[This excerpt appeared in Chance Encounters
by A. D. Hope
(Alec Derwent Hope, 1907-2000), Melbourne University Press, 1992, pages 150-151.
It is reproduced here by kind arrangement with the Licensor, The Estate of AD Hope c/- Curtis Brown (Aust) Pty Ltd.
This web version is dated 3 March 2008, revised 2 April 2016.
by A. D. Hope
The only other recollection that comes to me as suitable for
these memoirs is a performance by Vladimir von Pachmann,
the eccentric if not actually rather mad Russian-born pianist
whom I heard at Oxford, though when I cannot recall . Pachmann
usually had a keeper with him at his concerts as it was
rumoured that he was liable to fits of rage in which he became
violent. The keeper of course lurked off stage but on this
occasion he appeared. One of the signs that Pachmann, if not
mad, was a bit 'touched' was that he had the habit of talking to
his audience while playing. For a large part of his life he played
almost nothing but Chopin but he played it in a way that was not
only learned but extraordinarily effective in his rendering.
He came on the stage smiling and talking to his audience.
Sometimes if he didn't like the look of them he would refuse to
play and this was when the keeper was needed.
On this occasion it was an in-between event. After playing for
a while he suddenly stopped and announced that he could not
go on. 'Something is wrong in this audience', he announced.
'Something that is against me!' Then he looked at one elderly
woman sitting in the front row. 'You, you are simpatica', he
said, 'I will play for you alone. Will you come up here and sit
beside me while I play?' It was at this point that the 'keeper'
appeared in the wings. First he talked to Pachmann. Then
shook his head and came down to the audience to talk to the
lady in the front seat, who was plainly terrified at what
confronted her. He prevailed and she was led up to the stage where
Pachmann, beaming, holding both her hands, seated her by
himself. 'I play only for you', he said. He took up the Chopin
Prelude he had broken off and continued his exposition with
wonderful grace and insight and then suddenly he stopped.
Turning to his 'confidant' he said: 'That is so beautiful a
passage, that I shall play it again. Listen and see if you do not agree.'
She nodded and from that moment on we all had the most
wonderful interpretation that we had ever listened
to. What the unknown and quite inoffensive lady who had to
endure this choice between an agonising experience and a
violent explosion of violence
, must have gone through I have no
idea. But I would not have missed it for anything. The Chopin