The contemporaries of Vladimir de Pachmann remembered the eccentric European pianist of Russian origin by the subtle interpretations of the works of the great composers, extraordinary personal magnetism and unique performing temperament. Playing almost exclusively Chopin, he became one of the most influential interpreters of the composer's work.
Vladimir de Pachmann was born on July 27, 1848 in Odessa, in the family of Vikentiy Pachmann - a teacher of Roman law, a professor at the Vienna University, and a noble Turkish woman captured during the Russian-Turkish wars.
At the time of his son Vladimir birth, Vikentiy Pachmann was already deeply over 50. He was a talented self-taught musician and became the first music teacher for his son Vladimir.
At the age of 18, Vladimir Pachmann entered the Vienna Conservatory, where his teachers were pianist Josef Dachs and composer Anton Bruckner.
Then Pachmann played for some time in the Leipzig orchestra conducted by Carl Reinecke, and from the 1880’s he began a successful solo career, touring in Europe and the USA. From the 1890’s to 1925, he repeatedly gave solo concerts at the New York Carnegie Hall.
In 1884, Pachmann married his student, British pianist Annie Louise Margarita Okey (1865-1952), the couple had three children, but in 1895, the marriage was dissolved.
The old musical dictionaries note: “De Pachmann is a performer of high poetic temperament and subtle feelings, a magnetic personality. His sphere - is compositions that require extremely delicate touch, since he can use with good reason his remarkably velvety sound and airy pianissimo in those works. In this respect, hardly anyone will be able to surpass him, and only a few can match”.
From the very beginning, Vladimir de Pachmann specialized in Chopin. Everyone agreed on this, and he probably knew it, that his style was not suitable for Beethoven or the classics, nor for large-scale works.
According to the memoirs of contemporaries, De Pachmann was distinguished by non-standard behavior both at home and on the stage. He received visitors in some old, tattered robe. “He belonged to Chopin!” De Pachmann exclaimed. When the robe wore out, it was substituted by the same one, also "owned" by Chopin.
People said that his fights with a chair on stage became a legend. At first, he raised it, and then lowered it, fiddling around it ad infinitum, until the public came to despair. Then he ran backstage, from where he returned with a huge book and set it on a chair. It was also uncomfortable. Then he pulled one page out of the book, put it back on the seat and smiled contentedly at the public. Now he was comfortable. As if nothing had happened, he could stop in the middle of the play and ask the public if it liked the performance. Of course, there were cheers and applause. To which de Pachmann told the audience that it was deaf and stupid, that he was playing terribly, but from now on, he will play in the manner that nobody can repeat.
One of the critics called him "Schompenze", combining in this nickname a specific style of behavior with the name of the performed composer. On the other hand, Ferenc Liszt, once being on the same stage with Pachmann, announced to the audience “Today you will hear the true Chopin for the first time”.
During his concerts, De Pachmann spoke up, muttered, grimaced and made speeches. He claimed that everything he did on the stage (besides his playing piano), was realized not for the sake of effect, but in order to express the feelings that overwhelmed his artistic soul. He repeated it so often to reporters that he probably believed it in the end.
Sir George Bernard Shaw was amused: "Mr. Vladimir de Pachmann," he wrote, "presented his famous pantomime to the music of Chopin.
The pianist or “pianissimist,” as he was sometimes called, Vladimir de Pachmann did not belong to any school, had no followers, and wrote laws to himself. Listening to De Pachmann numerous recordings, which he managed to make from 1910 to 1933 (the year of his death), it is difficult to understand how he could have been taken seriously; but it was so, and many considered him the greatest living Chopinist.
Ref: revised article by A. Aleshin