That wonderful old campaigner of many a piano tour, Vladimir de Pachmann,
died in Italy early in January, at the age of 84.
During the past couple of years his whimsical and eloquent personality
at the piano, where he talked ecstatically as he played his beloved Chopin,
had been missing from the public halls.
The brilliant Pachmann carried into modern life a good deal
of that picturesqueness and eccentricity which used to be considered
rather essential in a great musical virtuoso during centuries preceding
this age of stern realities.
He was born in Odessa, but had his musical training from his father,
a good violinist and professor at the Vienna University,
and under Josef Dachs at the Vienna Conservatoire.
He escaped being a "prodigy," and it was not until he was twenty-one
that he made his initial concert tour of Russia.
It was successful, yet dissatisfied with his own artistic achievements,
Pachmann retired from concert work for another eight years.
Then he made a number of appearances in German cities,
retired again for a while, and it was only when he was thirty-two years of age
that he emerged definitely from his devotion to studentship
and created a furore in Vienna and Paris.
The example may be noted by those young musicians who imagine the world
should fall at their feet after they have won a diploma somewhere or other.
Pachmann's appearances in any city were enviable for the enthusiasm
they invariably created.
He was always a particular favourite in London, by reason of his poetic charm,
which must have been very like that of Chopin himself.
For Australians there is interest in the reflection that Pachmann married
a Melbourne girl, Maggie Oakey ,
who had been his pupil.
She accompanied him on his tours, but also gave recitals of her own,
and in 1913 her opera "Yato" was produced in Paris.
Eventually the pair were divorced, in 1895 or thereabouts,
and later Madame de Pachmann married Maitre Fernand Labori,
the celebrated French lawyer who was
conspicuous in the Dreyfus case
when it tore France into a state of contention shaking the stability
of the Republic to its very foundations.
Quite recently Madame Labori was a figure in some broadcasting
under the British Broadcasting Corporation.
Of Pachmann's qualities it has been written:
"De Pachmann is a player of a highly poetic temperament, refined sensibility,
and extraordinary personal magnetism.
He is at his best in works demanding extreme delicacy of touch,
for there he can legitimately display his marvellous velvety tone
and ethereal pianissimo.
In this respect he probably never had a superior,
and certainly very few equals.
Unfortunately he has allowed this quality to influence his entire scale
of dynamics to such an extent that even in tremendous works
demanding powerful climaxes he never rises above a moderate forte.
This perhaps is one of the reasons—aside from his decided preference
for the romantic composers—why his interpretations of Bach and Beethoven
have been neither stirring nor convincing.
For many years he had been generally regarded as a peerless Chopin player,
as if the interpretation of that master's works required only
a poetic conception, exquisite tonal shadings, grace and delicacy of execution.
As a matter of fact Pachmann never compassed the heights and depths
of the stately Polonaises, the impetuous Ballades, the Titanic Scherzi."