Par 1 p.192 When Vladimir de Pachmann came to us to record all seriousness was laid aside and we settled down to an hour's variety show. I would like to know how those old fellows continue to put up with the fatigue of giving recitals. Moritz Rosenthal at the age of 77, Emil Sauer at 80, and Lamond at 78 were still active. At 85 Pachmann departed this life. There was one pianist, Planté, who was close on 100 when he gave his last recital in France. There is no denying that pianists go on long past their prime and live on the glamor of their previous reputations. Most of them have to use a special shallow depth piano and only give a shadow of their quondam masterful performances.
Par 2 During his regular visits to London over the last thirty-five years of his career, Pachmann collected a loyal coterie of ladies who attended all his concerts and sat as near his piano as he would permit. Some of them were genuine survivors from the Victorian Age. When the concert was over these elderly adherents stormed the platform and even invaded the artist's dressing-room. I suspect that more than one of them imagined that he cherished a secret regard for them.
Par 3 Pachmann was a great raconteur, but I feel quite sure that many of his best stories were of purely imaginary incidents. One such must have been that about a Chopin Recital he gave at the Beethovensaal in Berlin to the usual crowded audience. When he walked on the platform he paused, pulled a pair of woollen socks out of his pocket, and reverently laid them on the top of the piano. His admirers gathered round him after the concert and asked for an explanation of this strange ceremony. Pachmann solemnly replied that the socks had belonged to Chopin and that to have them in front of him gave inspiration to his playing. Of course there was a scramble by the p.193 audience to see and touch these sacred relics. "Ha, ha!" laughed the old man, as he told me the story. "They were my own socks."
Par 4 It was always a problem to get him to Hayes, our old recording studios, for he objected to motor cars—a well founded aversion since travelling in one invariably made him seasick. This aversion dated from a motor accident he sustained in America a few years ago. One rainy evening, after a recital in Cincinnati, a car was carrying him and his secretary to a supper party to be given in his honor, when it overturned. As the little pianist was extricated from the wreckage more dead than alive, he is said to have remarked pettishly: "Now we shall be late for supper and they will have eaten all the food."
Par 5 On his last visit he complained bitterly of feeling ill during the short half hour run in a luxurious and well-sprung Daimler. Of all artists Pachmann had the greatest need of an audience to inspire him. Realizing this, when we got to Hayes we marshalled into the studio a score of our prettiest typists, who were thrilled with this unexpected treat. They created the right atmosphere and Pachmann played superbly. He was even allowed to make his little asides on certain passages which he can never play without some comment on their beauty and significance. There was one dramatic nocturne (B-major, Op. 32 No. 1) in which he described as an episode in Chopin's early life when, as a boy, in a cabin in the snowclad forests of Poland, he heard the howling of the wolves at the door and was terror-stricken. This, no doubt, was all Pachmann's imagination, but most descriptive of the piece in question. When his efforts were played back to him from the record he was so delighted that he clapped his hands in praise of his own performance.
Par 6 After the session was over he invited me to dinner at his hotel. While we were waiting he gave me a lavish recital, carefully explaining the secret of his rippling scales, which were the envy of every pianist and the like of which may never be heard again. He had invented a mythical godmother whom he called "Madame Kapushkin." Any difficult question was referred to her and from her he sought advice on all his knotty problems. At the dinner table there was always a place reserved for her and the evening was begun by ceremoniously drinking her health. Pachmann, abstemious in all his other habits, loved Havana cigars. After dinner he would p.194 lounge in an easy chair, smoking one after another and recalling tale after tale of his extraordinary career.
Par 7 Pachmann was the "Peter Pan of the Piano," and that satirical wit, Godowsky, had many stories about him. Four celebrities: Godowsky, Arbós, Kreisler, and Pachmann met in New York at a luncheon which developed into a Festival of Self-Praise. Warmed with good fellowship and wine, the little rogue began: "Well, friends, there are four great musical geniuses, myself, Godowsky,"—he paused while his friends waited to hear the conclusion of the whole matter—"and Bach and Beethoven."