Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line




Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Pachmann (1848-1933) - the mythic pianist. 1907-1927 recordings
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Nocturne in E minor Op. 72/1
Nocturne in D flat Op. 27/2
Nocturne in F Op. 15/1
Nocturne in G Op. 37/2
Valse in C sharp minor Op. 64/2
Mazurka in A flat Op. 50/2
Mazurka in F sharp minor Op. 59/3
Mazurka in A minor Op. 67/4
Mazurka in C Op. 33/3
Impromptu in A flat Op. 29
Etude in E Op. 10/3
Etude in G flat Op. 10/5
Etude in C minor Op. 10/12 arr. Godowsky for left hand
Etude in E minor Op. 25/5
Ballade in A flat Op. 47 – second half only
Prelude in D flat Op. 28/15
Prelude in D minor Op. 28/24
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)

Prelude in E minor Op. 35/1
Venetian Gondola Song Op. 30/6
Spinning Song Op. 67/4
Joachim RAFF (1822-1882)

La Fileuse Op. 157/2
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

Novelette in F Op. 21/1
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Capriccio in C sharp minor Op. 76/5
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Polonaise No. 2 in E – second half only
Vladimir de Pachmann (piano)
Recorded 1907-27
ARBITER 129 [77.47]

From the G&Ts of 1907 to the Victors of 1927 the troublesome genius of Vladimir de Pachmann lives once again in Arbiter’s well-chosen compilation. His vertiginous rise to fame and his equally precipitate decline are the stuff of legend, no less so than his concert antics, his audience-lecturing and indeed record-buying lecturing (one of the famed "music and comment" discs is included here, a late HMV). Pachmann followed such as Anton Rubinstein as one of the titans of the keyboard. He was known and judged primarily for his Chopin and though he could point to a reasonably large active repertoire it’s certainly true that recording companies valued him to a large degree for Chopin. But even by the time he made the first of these discs critical opinion had begun to turn against him, to tire of him and the vaudevillian antics that so debased his talents but so enlivened the recital circuit. Such excesses and eccentricities were components of his external nature; they masked a singular, erratic but at heart exceptionally sensitive musician.

One can best characterise Pachmann’s playing by noting that these discs fuse digital failings, sometimes acute ones, with erratic rhythm and voicings but also with glimpses of a wonderfully singing tone and eloquent and reflective musicianship. The failures are many and often perplexing but there are moments when the clouds part and one can, for a brief moment, see a once dazzling talent still at work. The late, 1927 recording of the E minor Nocturne – remember that Pachmann was fifty-nine when he first recorded and in 1927 he was 79 – has far too subdued a left hand and also moments of loss of structural control. The tone itself is frequently beautiful but it’s no longer allied to commensurate acuity of span or, to be fair, digital flexibility. The D flat Nocturne from two years earlier – an early electric – is chaotic. When most pressed technically he resorts to uninflected rushing and the whole thing is a real mess. The extremes of his rubato usage can be gauged from the 1907 G&T of the C sharp minor Valse op. 64/2 but the A flat Impromptu, from 1915, redeems things – finely and persuasively played. We are then immediately plunged into the next track, the 1912 unpublished Etude in E. This isn’t the only unpublished performance – the 1911 Mazurkas are similarly unpublished – but certainly one can but agree with the Victor testing panel with regard to the Etude. It’s fascinating to hear Pachmann rush at precisely those moments he shouldn’t, to hear the serio-comic pecking articulation, the technical flurries, the unpoetic, tough, utterly externalised and generally inept traversal of the piece.

Those unfamiliar with him will either delight to or be appalled by the comments he makes during the course of a recorded performance – the G flat Etude receives the treatment here, to generally hilarious effect I always find. Yet he can still surprise, as with a daringly slow tempo for the Etude in E minor Op 25/5 and the sheer eloquent power of his 1912 Ballade in A flat (or part of it, there wasn’t room for the whole thing on the original Victor). His Mendelssohn Prelude is an admirable performance, showing him, on a good day in 1927, still capable of accuracy, rhythmic control and impressive musicality. The terracing of dynamics is especially noteworthy. He is fine in the Venetian Gondola Song – a real romantic performance – and even when it comes to a recital morceaux such as Raff’s evergreen La Fileuse, Pachmann still stops to bring out those middle voicings.

The transfers have had to contend with some worn copies. There are the perhaps inevitable and attendant bumps and swishes - the scuffs and chugging on the Chopin A flat Ballade, a 1912 Victor, for example, are quite strong. Elsewhere Arbiter has successfully contained some forte blasting in the 1912 Victor Nocturne in G. The G&Ts sound pretty well here – the aural distractions are minor, in fact; the music and the performances are the thing. The notes are excellent and are by Pachmann’s biographer, Mark Mitchell. So, yes, uneven, eccentric, frequently impulsive, often in technical decline but still, on occasion, able to extract delicacy and eloquence from scores that had been part of his repertoire for upwards of forty years or more.

Jonathan Woolf



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