Par 1 WHEN FRANZ LISZT once attended a recital by an unknown pianist in Budapest, he was moved to say, "Those who have never heard Chopin before are hearing him this evening." A few years later, Anton Rubinstein addressed the very same young man; "Ah, but my dear fellow, I don't have your touch." Leopold Godowsky and Eugene Ysaye were among his admirers, and Adelina Patti said at his London debut: "I sing with my throat, but you sing with your hands, which is even more precious." Critics were as enthusiastic as fellow artists. In America. there were Philip Hale and James Huneker and, in England, Ernest Newman and Arthur Symons, who wrote around the turn of the century, "He is the greatest player alive, for he plays Chopin better than anyone plays anything." And later, New York Times critic Olin Downes asserted, "No one did play, or ever will play, the Chopin F minor Concerto as [he] played it.''
Par 2 Today he is remembered as a clown.
Par 3 The pianist was Vladimir de Pachmann — and the contrast between the adulation he was accorded in his lifetime and the contemptuous dismissal he has suffered since is one of the curiosities of music history. No doubt De Pachmann's flamboyant platform personality had much to do with his enormous popularity with mass audiences, but to suggest, as some have done, that he was able to make fools of some of the most distinguished musicians and critics of his day is absurd.
Par 4 The fact seems to be that De Pachmann was a great pianist — a supreme Chopin interpreter — who was also an eccentric and that the great playing and the eccentricities were somehow inextricably entwined. Today his artistry can hardly be demonstrated — his best records, some of the earliest piano recordings ever made, are virtually unknown — but his eccentricities can only too easily be documented.
Par 5 If he made a mistake, he would strike the guilty hand, saying, "Now he sounds like Paderewski." He might cover his hands if he saw a celebrated pianist in the hall, telling everyone, "There's Godowsky; I don't want him to see my fingering." When once he saw the piano placed in a bad position, he bade the audience to "rise up and slay the guilty one." He ordered a late-comer to "shut up and sit down" and severely reprimanded an audience that had applauded at the wrong moment: "And I thought," he said, "I was in musical Manchester."
Par 6 He maintained "retainers" — tuners and movers who were kept busy adjusting the piano, placing bits of wood and cardboard under the legs or pedals until the instrument was at the proper height, only to have the performer come out and, putting a few pieces of paper on the seat, announce, "You'd be surprised at the difference an inch makes." One time he brought out of his pocket an uncut ruby. (He had a passion for uncut gems and fancied himself a mineralogist.) His eyes glowed as he held the shimmering jewel up for the audience to see. "Look how it glitters, how it reflects the light." Then, "Listen to the way I play this Chopin waltz . . . you'll forget all about the ruby."
Par 7 He had the manners of a mountebank with the message of a poet. He was the answer to a press agent's dreams and was, as a matter of fact, his own best advertiser.
Par 8 No one is certain how it all started. According to his long-time secretary, De Pachmann discovered very early in his career that if he entered into some direct contact with his audience, smiling and gesticulating, he could alleviate the acute nervousness that chronically afflicted him. Who knows? Perhaps it was his own built-in protection from the rigors and strain of concertizing. Whatever the reason for his eccentricities, they were noticed from the very beginning of his career. Bernard Shaw, in one of his London reviews of the 1880s, speaks of "De Pachmann's pantomimic performances with accompaniments by Chopin." The pantomime soon included facial contortions and grimaces, which, in the words of Busoni, would have sufficed to explain the music to a deaf and dumb institution." It was these antics, so simian in character, that prompted James Huneker, then America's leading music critic, p. 60 to call De Pachmann "Chopinzee," a nickname which remained with him until the end of his days.

Par 9 THE VAUDEVILLE PERFORMANCES grew in scope as did the musician's art, for they ran parallel to each other. By the turn of the century, De Pachmann was at his best. Never had he played with such inspiration, or clowned with such abandon. It was at this time that the celebrated "sock incident" occurred, which startled the music world and made De Pachmann's concerts the talk of two continents.
