The season was artistically, if not
financially, successful, and thereafter
the orchestra was frequently engaged by the National Sunday League and by
eminent instrumentalists and singers such as Melba, Kubelik, and Pachmann.
I give here a further list of eminent artists who played or sang for
between 1900 and 1914 (excluding those mentioned already).
Pianists. . . . Vladimir de Pachmann . . .
. . .
A recipient of the Gold Medal, in January 1916, was Vladimir de Pachmann.
The directors then decided to commemorate the centenary of Beethoven's birth
by having a medal struck, bearing his effigy, for occasional presentation
to musicians of distinguished eminence; the medal was struck by Messrs. John
Pinches from a design by L. C. Wyon, who
made use of the Schaller bust in modelling the head. It is of 18 carat gold
and is 1 7/8 inches in diameter (or 75 lines, in medallists' parlance);
the obverse shows a portrait of Beethoven in profile, looking to the right,
with the lettering LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN placed around the head;
the reverse, a laurel wreath, within which is the inscription:
The recipient's name and the year of award are engraved
on the edge of the medal.
. . .
The awards during the Queen's Hall period were as follows:
. . .
1916 Vladimir de Pachmann
At recitals we were apt to see those members of High Society who are not
genuinely interested in music but who cannot resist the attraction of a
glamorous and much-publicized personality. "There are people," says
Mr. Blom in an Essay on Performance and Listening, "who will listen to
anything from a prima donna who has to have half Scotland Yard on the stage
of Covent Garden to watch her jewels, from a fiddler who has swum the Channel,
or from a pianist who has married first a peer and then a prize-fighter and
is the mother of triplets."
These are the people who would crowd a Pachmann recital, not to hear his
exquisite playing of Chopin, but in the hope of being entertained by his
naïve eccentricities on the platform; . . .
. . . By and large, however, the 'London Music Festivals'
do constitute to some extent the highlights of London music-making,
and it seems worth while to give a fairly detailed account of all such as were
given, either wholly or in part, at Queen's Hall.
The first of these took place in May 1899 and was organized by Robert
Newman. Two orchestras took part, the Queen's Hall and the Lamoureux;
Paderewski played the 'Emperor' Concerto and the Chopin in F minor;
Pachmann played Mendelssohn's in D minor; . . .
Another great pianist of this period was Vladimir de Pachmann, who first played to a
London audience in 1882. Pachmann was certainly the most eccentric personality
that has ever appeared on the Queen's Hall platform. To begin with, his recitals never
started punctually. At last, when the audience were beginning to get impatient, the
queer little figure, with its shock of rather dirty-looking grey hair, would amble gently
on to the platform. He would survey the piano with the delight of a child presented
with an expensive new toy, and then followed a good deal of by-play with the music
stool, whose height and distance from the piano had to be most minutely adjusted;
next the keyboard had to be carefully dusted with a silk handkerchief, and after all
this had been completed to his satisfaction Pachmann might begin to play. In the
middle of playing he would emit loud chuckles of satisfaction and would address
sundry remarks to the audience, mostly of a self-congratulatory character. In spite of
such eccentricities (some of them strongly suggestive of Grock and other great
clowns of the music-hall), Pachmann's playing, especially of Chopin, was supremely
beautiful, and my own view is that his odd behaviour at the piano was not to be
attributed to conceit or to a conscious desire to 'play to the gallery', but rather to a
childlike and perfectly genuine delight in what he was doing. When well in his
seventies, this astonishing old gentleman announced that he had perfected a new
and improved system of technique which involved the re-fingering and re-study of
the whole of his repertoire. As a result, he claimed his fingers were still loose and
pliable, instead of being muscle-bound and stiff as would be expected at his age. The
basis of this new method was that it avoided the use of the thumb on the black keys,
thus eliminating strain on the wrist. His last Queen's Hall recital was in 1925, when he
was nearly seventyseven. He died in 1933.