Par 1 The modern process recordings of Vladimir de Pachmann (we always called him simply "Pappy") were all made when past his seventy-eighth year. He gave up travelling and giving recitals during the last five years of his life. The routine of concert tours had become a habit and the fact that he lived happily for five years after his retirement is a great tribute to the care and love of the Pallotelli family, with whom he lived at the Villa Jojia, Fabriano, near Rome. Pallotelli first came to de Pachmann as a pupil, remained with him in the capacity of manager and secretary and finished by adopting him when one by one the old gentleman's sons and relatives disappeared and he was left alone.
Par 2 I remember when Landon Ronald first brought him to the City Road Studio, as a short, stubby man just sixty years of age but even then a Pagliaccio who amused us with his total lack of seriousness and strong desire to make us laugh. He started on the long Paraphrase of "Rigoletto," forgetting the stopping place and losing himself in the performance. Of course he wrung his hands and stamped his feet when he had to re-play the piece and generally felt sorry for himself. [A recording by Pachmann of Liszt's Rigoletto Paraphrase is dated 22 June 1909, matrix 3154f, G&T 05516.]
Par 3 Usually pianists are sober people and especially in the recording room they are serious, heaving a sigh of relief at the end of each performance. Not so de Pachmann. He liked to extract every ounce of fun out of the job and looked beaming at the end, waiting to be patted on the back and called "Good Pappy."
Par 4 He was aIways a light player, after the French school, and it is no wonder his pre-war records were not astonishingly good. That old process needed more power behind the fingers. For the same reason his delicate touch made beautiful records when recorded by the electrical process introduced in 1925.
Par 5 After the war he was active principally in America, where he had an important contract with the Baldwin Piano Company to use only their instruments. Through their intensive sales drives and associating great names like de Pachmann with their product, Baldwin pianos were sold in great quantities and were known all over the States. They manufactured just for him a shallow light touch instrument, which they transported from town to town, complete with piano tuner and publicity man. They formed a merry gallery to "Pappy" and his pranks. In the autumn of each year they usually struck London, and Lionel Powell would secure an apartment in Great Portland Street for their three months sojourn. Here the little man, assisted by Pallotelli, enjoyed being host, eager to play or give an impromptu lesson. He would show how his short, thick, stubby hand could barely span a tenth and how he fingered a difficult passage and played those rippling scales. In this respect Josef Hoffman and Moriz Rosenthal resemble him, both having small hands and playing on specially constructed pianos to accommodate this handicap. Their forsaking the standard studio piano causes worries to the recording engineer, who has to carry out a whole new series of experiments and studies before satisfactory records are achieved.
Par 6 Especially merry were the suppers that followed each of de Pachmann's Queen's Hall concerts. Lionel Powell the impressario and Arkel the accountant would be present in high spirits, which the invariably sold-out house stimulated. Then "Pappy" would beam on us while retaining his place as the centre of attraction. Here the standing joke was the empty place consecrated to a mythical Madame Kaplatsky, to whom we were all formally introduced, to whom toasts were drunk and all disputes referred for "her" decision. Whether or not she ever existed I don't know, but we got a lot of fun out of the hoax.
Par 7 Pallotelli was short, thick, voluble, animated and energetic like his master and made for him a good foil that kept the party lively. He was the one who told me that de Pachmann's first [and only] wife was his pupil Maggie Oakey [Okey], an Australian and very talented. There were two sons both settled in France. After divorce she married Labori the defender of Dreyfus. De Pachmann's father was a Russian (Odessa) and his mother a Turk born in Odessa.
Par 8 I had often spotted Arkel in the platform seats, close to the pianists Horowitz, Cortot, Gieseking, Backhaus, de Pachmann. He was one of their most faithful supporters and as he nearly always occupied the same position close to the left hand, a little in front, he must have gone to a lot of trouble to secure well in advance this favourite seat. After the recital he never failed to go behind and join the group of admirers who flock to that sort of informal reception to greet the artiste. This is where I first met him and learned from his eager questions that he was simply an enthusiast for the piano and pianists. Later I was to discover he was himself no mean performer. I lost track of him for many years but casually met him again in the small XIV century cafe at Winslow, when I was an evacuee from London during the War. He regaled me with many tales of his musical contacts. Dreamily he told me of a business visit to Bradford in the early twenties. A de Pachmann recital was announced and going to the ticket office he carefully selected his favourite seat near the pianist, on the platform. To make sure that the seat was correctly numbered he called at the hall in the afternoon and entering the deserted building he sought the platform and made sure his seat was there. He then noticed that the piano was in place — a beautiful Steinway grand. Reverently he tried to lift the lid and, to his joy, found it was unlocked. What a temptation, that row of glistening white ivories; never in his life had he played on a full-size grand. He played a few arpeggios and chords. What a lovely sound, what beauty of tone in that warm concert hall whose vastness seemed to mellow the tones. What a fortunate pianist to have at his disposal so fine an instrument. No doubt it was placed there by Barrow & Haslit, the big music dealers, since in those days grands were not sent around to towns but were procured by the concert agents from the local dealer, and that is why it had been placed on the platform and the lid not locked. Not always were these local instruments first class, more often they were a disappointment to the visiting artiste.
Par 9 In a dream he left the hall, impatient for the coming of the evening and the concert. Early he took his seat in the crowded hall of expectant people. The artiste was late, but after a silent pause an altercation in the wings of the stage became audiable [sic — audible]. A peevish, irritated voice with a foreign accent was heard and a little dumpy man backed out into the open, still haranguing an unseen somebody in the wings, similar to the entrance of the comedian Dan Leno in the old Tivoli days. He stumbled and caught himself in the rough boards of the platform. "Yes, now I remember this rotten floor last year. I told you to have it repaired — have it repaired for me the great de Pachmann. You did not do it. I am the great de Pachmann, why do you treat the great de Pachmann in this way." All this while still addressing the unseen and with his back to the audience. Then, turning to the public he threw them a surly nod and still scowling he seated himself before the instrument. A minute to compose himself and he let his fingers caress the keys and then came those few soft arpeggios and chords the de Pachmann fans knew so well. It seemed to calm him and Arkel heard him say "but the piano is beautiful."
Par 10 The de Pachmann recital was to take place at 7.30, but the train arrived late at Bradford station. Two excited little stout men rushed to the entrance, preceded by a porter laden with handbags. The passengers were de Pachmann and his secretary Pallotelli, and the porter dropped the bags and disappeared. As other porters came along excitedly de Pachmann would say to them "I am the great de Pachmann, quick, get me a taxi or we will be late for the concert!!" and they would rush off in search of a conveyance. No taxi came and still they waited, while from around the corner swung a noisy steam-roller approaching in their direction. Pallotelli said: "Pappy, here's your taxi." De Pachmann angrily turned on him, paused a while and then burst into laughter.
Par 11 He died at the Pallotelli's home five years after his last English tour which took place October, November and December, 1928.