Par 10 At an all-Chopin recital in the Singakademie in Berlin, the pianist walked out holding a pair of socks and immediately addressed the audience: "Ladies and Gentlemen, I make a speech. These are the socks that George Sand knitted for Chopin." He put them on the piano, sat down, and began to play. Next day he was visited by a celebrated critic, who asked to see again the sacred socks — and then proceeded to kiss them. "But wasn't it funny?" De Pachmann later confided to Olin Downes; "those weren't Chopin's socks, they're my own!"
Par 11 This behavior, inspired or willful, became an exotic framework for his exquisite pianism. Audiences expected from him a display of eccentricities, and he obliged. To begin with, he was usually late; and when he did appear, he would be loath to play at all and would tease his audience into begging him to start. "Why do you want to hear me? You've heard these pieces time and again," he'd complain. "Besides," placing his hand on his neck, "I'm up to here with Chopin." Finally, when he was persuaded to go to the piano, he would stroke the keys indifferently through the first bars of the piece, sighing audibly, "This is not De Pachmann." But, as the music fired his imagination and he felt life flow into his fingers, he'd add, "But this is!"
Par 12 As the concert progressed, he would first comment about a work he was to play, then play, and finally comment about his playing. And when he performed a lyric piece, a nocturne or a slow étude, and had begun to weave a spell with the beauty of his tone, he would glance over the audience like a sorcerer holding it in thrall, until the intensity had stretched the listeners' nerves to a breaking point. Then, with a wave of his hand, he would whisper, "If only Chopin could have heard that!"
Par 13 The spell broken and their pent-up emotions released, the audience would recall him time and again in ovations that rivaled those of Paderewski's.
Par 14 The evening would draw to a close, yet De Pachmann seemed to show no fatigue. For just as it was difficult for him to start, now it was difficult for him to stop. Inspired by the enthusiasm of his audience, he would be extravagant with his encores. Only when the janitor threatened to lock everyone in the hall (those were the days before unions) did the concert formally end. Yet, in the artist's room, De Pachmann could still be found seated at the piano and, with admirers surrounding him, he'd be requested to perform this or that piece. Wreathed in smiles, he'd continue to play until his managers ordered the pedals removed.
Par 15 This love of music, this love of playing the piano and giving pleasure to thousands of people became almost an obsession with him — so much so that, as an old man he would shout to the audience while he played, "Are you enjoying yourself? Are you having a good time?"
Par 16 De Pachmann, in short, was incorrigible. The eccentricities continued right up to the end. At those final "Farewell for all time" concerts, when he began the G Minor Ballade, taking the opening octave passage in one hand, he told everyone, "Look! One hand. Not bad for a man of eighty!" He did a stopwatch performance of the Minute Waltz, and after concluding a favorite Mazurka, he confided to the first few rows, "I'd give all my art to have composed that piece." For De Pachmann never lost the childlike spontaneity and enthusiasm which had always endeared him to audiences and which by the time of his last appearances seemed also to arouse their respect, even veneration.

Par 17 HE WAS BORN in Odessa, Russia, in 1848, the youngest of thirteen children. His father, a Professor of Roman Law at Odessa University, and an amateur musician, began teaching his son to play the violin when the boy was six years old. At the age of twelve, he began to study the piano, showing such talent that, in 1868 he was sent to the Vienna Conservatory to study for two years — the only professional training De Pachmann had. At the end of his course of study he was presented with the school's gold medal, the first of the series of honors he was to receive in his lifetime.
Par 18 p.61 After returning to Russia, he gave a few concerts in Odessa and in some nearby provincial cities. Then, he chanced to hear the great Carl Tausig on what turned out to be the latter's final Russian tour, in 1870, and was so overwhelmed by Tausig's artistry that he abandoned his plans for a St. Petersburg debut in order to re-evaluate his own playing. And so, he retired . . . at twenty-two.
Par 19 After ten years of intensive study, he returned to Vienna to make a debut there. But the years of solitary study had become such a habit that he found himself incapable of playing before an audience. His recital, which had been announced in the papers and for which tickets had been sold, had to be canceled twice. It was only on a third attempt that his exasperated manager, who had rented the hall, managed to push his frightened artist out on the stage, shouting, "Swim or die!" De Pachmann found himself in front of a skeptical audience.
