Vladimir de Pachmann

1848 Born on 27th July in Odessa, Ukraine. Pachmann's father, a teacher at the Lyceum in Odessa and a violinist, teaches the ten-year-old.

1867 Joseph Dachs, a pupil of Czerny, becomes his teacher at the Vienna Conservatorium.

1868 In addition, Pachmann studies composition [NN: more likely counterpoint] with Anton Bruckner.

1869 He plays the Liszt E-flat major and the Rubinstein d minor concertos in Vienna. Having won a silver medal, Pachmann returns to Odessa, gives concerts successfully and teaches.

1870 While he is becoming increasingly dissatisfied with his playing, a concert by Carl Tausig stimulates him to strive for a decided improvement in his technique. He interrupts his concert career almost completely until 1878 and works with Vera Kologrivoff Rubio, a pupil of Chopin. [NN: Harden and Willmes have clearly taken the notion of an association between Pachmann and Rubio from the rumour due to Allan Evans and repeated by his associate Mark Mitchell in Mitchell's book (pages 4 and 211 footnote 11) which Harden and Willmes include in their References. No documentary evidence has been provided for this association, and there is little or no likelihood of its truth; for details see Edward Blickstein and Gregor Benko, Chopin's Prophet: The Life of Pianist Vladimir de Pachmann, Lanham etc., Scarecrow Press, 2013, footnote 8 to Chapter 3.]

1882 New appearances in Vienna and Paris are celebrated as a sensation and secure him a brilliant career in Europe and America.

1884 He marries his pupil Marguerite Oakey, who makes a career as a pianist and also performs with him. The marriage is dissolved in 1892.

1891 He undertakes his first US tour, followed by more until 1894. He makes his debut in London's Royal Albert Hall later, in 1903.

1907 He makes his first records for G&T in London.

1920 After the end of the First World War he lives mainly in Rome, travels to the United States again in 1923 and gives his last concert in New York's Carnegie Hall in 1925. His 110 concerts in that season earned him more than two million dollars.

1927 He makes his last records, for HMV in London.

1933 Pachmann dies on 7th January in Rome.

Vladimir de Pachmann had tremendous success with his concerts, from which he made a lot of money. A large part in that was played by his eccentric appearance, which also attracted those in the audience who were less interested in music.
In the 1960s it was not yet easy to find out about Pachmann's playing, unless you had the opportunity to hear one of his rare shellac records. Only a few were dubbed onto long-playing records. The only source of information that remained was therefore Harold C. Schonberg's book "The Great Pianists". What is described there sounds breathtaking: a pianist who staged his performances, who talked to the audience during the playing, praised himself in successful passages, repeated unsuccessful ones and, as he got older, even interrupted longer pieces and disappeared for a break in the green room. Colleagues feared him as a critical listener; if their rendering displeased him, he came onto the stage and demonstrated to the delighted listeners how to do it "properly" ...
Schonberg judged Pachmann's playing negatively; he relied only on his recordings. Even without knowing Schonberg's description, Pachmann's recordings seem to today's listeners like a mixture of arbitrariness and lack of ability; however, closer studies confirm Walter Niemann's description: "Pachmann re-composed and re-dreamt Chopin. He did so with a velvety touch, a poetic fragrance of sensation, a loose and winged lightness of rhythm, an artistry of the small and refined in the treatment of detail [...] Although he was not a great virtuoso in the technical sense, he was great in the small, in the lyrical, in the thoughtful and poetic."
Pachmann was fixated on Chopin, but he also had in his repertoire almost all the Beethoven sonatas [NN: Mitchell lists 18, one with a question mark, thus not "almost all" of the 32], much Weber, Schumann, Liszt, concertos by Mozart, Beethoven, Henselt, Rubinstein, and many salon pieces. He recorded piano rolls for Aeolian and Welte and later began with gramophone recordings. More than 50 shellacs were made, three of them with speaking by the pianist [NN: actually four with speaking: Chopin Etude op.10/5 (matrix Bb 11763-1); Nocturne op.32/1 (Cc 6259-2); Waltz op.64/1 (Bb 7535-1); the same Waltz (Bb 7535-2)].

Sound recordings


Welte (1906-1927): Bach: Italian Concerto; Chopin: Ballade [NN: op.47], Etude [NN: op.25/2], Impromptu [NN: op.36], (6) Mazurkas etc.; Godowsky: Walzermaske; Henselt: Etude op.13/2 [NN: La Gondola]; Liszt: Rigoletto Paraphrase etc.; Mendelssohn: (3) Songs without Words [NN: only two for Welte: op.53/3 and op.62/1]; [p.540] Mozart: Sonata K 331; Pachmann: Improvisations [NN: only the Sabouroff Polka (La Gondola was already listed)]; Raff: La Fileuse [NN: Raff/Henselt]; Schubert: Moments musicaux [NN: Moment musical op.94/3]; Schumann: Romanze op. 23/3 etc.

Duo-Art [NN: (c.1923-1924)]: Chopin: Ballade [NN: op.47], Etude [NN: op.25/5], Impromptu [NN: op.29], Mazurka [NN: op.33/4] etc. [NN:; Mendelssohn: SWW op.102/4]

Gramophone records:

G&T (1907): Chopin: Barcarolle, Etude, Mazurka, Nocturne etc.; Raff: La Fileuse

Gramophone [NN: (1909)] Chopin: Etude; Liszt: Rigoletto Paraphrase; Mendelssohn: Rondo capriccioso; Raff: La Fileuse

Victor: 1910 [NN: (1911-1912)] Chopin: Ballade etc.; Chopin/Godowsky: Etude op. 10/12; Liszt: Rigoletto Paraphrase; Mendelssohn: (2) Songs without Words; Raff: La Fileuse; Schumann: (2) pieces

Columbia 1915 [NN: 1915-1916]: Brahms: Capriccio op. 76/5; Chopin: Ecossaise, (2) Etudes, Impromptu etc.; Liszt: Liebestraum Nr.3, Polonaise in E major (abbreviated), Rigoletto Paraphrase; Raff: La Fileuse; Schumann: Grillen

Victor: 1920 [NN: 1923-1924]: Chopin: pieces; Schumann: Novellette op. 21/1; Mendelssohn: Frühlingslied; Schumann: (2) Novellettes [NN: only one Novellette, recorded three times, already listed] etc.

HMV 1925 [NN: 1925-1927]: Chopin: (2) Etudes etc.; Mendelssohn: Prelude op.35/1


Walter Niemann: Meister des Klaviers, Berlin 1919 [NN: Masters of the Piano (in German)]

Harold C. Schonberg: The Great Pianists, New York 1963; German translation: Die großen Pianisten, Gütersloh 1965

Mark Mitchell: Vladimir de Pachmann, A Piano Virtuoso's Life and Art, Bloomington 2002 (with discography [NN: by Allan Evans] and list of repertoire) [NN: This book has since been withdrawn.]