Par 1 PACHMANN was in good vein for his recital at the Brand Lane [1854-?] Concerts, and played more finely than he has done here for some years. It was mainly in his additional pieces that his greatest skill was shown, and possibly it was his good fortune in coming off so well in pieces of rapid execution that disposed him to extend his recital so far. It is almost forty-two years since he first played in Manchester at the Hallé Concerts, on January 3, 1884, when he played Chopin's F minor Concerto, the Barcarolle, and other pieces. Our own first recollection of him is at his second appearance a year later, when he played Mozart's D minor Concerto as it has never been played since, with an irresistible animation which seemed to beam not only from the music but from his whole being. Never, surely, did a player appear at the concerts who was so openly and graciously delighted with himself. He ended with a performance of Henselt's study 'Si oiseau j'étais', which made this piece the most popular of all pianoforte pieces for many a long day, and which still remains, in our own mind, as a performance that has never been at all nearly approached. The notes seemed absolutely to be borne up by the air and to have had no material being whatever. Pachmann has always been unquestionably among the greatest pianists in the world; yet hardly among the world's greatest interpreters of music. He himself, in his moments of ecstasy, has always pointed to his fingers as the secret of his magic; and there is no need for the world to quarrel with the verdict. He has always p.116 been one of the first purists of his instrument, and has been almost first a lover of the pianoforte, and a lover of music afterwards. 'If I played it like the rest I would not play at all,' he said of something on Saturday, and it is in this extreme conscientiousness of the exacting purist that he plays everything. He was opening out the great C minor Fantasia of Mozart with an awe-inspired loveliness of tone. 'Now listen to my left tumultuoso,' he exclaimed; but it was no more than a capricious tumult that Pachmann made, and one remembered how the great Rubinstein had thundered out these left-hand tones from the very spot where Pachmann was now playing. But Pachmann kept a Mozartean loveliness throughout, and as the music is of such beauty that nothing better could be chosen for the farewell to an instrument, one could be content to be carried no farther than its liveliness carried one. The main part of the Chopin pieces were small, but at the end there came the B flat minor Scherzo, 'the best of all', as Pachmann put it, and in this superb work Pachmann at once rose to greater heights. As a feat of velocity and polished execution it was astonishing. Careering along to the end of the working out, he cried, 'So-and-so took it like this, and Liszt at this tempo.' One might venture to think that Liszt would also have kept a fuller energy in the bass, but Pachmann had made a splendid climax in one of the most difficult of all Chopin's pieces.
Par 2 He began his encores with the little D flat Valse, indulging his favourite ninths in the left hand, which are a fastidious addition of which Chopin himself might have been proud. Then came a little Barcarolle of Henselt, also with charming additions from his own hand, and then the pianoforte was closed. Yet he came back after a while and gave the little-played B major Nocturne. Then came a dazzling performance of the 'Black Note' study with the middle section given in a marvellous lyrical manner, and the final octaves taken in contrary motion. It was this piece also, we think, which he enriched in the harmonies by a superbly sustained ninth—a real stroke of genius. Then he went back to the favourites of days gone by—the E flat Rondo of Weber, which he played with marvellous vigour and velocity. Could any other player in the world have p.117 equalled this feat to-day? Not satisfied with this triumph he went on to the 'Rigoletto' fantasia of Liszt, strewing the notes of the cadenza passages around him with a true Oriental lavishness. One began to forget his age, for he had worked himself into a sort of youth once more, and his opulence and rapidity of execution enabled one to sense the true Pachmann, the exhaustless genius of the piano. We had almost forgotten what we thought was the greatest musical feat of the recital. Few would associate Pachmann with Brahms, yet it was in the composer's rugged 'Rhapsody' in B minor that we found him wrestling, and that quite triumphantly, with heroic ideas. He played the purist here, too, and we should not have guessed, from the satisfying result, that Brahms was, as Liszt said, the worst of all pianoforte writers.