VLADIMIR DE PACHMANN was born in Odessa, Russia, on
July 27, 1848
He first studied under his father,
who was professor of Roman Law at
the Vienna University,
and an amateur musician of considerable attainment,
for he wrote a manual on harmony.
Vladimir was the youngest of thirteen children.
(None of his brothers or sisters are living.)
Next in importance to the great pianist was Simon,
professor in the Petrograd University,
who died in Russia at the age of eighty-seven.
Besides being a great jurist, Simon was also a musician
and a clever player on the violin.
Vladimir exhibited a decided musical tendency from earliest childhood,
and at the age of six began
to study the violin under the loving tuition of his father.
But by the time he was ten, he developed a strong desire to study the piano,
and under the same guidance,
began to play on the instrument
which was to reveal his powerful genius.
One day, when barely twelve years old, his playing of Händel's
"Double Fugue in C minor" attracted the attention of a
gentleman who was passing his window.
This man, Dr. Morgan, wanted to know the name of the able performer
of the difficult piece.
He was greatly astonished to learn that this perfect pianist was a child.
At the age of eighteen, De Pachmann had already given public proofs
of the talent and skill which had gained the universal admiration of Odessa.
Many among his chief admirers, being aware of Vladimir's longing to pursue
his musical studies, and that his father, burdened with the support
of a numerous family, could not gratify this longing,
decided to make a collection for him.
Many of the aristocracy contributed, and by this means sufficient funds
were raised to enable Vladimir to enter the Vienna Conservatory,
where he studied under Dachs and Bruckner.
Shortly after his arrival in Vienna, he applied to Professor Dachs
for admission to the higher class of the Conservatory.
Dachs pointed out that according to the rules of admission to this grade,
pupils were required to be good musicians and to be able to play the
pianoforte. He invited him to return the following day to afford due proofs
of his ability.
With a punctuality rare among artists, Vladimir hastened the
next day to keep his appointment, and assisted at Professor Dachs' lesson
to his pupils. When the class was dismissed, he was requested to open his
music roll and choose the piece he preferred to play.
Vladimir replied that he had brought no music,
but that if the professor would name any musical composition
he would try to play it from memory.
Dachs, turning a stern and almost reproving glance on the youthful Vladimir,
objected that the conservatory was no place for wasting time,
and still less for joking, ending by directing him to play whatever he liked,
but never to appear again without music.
Thereupon young De Pachmann seated himself at the piano and played
Liszt's arrangements of Verdi's "Rigoletto."
He had no sooner finished playing than the wonder-struck professor,
bereft of words, ran to call the head of the conservatory,
De Pachmann, on turning around, was struck with dismay at the professor's
disappearance, which in his anxious state of mind he attributed
to his own faulty execution of the piece.
The professor, however, soon returned, accompanied by the director himself;
both were loud in their congratulations of De Pachmann.
They made him play again, to the wondering delight of the two teachers.
Dachs then requested the youth to prepare two studies of Chopin
for the following day.
Vladimir returned punctually, but again without music,
and expressed his willingness to play the twenty-four studies of Chopin
in any key that might be required by the teacher.
The professors having seated themselves,
De Pachmann played as he alone could play Chopin.
When the divine strains were hushed, Dachs, much affected, embraced him,
saying: "I have heard this played by Chopin himself;
your playing is perhaps better, and he could not but be flattered by
your perfect rendering."
It will not be difficult to imagine the enthusiastic reception of
De Pachmann at the Vienna Conservatory, where he remained from 1867 to 1869.
Not to study the piano, however, Dachs, after a few short lessons,
having frankly admitted that the pupil, having excelled the teacher,
had no further need of his lessons.
Instead, Vladimir studied harmony and fugues with Bruckner,
his success being such that at the final trial
he was awarded the large silver medal.
On leaving the Conservatory young Vladimir returned to Odessa
where he began to give lessons and also a few local concerts
which excited general admiration.
In 1870, in Odessa, he first heard the famous Tausig,
who impressed him greatly with his technique.
Tausig urged him to still further endeavors.
He studied alone for eight years.
In 1878 he went to Kerson, barely five hours distance from Odessa
to give a concert with the pianist Herscheck.
It was a failure financially, and his aged father was under the
necessity of proceeding to Kherson to fetch young Vladimir,
who had exhausted his resources.
On completing his thirtieth year, Vladimir, having lost his father,
removed with his sister Elizabeth to Leipzig,
where under the management of Carl Reinecke he gave a concert
which won a complete success.
Leaving somewhat later for Berlin,
the youthful artist gave a concert in the Architectural Hall
which was enthusiastically received and very favorably reviewed.
He returned to Vienna with the intention of giving a series of concerts.
