Chopin's Prophet: The Life of Pianist Vladimir de Pachmann and over 2 million other books are available for Amazon Kindle . Learn more

Sign in to turn on 1-Click ordering.
More Buying Choices
Have one to sell? Sell yours here
Sorry, this item is not available in
Image not available for
Image not available

Start reading Chopin's Prophet: The Life of Pianist Vladimir de Pachmann on your Kindle in under a minute.

Don't have a Kindle? Get your Kindle here, or download a FREE Kindle Reading App.

Chopin's Prophet: The Life of Pianist Vladimir De Pachmann [Hardcover]

Edward Blickstein , Gregor Benko

RRP: £49.26
Price: £46.59 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
You Save: £2.67 (5%)
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
Only 2 left in stock (more on the way).
Dispatched from and sold by Amazon. Gift-wrap available.
Want it tomorrow, 31 Oct.? Choose Express delivery at checkout. Details


Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle Edition £44.26  
Hardcover £46.59  

Book Description

5 Sep 2013
Vladimir de Pachmann was perhaps history's most notorious pianist. Widely regarded as the greatest player of Chopin's works, Pachmann embedded comedic elements-be it fiddling with his piano bench or flirting with the audience-within his classic piano recitals to alleviate his own anxiety over performing. But this wunderkind, whose admirers included Franz Liszt and music critic James Gibbons Huneker (who cheekily nicknamed Pachmann the "Chopinzee"), would by the turn of the century find his antics on the concert stage scorned by critics and out of fashion with listeners, burying his pianistic legacy. In Chopin's Prophet: The Life of Pianist Vladimir de Pachmann, the first biography ever of this remarkable figure, Edward Blickstein and Gregor Benko explore the private and public lives of this master pianist, surveying his achievements within the context of contemporary critical opinion and preserving his legacy as one of the last great Romantic pianists of his time. Chopin's Prophet paints a colorful portrait of classical piano performance and celebrity at the turn of the 20th century while also documenting Pachmann's attraction to men, which ultimately ended his marriage but was overlooked by his audiences. As the authors illustrate, Pachmann lived in a radically different world of music making, one in which eccentric personality and behavior fit into a much more flexible, and sometimes mysterious, musical community, one where standards were set not by certified experts with degrees but by the musicians themselves. Detailing the evolution of concert piano playing style from the era of Chopin until World War I, Chopin's Prophet tells the fantastic and true story of an artist of and after his time.

Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought

Product details

More About the Authors

Discover books, learn about writers, and more.

Product Description


This book explains all. Even those with only a marginal interest in the piano and pianists will be entertained by the procession of eye-popping anecdotes in this portrait of a monstrous ego, for the story of Pachmann's life and career is diverting to say the least... the book is superbly written and edited. Gramophone As one of the most significant pianists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Vladimir de Pachmann (1848- 1933), if he is now remembered at all, has also been one of the most unfairly maligned. This long-awaited study of his life, career, and pianism has been some 50 years in preparation and should accomplish a great deal toward a proper reassessment of Pachmann's role in the annals of piano Playing...I highly recommend this volume to library collections and pianophiles. Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association

About the Author

Edward Blickstein studied piano with George Halprin, a pupil of Busoni and Joseffy. He has written a musical comedy that was produced, and he went on to play a few recitals, as well as lecture and write about Pachmann in New York. Gregor Benko is the cofounder of the International Piano Archives, now a special collection at the Michelle Smith Performing Arts Library at the University of Maryland.

Customer Reviews

There are no customer reviews yet on
5 star
4 star
3 star
2 star
1 star
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Long-awaited, superbly written, exceptionally valuable 25 Oct 2013
By Donald Manildi - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
We are fortunate that this book, whose genesis goes back at least 50 years, is now available. Vladimir de Pachmann is one of the most fascinating figures in the annals of pianism, but he has been badly maligned in some quarters owing to various aspects of his unique and complex personality. His recorded legacy, spanning only the last 20 or so years of his career, cannot and does not give us anything approaching a full picture of his artistry--only occasional glimpses. (His complete recordings can be heard on a 4-CD set from the Marston label in excellent transfers.)

