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[This web version is dated 27 August 2003, revised 20 September 2008 .]

Review of: Vladimir de Pachmann:
A Piano Virtuoso's Life and Art

by Mark Mitchell, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 2002

by Nigel Nettheim (©2003)

About October 2006, the book reviewed here was withdrawn from print by the publisher, who wrote to Edward Blickstein that it "doesn't sufficiently acknowledge the intellectual debt it owes to your prior unpublished manuscript". Full details of the withdrawal are available at

Par 1 Why this book is uninteresting:
This book is uninteresting because:

(i) it appears to be largely derived, with very little acknowledgement, from the life-time work of Edward Blickstein, which it is hoped will soon be published, possibly on the Internet;
(ii) it is partly put together directly from the materials on my own web site, with no acknowledgement of the site;
(iii) it is partly derived from a variety of Internet sources apparently not checked for, and sometimes lacking in, accuracy;
(iv) the book's jacket mentions no qualifications of the author for the task, and specifically no musical qualifications;
(v) the discussion connecting the various reproduced materials confirms the author's lack of qualifications for the task;
(vi) the book contains many factual errors;
(vii) documentation of sources is sometimes not fully or accurately given;
(viii) the book's discography is limited to 78s and just one CD of many that exist, and no mention is made of the elaborate discography / rollography freely available on my web site;
(ix) there are serious gaps in the book's coverage of the available resources;
(x) a very long period of work is required to write a good biography, and it is obvious that in this case grossly inadequate time has been devoted to the task by the author.
Par 2 Why I am nevertheless reviewing this book:
I am reviewing this book because:

(a) The many errors and inadequacies demand correction for the sake of the historical record. My web site on Pachmann is devoted to making freely available web versions of original documents that may then be consulted by anyone interested. Those documents themselves naturally contain many errors and I have not attempted the huge task of identifying them all, but when they are given more permanence in book form they may do much harm. Therefore I will try to list the main errors appearing in this book, and I will add to that list over time.

(b) There are implications for the publishing world. That a University Press should allow itself to be associated with such a product suggests a very poor outlook for academic publishing.

(c) By drawing attention to the inadequate results of the attempt of an amateur to write this book, it may be possible to make clear the requirements for a satisfactory result, so that a future author may be able to do justice to the task. In particular, proper research methods may be made clear.

Par 3 Limitations of this review:

1. As Edward Blickstein's material has not yet been published, there are many cases in which I can not be sure whether my comments apply primarily to that material or to the reviewed book. It would not be appropriate to criticise Blickstein's material, as he had not processed it into final form for publication. I have nevertheless had no alternative but to comment on the material now in print, no matter how it came to be published.

2. Limitations on my available time mean that this review will probably remain quite incomplete.
Par 4 Method followed for this review:
As the task of attempting to deal with all the inadequacies of the reviewed book is by no means the most productive one to which I can devote my time, I propose to add to the present review only as time permits. This review is therefore expected to be in progress for some time. The scheme of the review will be set up early and fleshed out over time.
Par 5 Summary of the table and discussion by category:

(P) Proof-reading:
Errors pointed out here are significant, because the reader's confidence in the whole of the book's contents is reduced when there is evidence of inadequate proof-reading.

(F) Factual errors:
Both the name and birth date given in the book for Pachmann's wife Maggie are wrong, according to her birth certificate (available elsewhere on this site). If the author wished to dispute the details given in her birth certificate, he should at least have discussed it. He evidently did not even access her birth certificate, despite the book's jacket saying that "particular emphasis is placed on . . . Maggie Okey . . .".

(S) Style:
Occasionally US usage may differ from my usage.

(D) Documentation:
It is known that Blickstein's manuscript was not fully documented. It seems likely that, when taking some of Blickstein's undocumented material, Mitchell has allowed it to remain undocumented. The mis-attribution of an article to A. M. Diehl (pp.31, 211) constitutes a gross lack of diligence in research.

(G) Gaps in coverage of the available resources:

(G1) Journals:
The Times of London is quoted only once, on page 24. This is a large gap in the coverage, because Pachmann spent a lot of time in London.

(G2) Other resources:

(I) Index:
The book's index is very poor.

(M) Inadequacies based upon lack of knowledge of music:

(N) Negative comments not elsewhere included:
Layout: to print the many long quotations straightforwardly would have made the book seem to consist mostly of quotations, so they are crudely interspersed with differently formatted material (e.g. p.179 lines -3 to -4).

(+) Positive comments:

TABLE OF DETAILS (in progress...)
(Clicking on a column header sorts the table on that column.)

The categories used (more of which may be added later) and their identifying letters are:
(P) Proof-reading errors;
(F) Factual errors;
(D) Inadequate documentation;
(G) Gaps in coverage of the available resources;
(M) Inadequacies based upon lack of knowledge of music;
(I) Inadequate index;
(S) Poor style;
(N) Negative comments not elsewhere included;
(+) Positive comments.

pvi P"Mi-chael" -> "Michael"
pvi P"Nett-heim" -> "Nettheim"
p003P"he is to have said" -> "he is supposed to have said"
p023F"At one of Carlotta Patti's soirées, he met the prodigies Jeanne and Louise Douste..." -> This is a mis-reading by Mitchell of the book "The Little Doustes" p.88 paragraph 3. Pachmann met the Doustes when they visited Paris, not when he visited Patti.
p027F"Louise" -> "Louisa" for Maggie's second name, according to her birth certificate.
p028F"15 December" -> "14 December" for Maggie's birth date, according to her birth certificate.
p031DAn article is here attributed to A. M. Diehl. Inspection of the original shows that Diehl was the author not of the cited article but of the one that follows it, one which has nothing to do with Pachmann. As a further check I have examined the two books by Alice Mangold Diehl (1844-1912): Musical Memories, London, Richard Bentley, 1897; and The True Story of My Life, London, John Lane, 1908; it appears that neither book contains any mention of Pachmann.
p059P"ame" -> "âme"
p084S"a big do" -> "an important event"
p087S"Pachmann do" -> "Pachmann play"
p129S"gotten" -> "received"
p132S"know if" -> "know whether"
p132S"panned out" -> "succeeded"
p136P"diffuse" -> "defuse"
p139S"In a very real sense," -> [delete this unnecessary cliché]
p146S"made extra cash off" -> "derived monetary benefit on the basis of"
p157S"extasy" -> "ecstasy"
p157S"unique" -> "special"
p172S"Con R. Graeber" -> "Conrad R. Graeber"
p178P"Pachmanns's" -> "Pachmann's"
p180S"sic; unless" -> [Mitchell misunderstands the meaning and use of sic]
p185S"He has bade" -> "He has bidden"
p192S"Indian rubber" -> "indiarubber" or "india rubber"
p210P"Cherkassy" -> "Cherkassky"
p210P"Grosses fugue" -> "Grosse Fuge" [Mitchell's use of "Grosses" indicates that neither he nor his editor or proof-reader has heard of this famous work.]
p211D[See p.031 re A. M. Diehl]
p213P"Eutschwundenes" -> "Entschwundenes"
p218P"Plante" -> "Planté"