I am often asked how it is that, at the age of seventy-six,
I still retain at the piano the spirit and verve of youth.
People tell me I am getting old, but the years fall from me as if by magic
when I sit down at my instrument.
I am what you call rejuvenated; I am once more a youth, with youth's buoyancy,
and enthusiasm, and joyous abandon.
I am never tired of playing the piano.
At the end of a long recital I am ready to give another.
Not long ago, my managers objected to my playing so many pieces as encores,
but they gave me permission, after some persuasion, to "play just one more".
I went on to the platform and played an entire Beethoven sonata.
What Busoni Said.
It is the call of art.
Busoni, the great pianist, understood.
"Why should there be wonder over Pachmann's defying age?" he once asked.
"He has lived for his art alone;
therefore, his art is to him eternally faithful."
Art is in itself a sustaining force.
It supplies food for the mind and the senses.
It has Life in it.
Always it leads us upward and upward, and we strive to reach into the unknown,
to drink at new fountains of inspiration, and on our journey we find youth.
A New Pianoforte Method.
I have also been greatly helped in a physical sense by my discovery
of a new method of playing.
I was seventy years old when I decided upon the new system.
Think what it meant!
I had to refinger the whole of my repertoire and study it again.
I spent five years bringing the system to perfection, and now,
instead of my fingers being muscle-bound and stiff,
as they usually are in the case of a man of my age,
they are as loose and pliable as a boy's.
My new method brings health to the body, abolishes fatigue,
makes for straight wrists, adds to the beauty of the hands,
and induces tranquillity.
Five valuable advantages.
I really obtained the idea from Clementi,
who was against the use of the thumb on a black key.
I wondered why, and thought it over until I discovered that Clementi's reason
was that there was an undue strain on the wrist, with consequent fatigue.
I do not, as has been stated in some quarters, play with a stiff wrist.
How could I?
I just keep my hand in a straight line with my arm.
When I have to move up the keyboard I don't turn the wrist,
but keep the straight line of the hand and move the whole arm.
It is almost impossible for me to get tired.
I always have my hands in the same position.
Another advantage of my new system is that it gives an absolutely natural
The result is a beautiful tone.
Ah, I used to be told in the old days that I produced a wonderful tone,
but now it is much more wonderful.
Liszt told me thirty years ago that I was the greatest player in the world.
What would he say now?
[Photo of Vladimir de Pachmann, Metropolitan Musical Bureau
(not reproduced here)]
Liszt said he wished Chopin could hear me play
because I played his nocturnes so beautifully,
and that not even Rubinstein had so lovely a tone as I.
Of course I like to play Chopin,
but why do people persist in calling me a Chopin specialist?
It is ridiculous for a pianist to confine himself to any composer.
It has a narrowing effect on him, and if he continues he will find eventually
that he cannot play even that composer's music well.
One's artistic sympathies should be in every way broad and expansive.
An Invisible Audience.
When I sit down at the piano I feel that I have an invisible
audience — nodding, smiling, bowing grave approval, advising,
praising, encouraging me.
There is Beethoven, that gentle soul of soaring inspiration;
Schumann, the spinner of exquisite melodies;
Chopin, the fiery spirit who loved life and loved death;
Liszt, so quick to recognise young genius and spur it on;
Brahms, with his mastery and companionship;
Wagner, who once kissed my hand in gratitude for my playing.
These invisible spirits are my real audience.
For their approval I live and work.
Can a man do less than his best; must he not do more
than his best, with such divine inspiration?
The Youthfulness of Art.
I do not play Bach and Mozart now.
They are tinkly.
On modern pianos they are not Bach and Mozart.
The music of these great men is "arranged "; it is not the real thing.
Besides, I cannot give my attention to everything.
It is my art that helps to keep me young.
I love it with all my soul.
I have had few lessons in pianoforte-playing — until the age
of eighteen, not one.
For many years I taught myself.
I could not have done that if I had not been on fire with enthusiasm.
That enthusiasm exists yet, and always will.