonaises — to mention but a few.
And his pioneer work may be easily followed by a dozen other lists,
all new to concert-goers, all equally interesting. . . .
Do you know the E major Scherzo, Op. 54,
with its skimming, swallowlike flight, its delicate figuration,
its evanescent hintings at a serious something in the major trio?
Have you ever heard Pachmann purl through this exquisitely
conceived, contrived and balanced composition, truly a classic?
. . . Liszt, Tausig, and Rubinstein taught us the supreme art of
color variation in the repetition of a theme. Paderewski knows the trick;
so do Joseffy and Pachmann — the latter's pianissimi begin
where other men's cease. . . .
. . . Who, except Pachmann, essays the G-flat major Impromptu
— wrongfully catalogued as Des Dur in the Klindworth edition?
To be sure, it resumes many traits of the two preceding Impromptus,
yet is it none the less fascinating music.
CHAPTER VI. MORE ANENT CHOPIN
. . . Chopin could be depressingly pessimistic at times.
[The Mazurka] Op. 50, No. 3, shows how closely the composer
studied his Bach.
It is by all odds the most elaborately worked out of the series,
difficult to play, difficult to grasp in its rather disconnected procession
To me it has a clear ring of exasperation, as if Chopin had lost interest,
but perversely determined to finish his idea.
As played by de Pachmann, we get it in all its peevish, sardonic humors,
especially if the audience, or the weather, or the piano seat does not
suit the fat little blackbird from Odessa. . . .
CHAPTER VII. PIANO PLAYING TODAY AND YESTERDAY
But now technic no longer counts. Be ye as fleet as Rosenthal
and as pure as Pachmann — in a tonal sense — ye will not escape
comparison with the mechanical pianist. . . .
. . . All the pianists I have heard with a beautiful tone —
Thalberg, Henselt, Liszt, Tausig, Heller — yes, Stephen of the
pretty studies — Rubinstein, Joseffy, Paderewski, Pachmann and Essipoff,
sat low before the keyboard.
When you sit high and the wrists dip downward your tone will be dry,
brittle, hard. . . .
Pachmann, once at a Dôhnányi recital in New York,
called out in his accustomed frank fashion: "He sits too high." It was true.
Dôhnányi's touch is as hard as steel.
He sat over the keyboard and played down on the keys,
thus striking them heavily, instead of pressing and moulding the tone.
Pachmann's playing is a notable example of plastic beauty.
He seems to dip his hands into musical liquid instead of touching
inanimate ivory, and bone, wood, and wire. . . .
CHAPTER VIII. FOUR FAMOUS VIRTUOSOS
. . . I attended piano concerts [in NewYork] by Eugen d'Albert,
Ignace Jan Paderewski, and Rafael Joseffy.
Pachmann I had heard earlier in the season in my own home city
[Philadelphia]. So in one season I listened to four out of six
of the world's greatest pianists.
And it was very stimulating to both ears and memory.
It also affords me an opportunity to preach for you a little sermon
on Touch. . . .
Pachmann is the same little wonder-worker that I knew when he studied
many years ago in Vienna with Dachs. . . .
Schoenberger has a touch of gold and a style almost as jeweled as Pachmann's
— but more virile.
It must not be forgotten that
Pachmann has fine nerves — with such an exquisite touch,
his organization must be of supernal delicacy — but little muscular vigor.
Consider his narrow shoulders and slender arms — height of figure
has nothing to do with muscular incompatibility;
d'Albert is almost a dwarf, yet a colossus of strength.
So let us call Pachmann, a survivor of an older school, a charming school.
Touch was the shibboleth of that school, not tone;
and technic was often achieved at the expense of more spiritual qualities.
. . . Today Joseffy is the nearest approach we have to Chopin,
Paderewski to Henselt, Pachmann to Thalberg — save in the matter of
robust fortissimo, which the tiny Russian virtuoso does not boast.
. . . Paderewski is the most eclectic of the four pianists I have taken
for my text;
Joseffy is the most subtly poetic;
D'Albert the most profound and intellectually significant,
and Pachmann — well, Vladimir is the enfant terrible
of the quartet, a whimsical, fantastic
charmer, an apparition with rare talents,
and an interpreter of the Lesser Chopin (always the great Chopin)
without a peer.
Let us be happy that we are vouchsafed the pleasure of hearing
four such artists.