Par 20 At the end of the concert, De Pachmann received an ovation, and this late-starting career suddenly flowered into one success after another. Liszt, who heard the still virtually unknown pianist in a subsequent recital in Budapest, introduced him to other musicians, brought him to play for Wagner, and then sent him to Paris with a warm letter of introduction to Saint-Saëns, who also became enthusiastic. De Pachmann's concerts in the French capital caused such a stir that the usually staid Paris correspondent of the (London) Times took time out from political reporting to mention the new artist in an article for the paper. As a result, De Pachmann was invited to appear with the London Philharmonic in a performance of Chopin's F minor Concerto. His playing caused a sensation, and his reputation as a great Chopin exponent was immediately established. Other triumphs in England, on the Continent, and in America followed. In time, he came to be considered — as Webster's Collegiate Dictionary tersely defined him, "Vladimir de Pachmann, Russian pianist, the foremost Chopin player."
Par 21 What was there about Vladimir de Pachmann's playing that brought him such world renown? The answer is that he was the first pianist to use Chopin's own style of playing to make a career. In De Pachmann's day (and today for that matter) pianists preferred to play the large-scale masterpieces of Chopin over the smaller works, which they thought too intimate for the concert hall. De Pachmann was the first to challenge this attitude successfully, to test the so-called Chopin mystique and aesthetic, with its emphasis on refinement and tone color, delicacy and charm, over power and mere virtuosity. He dared to play in the concert hall the way Chopin played in a salon. Though many had said it couldn't be done, De Pachmann discovered a way of producing a tone that sounded throughout the largest hall yet preserved its intimate character.
Par 22 To put it briefly, he was able to unite the elegance of his Viennese training — the mastery of scales, arpeggios, and passagework with the more sonorous orchestral style of the Liszt school, the so-called "grand manner," prevalent at the time. He could play very delicately but his tone never sounded anemic or "white." Again, he could play with great sonority, but he never indulged in an overly massive sound. No pianist before him, with the possible exception of Chopin himself, had mastered such a touch. Its hallmark was the much discussed "Pachmannissimo," a very round and very penetrating pianissimo which could easily carry through the vast recesses of the Albert Hall.
Par 23 The composer Kaikhosru Sorabji gives an excellent summary of De Pachmann's art: "The almost unlimited range of his gradations of tone within a mezzo-forte and an unbelievable 'quasi niente'; the amazing fluidity and limpidity of his jeu perle; his delicious, dainty staccato; the marvelous cantilena; the exquisite phrasing; and the wonderful delicate fantasy of the whole . . . [all this] made his playing of certain works of Chopin an enchantment and a delight."
Par 24 Though a miniaturist, he put so much into these little pieces (some of them little in form only) that he was in reality a great miniaturist. He did big things with little pieces.

Par 25 ONE MUST ADMIT, however, that De Pachmann's Chopin was not a complete one. A supreme player in many ways, he was not an ideal one. The particular mastery that De Pachmann possessed was so complete that it left no room for anything else. Though his playing of certain large-scale works (like the Third Ballade and the Fourth Scherzo) was expert, in works of an entirely different character demanding strength, demonic virility, and aggressiveness (such as the first two Scherzos, some Etudes and Preludes, the p.62 great A flat Polonaise, the first two movements of the B flat minor Sonata) he was unconvincing. When, for example, he played the heroic Revolutionary Etude, he gave to his left hand a purling quality completely inappropriate for the music. While De Pachmann's Chopin was never devoid of charm, it was always lacking in heroics.
Par 26 I spent many hours in Paris with De Pachmann's son, who described to me in detail how his father played the Berceuse — considered by many (along with the Larghetto from the F minor Concerto) to be the quintessence of his art. Within the framework of a tender lullaby, the piece abounds in the fioritura passages De Pachmann loved. Thus, according to his son, when he played the work, he would make "little pictures in a big one." The great conception he had of the music would hold it together, while the little variations, beautiful in themselves, would be shaped into a delicate mosaic. And the coda! I am told that under his fingers the music would slowly vanish to a wisp of tone, an essence, and as the critics used to say, the applause that inevitably followed seemed like an intrusion.
