The Four Loves of My Life.
By Vladimir de Pachmann.
WHAT does every man desire? A career. I have had it. Who can play the piano as I play?
Love of women? Yes . . . and I have had four great loves—five, my friends, with my music.
I sought the love of women when I was a boy. Father Liszt wanted me to play . . . always to go on playing.
You cannot make music, you cannot make people laugh or cry over music unless you have loved, suffered, gone hungry, been thirsty.
That is, perhaps, why Pachmann
is a clown sometimes when he plays, wanting you to laugh with him,
for then you forget the world outside, and you feel his music.
I want you to laugh because a whimsical, alluring love of mine made the young Pachmann laugh.
And she gave me always a present of twenty-five cigars . . . and I was poor.
Mme. Slopouchkin has been a great woman in my life. She still lives in the jokes of Pachmann to-day.
I will tell you about her.
She was the widow of a general of the Russian army. She was a prodigy of contrariness.
If the day was radiant she would curse the weather and go out with overshoes, oilskins and an umbrella.
If it were storming, raining, snowing, she would say: "In such perfect weather one must go out for a promenade."
And forth she would go in summer costume and return drenched and frozen, and tell what a delightful walk she had.
It was a wonder she was not washed away or frozen to death.
She would play "Il Bacio" waltz
and say it was the slow movement of the Moonlight Sonata.
If I played for her a slow movement by Mozart she would recognize it as a gipsy jig.
She was 65 then. She would be 117 if she were alive today.
She told me she was twenty-nine.
She rather liked me. I loved her . . . and she would always make me the present of twenty-five cigars.
I do not know whether she believed her contradictions or not, whether she pretended out of perverseness
to think it was fair weather when it was foul,
or whether everything was turned upside-down when it got into her mind.
But her topsy-turvy reasonings fascinated me profoundly.
Did she sound some chord of impishness in my own nature? Was I myself a little mad.
I do not say "It is a fine day." I say, "What a wretched day!" as Mme. Slopouchkin would have it.
When I am practising alone and play a phrase of Chopin particularly well I am likely to say to the piano,
"That was badly done," as Mme. Slopouchkin would say.
I meet people who weary me, and out of politeness I make my compliments.
When I am alone with my intimates I tell them,
"Well, I was Mme. Slopouchkin for a little while."
To me Mme. Slopouchkin was and is a supreme reality. She is always beside me.
Every event calls her forth. She is personalised contradiction.
She is a counterpart of the Satan of negation.
She is a Mephistopheles in the guise of a talkative and perverse old woman.
I am her Faust, and she governs and turns into laughter and whimsical foolery every attitude of mine toward life.
Ah! dear, dead Mme. Slopouchkin!
I had a love before that, the golden-haired Katinka Gruber. I was twenty-one.
She was the daughter of a pianoforte manufacturer in Odessa.
I loved her a little—not a lot. I loved my music more.
So I drove her away. But I remember Katinka a little—just for her gift of love.
Then came Gretchen—little Gretchen Brent—the cook in Vienna.
Oh, yes, my friends I have loved a cook.
She would listen to me play Chopin for hours and then she would make me apple pancakes, so she won my heart.
Four love affairs. . . .
I will tell you the greatest last of all.
I have always wanted what every man desires . . . a woman to love him, a woman to love,
a woman to intrigue my intellect, a woman to supply my bodily needs.
The tragedy of my existence is that I have never found all four souls in the same woman.
But there is one great woman . . . the last one I will tell you about.
She is the only real love of my life.
She was my wife. I loved her . . . because she could play the Etude No. 6, Op. 25 (Chopin)
better than I, Pachmann, could play it .
Ah! poor Pachmann!