Happening one day to be playing a Chopin ballade
in Bosendorfer's piano repository,
he chanced to be overheard by Herr Waldmann, a musical connoisseur,
who after the first few notes introduced himself to De Pachmann
and in rapturous terms signified his desire to organize a series of
concerts on his behalf.
It may be said, therefore, that his career as a pianist had its
beginning from that day.
He played at the Philharmonic Society with enormous success, receiving the
warmest praise from Professor Hanslick,
one of the most celebrated musical critics of the time.
From Paris he proceeded to London, meeting with like success,
and exciting a warm sympathy which has never to this day
failed to greet the great artist.
In London after one of his concerts
he formed the acquaintance of a young lady pianist,
who became one of his pupils,
and whom he subsequently married in 1884.
Her name was Maggie Oakey .
Full of honors, Vladimir returned to Vienna and then left for Budapest,
where he became acquainted with Liszt,
who expressed great friendship and admiration for him.
A lady who accompanied Liszt to one of De Pachmann's concerts, said later
that the veteran master had declared great admiration for De Pachmann,
whose execution was such, he added, that he had never been so moved before.
Liszt and De Pachmann were much together,
and great was the friendship and admiration of the latter for the aged master.
In 1890 Mr. and Mrs. De Pachmann gave a number of concerts
in Europe and America, visiting the United States for the first time in
and were everywhere received with the greatest applause.
At that time De Pachmann had a house in Paris,
where it might be said he passed the major part of his
married life. His wife bore him three children,
the first of whom was born and died at St. Petersburg;
the other two were born in London.
One of these two surviving sons
is now professor of harmony at the Paris Conservatoire.
De Pachmann also visited Italy, but much to the regret of true lovers of music,
only two towns, Milan and Florence, were favored with his visit.
Of Florence, especially, De Pachmann retains poetic memories.
Vladimir De Pachmann's playing always excites the greatest admiration.
His style is so varied that no one ever tires of hearing
him; his concerts are crowded to excess wherever a love of music prevails.
The country in which de Pachmann is best appreciated and where he no doubt
plays with greatest pleasure is England, whose people,
while fully alive to the excellence of his powers,
make every allowance for his eccentricities,
cherishing the man quite as fully as the artist.
De Pachmann, thoroughly realizing the sincerity of this admiration,
happily mounts his stand to address a few words to the public
of whose friendly welcome he is fully assured.
De Pachmann is today, as years are counted, an old man.
By his own confession, made on a multitude of European stages in recent
seasons, he is nearly eighty years of age.
Yet to writers in Europe where he has been playing annually there seems no
difference at all in appearance and playing between De Pachmann of 1926
and de Pachmann heard fifteen or twenty years ago.
De Pachmann is short, rotund, jovial, with a head of such picturesqueness
as has not been seen on our stages of recent years.
His playing is still that of one who loves above all else to play the piano.
He literally makes love to his instrument;
he kisses his hand to the instrument as he enters the stage.
His hands wander over its keys in caresses of joy.
No lover ever went to his lady with greater joy or with a heart so bounding
with expectation than De Pachmann goes to the pianoforte
on which he is to give his immortal message of beauty.
Vladimir de Pachmann as an artist links the present with the past.
He played piano recitals when Liszt was still the living giant
of the pianoforte.
In Cracow, where De Pachmann was a successful recitalist,
he was visited by the student, Paderewski, and his advice solicited.
One of his earliest tours was made through Germany
in joint recital with Marcella Sembrich.
But where the older artists have passed and the younger have grown to maturity,
even in some cases also to pass,
De Pachmann has continued, a sort of eternal phoenix
whose life and vigor know not apparently the ordinary ravages of time.
Busoni one time expressed no surprise over the report of De Pachmann's
continued youthfulness as a pianist.
The great Italian is reported to have said:
"Why should there be wonder over De Pachmann's defying age?
He has lived for his art alone;
therefore, his art is to him eternally faithful."
As a master of Chopin, De Pachmann has ever been without a rival.
The Polish master's works are transfigured under his fingers
by his exceptional temperament and unbridled individuality.
To De Pachmann, Chopin is a god;
his music the emanation of divine effulgence.
Pachmann approaches a Chopin composition as a Catholic goes to St. Peter's
in Rome, a Mohammedan to Mecca, a Buddhist to the river Ganges.
The secret of De Pachmann's youthfulness lies,
as he himself tells all audiences, "in my new method."
By such technical facility does he manage, without fatigue,
to play with all the esprit of a young man.
In his own words, "Playing the piano never tires me.
At the end of a recital I feel ready to give another program."
The number of his encores bears vivid testimony to the truth
of such a statement.