Edward Blickstein, a skilled pianist and writer, has exhaustively researched Pachmann's life and career and has thoroughly documented his findings in this volume. Blickstein reveals that when at the height of his powers, Pachmann could mesmerize audiences with the extreme subtlety and sensitivity of his playing, characterized by infinite nuance and tonal beauty. First-hand accounts from critics, listeners, and fellow pianists repeatedly confirm that impression. Although he tended to specialize in Chopin, his repertoire did embrace many other styles and composers. Pachmann's reputation began to take on some new directions when he began adding spoken commentaries while playing as well as unpredictable stage behavior. Audiences began anticipating the vaudeville aspect of his appearances as much as his pianism per se. It was at this time that the American critic James Huneker dubbed Pachmann "The Chopinzee" for his simian antics while performing. Yet numerous colleagues, such as Leopold Godowsky, invariably stood up for Pachmann and had almost limitless admiration for his interpretations.

Very much a part of this book is Blickstein's ability to place Pachmann in a logical context among pianists born and trained in the 19th century, especially those who came under the influence of Liszt. Blickstein thoroughly examines various attitudes and approaches toward the interpretation of Chopin, giving us an illuminating, much-needed perspective on that topic. Further credit goes to Gregor Benko for his collaboration
with Blickstein in research, writing, and seeing the final text through to publication. Their treatment of their chosen subject will clearly be regarded as definitive.

A word must be added about a previous volume devoted to Pachmann, published by Indiana University Press. The author, Mark Mitchell, was found to have lifted, without attribution or permission, large portions from Blickstein's then-unpublished manuscript. Under the threat of legal action, IU Press was compelled to withdraw the book, to destroy all existing copies, and to send a letter of apology to Blickstein. That unfortunate venture can now be relegated to a footnote of publishing history, while all serious pianophiles can finally gain proper appreciation of Pachmann's life and his contribution to pianistic history thanks to the impressive work of Blickstein and Benko.

Highly recommended.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding Vladimir de Pachmann, Eccentric Pianist 25 Nov 2013
By Richard Mathisen - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
About the new biography of Vladimir de Pachmann, "Chopin's Prophet," by Edward Blickstein and Gregor Benko:

First, it's a great read! Anyone interested in the piano and pianists will love it.

Second, it's an important book for pianists. Whether you hate de Pachmann or love him, his story provides an essential context to help understand the history of classical pianists from Liszt to the 1930's.

Third, Pachmann is not well-served by his recordings from the end of his long career, when his art and his mental balance had deteriorated. The biography helps to provide a better context for understanding his crazy antics. I disapprove of his talking to his audience or himself during concerts, but I can at least understand it now.

Fourth, the anecdotes are hilarious! Everyone will have their favorites. Mine is when the conductor Nikisch decided to turn the tables on de Pachmann with a prank in which he appointed a page-turner for de Pachmann who spoke mock Chinese. Whenever de Pachmann spoke during the concert, the page-turner responded in mock Chinese! Or de Pachmann being annoyed by the British habit of a 5 pm tea break. So when de Pachmann was playing a Chopin Etude and 5 pm arrived, he stopped in the middle of the piece and, to the shock of the British audience, an attendant brought in a tray of tea, de Pachmann calmly had his tea, and then he continued on with the Etude as if nothing had happened!

Fifth, Edward Blickstein has a distinctive authorial voice, which comes across well. Gregor Benko, the co-author, says he tried to preserve it and my evaluation is that he succeeded. It doesn't sound like Benko! In general, Blickstein is a big fan of de Pachmann, but he also recognizes his shortcomings. Blickstein is positive and generous to de Pachmann, but sometimes rather gullible. Blickstein repeats several stories about compliments that Franz Liszt allegedly paid to de Pachmann, which I find annoying, given that de Pachmann was the only source and he was a notorious embellisher of the truth.

Sixth, the book has 30 pages of pictures which are helpful and an annotated discography of de Pachmann, mentioning Ward Marston's 4-CD collection of the Complete de Pachmann.

Finally, as someone who purchased the previous Mitchell biography of de Pachmann, since withdrawn, I can say that the Blickstein one is far superior. I don't care much about the alleged plagiarism of the Mitchell book. The sin of the Mitchell book, in my mind, was that it was poorly written and difficult to read.

I encourage anyone who wants to understand the history and tradition of the great classical pianists to read this book. While ostensibly about de Pachmann, it helps the reader to understand de Pachmann within the entire cultural milieu of which he was a weird but essential part.

