My meeting with this extraordinary man, whose death was so recently
in the "News," took place in 1904 at the old Bechstein Hall in Wigmore Street.
I had just arrived in London and had to call on Max Lindlar,
who was then manager of the Bechstein Company in London,
with head offices at the famous Bechstein Hall.
I gave my card to the porter, who took it in to Mr. Lindlar immediately,
and said, would I go into the office.
I there found Lindlar, who was a very tall man, talking
to a very short man—or rather, the short man was doing all the talking.
Lindlar, whom I had known from a previous visit, said,
"How do you do, Mr. Tait; let me introduce you to Herr de Pachmann."
De Pachmann clicked his heels, bowed, and shook hands with me.
Lindlar then explained that I had just arrived from Australia,
and said to de Pachmann,
"You must come to Australia and give some concerts there.
You would be sure to make a great impression."
De Pachmann said, "No, I will
not go to Australia because the sea does not love me—it always makes
me sick in the belly."
I said, "But you go to America!" and he said,
"Yes, but that is only a few days, whereas, of course,
Australia would be a few weeks and I would be dead before I got there."
However, he seemed very interested in Australia and told me he knew
he would be a huge success if he ever came.
De Pachmann never hid his light under a bushel.
He then went on with his animated conversation with Lindlar,
which was something to the effect about a Bechstein Grand
that he had just played at the Queen's Hall.
He said it was "an Angel" and that he must kiss his hand to it;
never before in his life had he had such a piano to play on,
and a lot of other extravagant adulation.
Lindlar looked benevolently down on him all the time,
with an occasional wink at me when he knew he would not be caught winking.
It was obvious that Lindlar, although he had to listen,
was anxious to terminate the interview, but the little man seemed wound up
for the day, so to break the story, he produced a box of cigars
and handed the box to de Pachmann and then passed it on to me.
I made the excuse that I did not smoke cigars.
De Pachmann immediately said, "What an extraordinary thing for anyone
to refuse one of Mr. Lindlar's Perfectos,"
and so that the cigar would not be wasted he said he would take another
and smoke it, and remember Mr. Tait of Australia.
With this he made his adieu, and it was only a few weeks later
that I heard him play at a matinee at the Queen's Hall,
and the pantomime was really almost as good as the concert itself.
The organ gallery was packed with young students who evidently knew their man
and laughed and joked with him sotto voce, and he joked back.
Of course from the stalls we could not hear what the conversation
was all about.
Then he sat down to the piano, put his handkerchief on the side,
but was dissatisfied with the side he had put it on and transferred it
to the other side.
He then fidgeted with his stool—struck a few chords
and looked at the audience, then started fidgeting with the stool again,
and at last turned round and called to someone in the wings and said,
"Beel, Beel, please bring me one more piece of music,
as this stool is not quite high enough."
"Beel," the caretaker, duly came along with a piece of music,
De Pachmann sat on it.
This was evidently eminently satisfactory,
and he immediately started on his Chopin programme.
It certainly was divine once he got started,
but occasionally he would break out and say to the front row of the stalls:
"Now listen. Now you will hear Chopin as he should be played."
The concert itself was magnificent; it did not
seem as though these mannerisms affected his wonderful rendition.
When he left the hall—it was in the days before motor-cars—and
he had a two-horse carriage, was smothered in furs,
and looked like a Russian Prince going to a reception,
with hundreds of adoring students waving good-bye.
Talking of this celebrated musician—there is the old story that used
to be told years ago. When someone said to De Pachmann:
"Whom do you consider the greatest pianist?"
De Pachmann answered, "Godowsky is the second best."