Par 27 Of the Larghetto from the F minor Concerto, Olin Downes wrote: ". . . if it is said that, when he sang on the keys the ineffable song of the Larghetto angels wept over the golden bars of heaven, it is only a little more than the truth. Indeed, the music had a haunting seraphic melancholy, a freedom from every thralldom of this world, only to be evoked by the supreme artists and the pure in heart."
Par 28 It is sad to think that a performer's art is as ephemeral as his fame. Without mechanical means, it is preserved only in the memories of his hearers. With De Pachmann, this is particularly poignant since most of his recordings were made when he was very old and a mere shadow of himself. Yet there are a few discs, his earliest and rarest, and some unreleased records made a few years later, which serve as his true legacy. These almost unknown recordings, made in 1906-09 (when he was in his late fifties) for the Gramophone & Typewriter (G & T) Company and HMV in London and for Victor in 1911-12, indicate better than any of his later discs what a great artist he must have been.
Par 29 Though the sound of the earliest records is very primitive, the caressing, velvety quality of De Pachmann's touch is apparent. Notable from the earliest series is the Butterfly Etude and Minute Waltz, one of his best records; a poised and rippling reading of the F major Prelude; and an abridged version (one side) of the Barcarolle (1907) which illustrates his mastery of trills and double notes, the Chopin fioritura, which he so much loved to play.
Par 30 In 1909, he made his first extensive series of recordings, about ten sides for HMV. Unfortunately, only four of these are known to exist; the others remain to be found. Liszt's Rigoletto Paraphrase is played with great elegance and style. In it, De Pachmann combines the breadth and sonorousness of the Liszt school with the finesse and delicacy of Chopin's method. This delicacy, within the framework of tonal opulence, is also apparent in his delightful playing of Mendelssohn's Rondo capriccioso.
Par 31 For some unknown reason, his best records from his next series, made for Victor in America on his Farewell Tour of 1911-12, were never issued. Except for a scintillating performance of the little-known Mazurka Brillante of Liszt, this is an all-Chopin series and includes works De Pachmann never recorded again. Three Etudes, the First and Third of Op. 10 and the Second of Op. 25, receive fluent, elegant readings. The unreleased Nocturne of the set, the F minor Op. 55, is played in a druglike trance.
Par 32 His last recordings include his English Columbia series made when he was near seventy, and his final American acoustics and HMV electrics made in his late seventies. Though there is some beautiful playing in the English Columbia discs, notably Raff's La Fileuse and some Mazurkas, and in his electrical recordings of the Prelude in E minor of Mendelssohn and Chopin's posthumous E minor Nocturne, by this time his pianism had become something of a caricature, much like the man himself. Indeed, the electric recordings with their pathetic running commentaries (HMV had encouraged the old maestro to talk while he played) are primarily responsible for his current low reputation among musicians — these are, unhappily, the most easily obtainable of all his records.
Par 33 With the infirmities of old age increasing steadily on him, De Pachmann's physical decline in his later years was truly terrible. Yet, despite failing memory, no longer agile fingers, and strength almost completely gone, he could still conjure up a sad and wistful spell with the beauty of his touch and tone as he does on his very last recording, made when he was nearing eighty, of Chopin's posthumous E minor Nocturne. This was the token of a lifetime of devotion to Chopin, his ultimate triumph over the vicissitudes of his old age. What did Busoni once say of him? "Why should there be any wonder at De Pachmann's defying age? He has lived for his art alone; therefore, his art is to him eternally faithful."
Par 34 With his final recital in the Albert Hall, a page in concert history was completed, for to many, De Pachmann was more than just a pianist — he was an institution whose Chopin-playing influenced a whole generation of pianists. One has only to remember the way Josef Hofmann played passagework or the way Moritz Rosenthal, whom De Pachmann used to call "my pupil," played Mazurkas, to realize this. In addition, although he died in 1933, we do have his records, and, imperfect though they are, some do suggest something of the glory of his art.
Par 35 Perhaps De Pachmann was right when he said near the end of his life: "I shall not be forgotten. I have made some gramophone records. And when your children and grandchildren ask you, 'Who was this De Pachmann?' you will be able to show them how he played and understood the works of Chopin. And, though they cannot see me, they will hear my voice through my music, and then they will know why all the world worshipped De Pachmann."