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[This excerpt appeared in the monthly New York journal Theatre Magazine, August 1923, pages 56-58.
This web version is dated 16 October 2006.]

De Pachmann and Rosenthal Coming Back

by Katharine Lane Spaeth

[A photograph of Pachmann (Elliott & Fry, London, 1911) is not reproduced here. Caption:
Vladimir de Pachmann
Famous for his brilliant vocal asides,
the great de Pachmann returns after a twelve years' absence.]

p.56 Par 1 Now is the season of out-door bands, and the voice of the cornettist is heard in the land. Anybody who has missed hearing William Tell or the Tannhauser overture this summer has only his indolence to blame. They have been neck and neck on open-air programs, with Poet and Peasant tied for [next] place, along with Light Cavalry.
Par 2 But just as the wilting poet writes his Merry Christmas jingles on a humid July afternoon, so does the hopeful singer, violinist, or pianist see a November concert platform through the haze of August heat.
Par 3 When the vacuum cleaner clutched at the dust on a cupid's wing up in the Carnegie Hall ceiling, one day last week, an imaginative worker thought he heard a faint murmur.
Par 4 "What's the crop for next fall?" The chubby young Eros in the next bit (about the chandelier) had heard rumors. "You remember de Pachmann, don't you? Yes, that short man, who looked like Liszt and talked to the audience while he played the piano."
Par 5 Of course, the dusted cupid remembered. What is twelve years in the life of a sturdy listener? "So, he is coming back to play as he likes, now that we're old and gray!" he mused. But he was forgetting the younger generation. It has heard the Pachmann stories, but the magical touch could not be transmitted. "I hear that there are many young people in America who know of me only by hearsay," Pachmann told a journalist last spring. "Well, they shall have a chance to hear me for themselves!" he added, graciously.


Par 6 And this slightly ornate gesture is doubtless one secret of the Pachmann charm. He tossed off miraculous feats of technique when he was a youngster. He knew it. Later, he learned to interpret a composer with the added fire of his own imagination. He knew that, too. Chopin was always his god, and he has never permitted any casual worshippers.
Par 7 At a recital in England last year, he played a Chopin Etude. It was greeted with vehement applause. Pachmann held up his hand, urged silence upon his audience, and said:
Par 8 "None of you knows anything about piano-playing. I really did that very badly. Now, I shall play it again and if I play well, I shall tell you." He played the composition over. When he had finished, he kissed his hand, approvingly, with a "Bravo, Pachmann!" Then he turned to the audience. "Now, applaud," he suggested. "That was truly magnificent, raphaelesque!" They smiled as they cheered, but I doubt if anybody sneered.
Par 9 After all, there never was any reason why a concert pianist should not be human. It is hard for most of us to fancy the scholarly Harold Bauer talking across the keys, with a bright, — "Listen well to this Schumann!" or to imagine Gabrilowitsch peering over his high collar to say, "I played that Chopin nocturne particularly well. I trust it was not over your heads!"
Par 10 But why not? Music is the speech of the universe. It need not be austere and its performance should not be too solemn a rite. A young baritone told me that he sang before a womans' [women's] club in the suburbs one beaming Spring afternoon. "They all looked so anxious and somehow worried — as if they had been asked to a musicale that would require a lot of mental labor." Before he began his program, he wondered, "Isn't music any fun for them? Won't they get any joy out of a simple, natural expression?"
Par 11 So he just put his hands into his pockets and sang a rollicking Irish ballad instead of the more sober Haendel, "Sleep, Why Dos't [Dost] Thou Leave Me?" His audience relaxed and enjoyed themselves. That is what Vladimir de Pachmann has always done for his audiences. He permits them to relax, and then he reveals beauty; and if his listeners seem to need a dash of extra light, he flashes that upon them.
Par 12 Some of the Pachmann stories insist that he does not care for cellists. [The remainder of the article does not concern Pachmann.]