[This article appeared in the program notes enclosed with
A Treasury of Immortal Performances:
Great Pianists of the Past play Chopin
RCA Victor WCT 60, red vinyl 45 rpm records (undated re-issues), as well as the equivalent 33 rpm LP RCA Victor LCT 1038.
This web version is dated 20 April 2001, revised 4 December 2006.
Vladimir de Pachmann is the elder statesman of the group,
chronologically and pianistically.
Chopin was still alive when he was born in Odessa in 1848,
and he grew up to know intimately both Liszt and Anton Rubinstein,
twin founts of modern piano playing.
Both Paderewski and Rosenthal sought him out for counsel as young men in the
'90's in Vienna, and there is a charming story of the latter's attempt to
penetrate Pachmann's way of playing a certain mazurka.
The older man was much too polite to refuse the request,
but put himself down at the piano, bespectacled, with the score before him.
He then proceeded to play the piece in metronomic, studentish fashion,
meanwhile murmuring: "This is very difficult."
Rosenthal eventually got the point, and never again asked for trade secrets.
Pachmann once summed up his view of the composer with whom he is most
closely associated by saying:
"To play Chopin perfectly is to play the piano perfectly."
When English critics once complained of his predilection for the Pole's
music, he began a subsequent recital with a Weber sonata, analyzing,
dissecting, and deprecating it as he played.
He then played three hours of Chopin.
Whether his famous verbal side-remarks (impromptu or otherwise) were mere
whimsicality or calculated showmanship, he never confessed,
but when he murmured "Bravo Pachmann," or
"Chopin should be alive to hear this," no one could say he exaggerated his
He made many farewell tours of America, beginning in 1909,
and actually played for the last time here in 1925, when, at 77, he did
prodigious things. He later retired to Rome, where he died in 1933, at the
patriarchal age of 84.