An Eccentric Artiste

Isle of Wight Observer April 1, 1893

M Pachmann’s conduct was eccentric enough when he paid a visit to Ryde a week or so ago. When he came on the platform and sat down and commenced running his fingers up and down the keys. “Bah! Nairvous,” he exclaimed, “Put dem lights down!” He waited for a second and began again, but, as none of those composing the front seats of audience seemed to think it their duty to jump on the platform and extinguish the gas, he shouted “Veel no von put out ze gas?”

Eventually the hall keeper came, and there was some distraction caused by his mounting chairs, and then the gas was extinguished. The gifted player even then seemed anything but tranquil, and once when he apparently did not touch the correct note he said “sac-r-r-ree-e-e-e!” in a very audible tone of voice.

Then he quieted down and managed to get through a difficult passage to his satisfaction, and looking around as if to say “What do you think of that?” caught the eye of a lady who smiled and nodded. That put him in a good humour. He played to that lady the rest of the evening. Chopin’s music flowed dreamily from the piano, quite a new revelation to many, and the audience warmly applauded. Pachmann was all right after that. His face beamed, and after the performance he favoured the local manager with a stage embrace. “Oh, I do like ze Ryde people,” he said enthusiastically, “They is ze nicest people I play to for very long time.”

Photograph of  Vladimir Pachmann
Photograph of Vladimir Pachmann

At Southsea, however, he was in a very bad humour. The Portland Hall was not crowded, and they applauded in the wrong places, and we understand he was so much annoyed that he threw in a little musical instruction gratis. After playing very softly and sweetly, he informed them “Zat ees piano, and this (he added, giving a tremendous crash at the keys) is forte.” But all this was capped by what he has just done at Weston-Super-Mare. He was recalled after a piece of Paderewski’s, and in announcing the title of his encore piece he is reported to have said, “Paderewski is de most modest artiste dat I have never (sic) seen; I myself am de most unmodest artist except Hans von Bulow. He is more unmodest zan I am.”

Vladimir Pachmann (1848 – 1933), an acknowledged top player of the time,  was renowned for his eccentric style. Wikipedia reveals that George Bernard Shaw once reported that Pachmann ‘gave his well-known pantomimic performance, with accompaniments by Chopin.’

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