Richard Mathisen
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must-reading for musicians - it turns Romantic piano history on its ear 23 Nov 2013
By Michael Richard Brown - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Ours is an age that purports to dispense with canons, that mocks and jibes at and plays with them - anything is permitted but the emergence of some kind of canon based on a deep familiarity with an art's history, informed by deep taste and sustained by profound commitment - and the debate of others profoundly committed. The celebrated senior music critic of the N.Y. Times Harold C. Schonberg, with his 1964 book "The Great Pianists" gave Romantic piano playing the great boon of the beginning of an historical canon, from Cristofori onward. Schonberg, like any critic who extends himself past the noting of date and names, had his biases and blind-spots and hobby-horses, and perhaps no figure in his book is ridden quite so hard as the - in Schonberg's view - simianly clownlike, childish, near-incompetent Vladimir de Pachmann (1848-1933).

The present book, "Chopin's Prophet," co-created by music historian Edward Blickstein and the co-founder of the International Piano Archives, Gregor Benko (with whom I am friendly), is a full-length biography of de Pachmann's interwoven professional and personal lives. It is the first such (aside from an scandalous now-recalled book that cribbed Blickstein's work) ever, and it recovers the life of a figure so radically different, even in his very last and most eccentric years, to Schonberg's weak-willed and erratic foil to the power players - Busoni, Friedman, Rosenthal - that author clearly favored, that it is perhaps the most serious challenge to the structure of Schonberg's canon since 1964.

As documented by numerous - at times almost over-numerous - direct citations from contemporaneous accounts, de Pachmann emerges as a consummate craftsman of the piano in every regard, including his platform style - which was far less disconnected from his interpretive philosophy than was ever supposed. Here was a man who in his twenties had the discipline to retire for nearly a decade to seek his -own- perfect tone - who alone recognized the epochal advances in technique and harmony of Leopold Godowsky - who earned Godowsky's lasting appreciation and friendship - who had the means to bring Godowsky's work before the public and champion him as among the greatest masters - who had the strength to play with enormous power but chose to explore, advance, and perfect the neglected pianissimo side of the instrument - who, as he reached seventy, realized his technique no longer served him, and therefore completely restudied his repertory and retooled his physical responses - who lived in a flame of passion and beauty, denying himself nothing except mediocrity and repose.

This is a great act of justice: a restoration of a talent we can hear only in records made when its possessor was a very old man, and the preservation of a most unique personality, far removed from the pitiful portrait of Schonberg's pages. I read this book in three days - business prevented me from reading it in one sitting, else I'd have been immobile - and while it lasted I felt privileged to have bought and been able to read this restoration of an age where beauty was passionately pursued and created with life-and-death urgency. I am not the same person, quite, as I was before I read this book - and that's all I ask of any work of art.

After all this, it seems an unworthy carp to raise any objection - I must voice a few, minor though they be.

The many extended quotations of contemporaneous accounts at some points began to wear this reader. It is not that they were unimportant - on the contrary: like all such quotes, they brought the voices of that age to us, and we sorely need it - but there would have been more variety had the quotes been more often integrated into the running text, -described- a bit more often, with choice bits extracted. Such would task any authors' ingenuity after a while - how many ways are there to dress up quotes? - and that is so much, alas, of what we have left of this pianist. But still, a greater modulation of quotation (and a friendlier font size than the much-smaller-than-running-text one chosen for Kindle), would have increased pleasure.

The other is a matter of emphasis. There are some things much focused-on - particularly, and rightly, descriptions of de Pachmann's playing and platform mannerisms. A few things given more emphasis would have provided a better sense of the artist as a living man in the world. The authors boldly proclaim de Pachmann as almost epochally open in his later sexual preferences, but we're not quite sure how to know this. Of the men of whom we know (like Cesco), the tone seems almost coy. In Chapt. 26 we hear of de Pachmann's composing, but not whether any of his compositions survived - more broadly, it would be interesting to know more of the scattering of his documentary legacy and its previous preservation. As de Pachmann's life draws to a close, we suddenly cross several years to his death - and the usual things of what the surroundings might have been like at his death, his possible gravesite, a death certificate - are jogged past. The sense left is that a great mass of material had to be gone through and it was difficult at times to see one's way to the full human frame.

But these are irrelevant - and eminently capable of tuning-up in future editions - compared to this book's great virtue: a burning recapturing of an age that burned for beauty, through the person of a most unjustly-neglected artist-artisan-showman. Read this book, and let the magic of de Pachmann help you burn brighter.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great find, and a smooth and easy transaction 26 Sep 2014
By Jason Andrews - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Marvelous book. A great find, and a smooth and easy transaction!
Were these reviews helpful?   Let us know

Customer Discussions

This product's forum
Discussion Replies Latest Post
No discussions yet

Ask questions, Share opinions, Gain insight
Start a new discussion
First post:
Prompts for sign-in

Search Customer Discussions
Search all Amazon discussions

Look for similar items by category