Not so long since, when his managers objected to his giving
so many additional pieces,
De Pachmann begged "to play just one more."
Being permitted, he went before his audience and played
an entire Beethoven sonata.
On his seventy-fifth birthday, De Pachmann said to his friend,
"During my three score and fifteen years,
I have heard many times all the great pianists of the day."
(De Pachmann is in the habit of talking simultaneously
in English, German, French, and Italian.)
"I have watched them closely.
Liszt himself attended my first concert in Budapest. He sat in the first row.
(After the concert we had supper together in my quarters.)
At the end of the concert he came upon the stage and congratulated me
most effusively, even going as far as to say:
'I wish that Chopin had heard you play.'
Later in the day I played his arrangement of 'Auf Flügeln des Gesanges,'
and he said with great enthusiasm, 'So I like it!'
Liszt then played his arrangement of Chopin's 'Chant Polonaise.'
It was like some wonderful voice singing,
for Liszt was transcendentally the greatest of all pianists.
I shall never forget it! He played like a god!
. . . Later I met Liszt at his home in Rome,
when Richard Wagner was staying with him.
I had the honor of playing for both of them.
I played the Chopin Ballade in G minor and was again overwhelmed
by the generous praise of both.
Liszt insisted that I played it better than Chopin,
who had mannerisms in his playing at times."
De Pachmann lives in a world of his own, and knows no other world,
no other composers than those who served his
needs, no other pianists than
those who fulfill his ideals.
Worshipping beauty in the absolute,
he compromises with no one, not even with himself.
I should make an ugly tone," he said, "I would shut down the piano."
Knowing no other law than that of genius,
he does not hesitate to pass sentence on himself.
"Before I discovered my new method," he declared,
"I played like a pig. Now I play like a god." And he proved it.
"Come over to the piano," he called, "and I will show you what I do.
First, I play scales, like this, for sixteen minutes every morning.
No one can play scales as I do."
And no one can!
"Then," he continued, "I practice Godowski for technique.
Every morning I give to Godowski,
and a few octave-studies of Joseffy for legato."
Here his fingers melted in some octaves.
"And now listen to this, and look at my fingers.
My tone is like velvet, Nicht wahr!
My fingering is colossal!
told me that he wished Chopin could hear me;
I played his Nocturnes so beautifully.
He also told me that not even Rubinstein had as beautiful a tone as I.
Liszt was then seventy-three, about my age now," he added parenthetically,
"and I was a young man of thirty-four or five.
But I can play some of his things now even better than he could."
De Pachmann is universally known for his eccentricities.
He will, for instance, stand no interruption in his recital.
He has been known to grow indignant over late and noisy entrances;
a situation he once met by calling a friend to his side and saying,
"I will play for you.
. . . The others are pigs."
Again in London, when a late arrival peered upon him through her lorgnette,
he quite discomfited her and pleased the rest of his audience exceedingly
by making faces at the offender.
De Pachmann's greatest object of detestation is the 'cello.
He cannot bear the sound of the violin's big brother,
and when through pique or for some other reason,
threatens not to appear at a scheduled recital,
he has never failed to be won over by his manager's telling him,
"O, very well, I've an excellent 'cellist who can take your place."
In a recital given in Cambridge, England, December, 1922,
De Pachmann played a Chopin Etude.
Its end was greeted with loud applause.
The pianist held up his hand, quieted the audience, and said:
"None of you knows anything about piano-playing.
I really played that very badly.
Now, I shall play it again, and if I play well, I shall tell you."
He did play the composition a second time.
Then kissing his own hand with a "Bravo, Pachmann," he asserted:
"That was truly magnificent, Raphaelesque.
And the audience burst forth into true Pachmann cheers.
On April 13, 1925, Vladimir de Pachmann gave his farewell American
all-Chopin recital, in Carnegie Hall, New York.
The author of this volume still remembers how wonderfully De Pachmann played!
The hall on the occasion was packed to capacity,
the stage seats and even standing room having been sold out,
and many hundreds clamoring for admission turned away.
De Pachmann will, no doubt, continue to play in Europe
and cast his spell there as no other living pianist can.
It is his dread of the ocean voyage that deters him from revisiting
Vladimir de Pachmann played his farewell recital in Carnegie Hall
before a crowd that overflowed upon the stage in such numbers
as to leave barely room for himself and his piano.
Vladimir De Pachmann died in Rome
January 7 , 1933.
He had been in delicate health for a number of years,
but had played for a group of friends on New Year's Day of 1933,
a week before his death.
Vladimir De Pachmann is the recipient of the Order of Danebrog
from the King of Denmark (1885),
and the Royal Philharmonic Society's Medal of London,
bestowed upon him in 1916.