About This Site


Highly honored sir, you call Joachim only the leading German violinist? I find him to be the leading performing musician altogether — an ideal of perfection. With his incomparable mastery he has terrified me and laid me low — but the feeling of artistic elevation that I owe to him won out in the end.

Hans von Bülow to Franz Wüllner, 1 December, 1866

This website is dedicated to the life and art of Joseph Joachim. The information on the site derives from my ongoing research and writing, which I am publishing here in the JJLesendpsspirit of modern, open-source scholarship. For copyright reasons having to do with source material, some of it remains password protected, and not available to the public. Information on this site is grouped in categories. The detailed Biographical Posts begin here (“Kittsee, 1831”), and continue as a series of linked articles. There are some gaps in the links — this is, as I say, an ongoing project. A Brief Biography begins below (“Joseph Joachim”).

In general, if you wish to use anything you see on this site, especially copyright material, please acknowledge the source. Those few with whom I have shared protected information are requested to keep their password secret, and not to make public any information that is not already in the public domain.

The WordPress blog format does not allow me to organize posts as I wish: it organizes posts by date, which is to say, randomly. I am, however, linking the Biographical Posts in sequence, and organizing all of the material in the INDEX. Content is also searchable using the “search” function.

I wish to acknowledge the invaluable and generous support of the University of New Hampshire, without which this work would not have been possible.

unh_logo_lrgRobert W. Eshbach
Associate Professor of Music
University of New Hampshire
reshbach (at) unh.edu


bn_joachim1) I am trying to locate the correspondence between Joseph Joachim and Bettina von Arnim that was sold by Henrici auction house in 1929. [Karl Ernst Henrici, Versteigerungskatalog 155, Berlin: am 5. Juli 1929.] I would be very grateful for any information leading to its whereabouts.

2) I am interested in finding birth records from the Kittsee Kehilla from the late 1820s to the early 1830s. As far as I know, birth records exist only from the mid 1830s onward — too late to include Joachim.

3) I would be very grateful to hear from the owner of Joachim’s Hamlet overture, sold at Sotheby’s on June 9, 2010.

4) I would like to find Margaret Alsager Ayrton’s unpublished diary.

5) I am always interested in seeing letters, photographs, memorabilia, etc. connected with Joachim. Please email me at the above address.

6) I am interested in the whereabouts of the painting by Felix Possart of the Joachim Quartet in the Singakademie zu Berlin (1903).

Thank you! RWE

Joseph Joachim


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* 28 June 1831 Kittsee (Kopčany/Köpcsény) Hungary (now Austria)

† 15 August 1907 Berlin

Violinist, Composer, Conductor, and Pedagogue. Founding director of the Königlich Akademischen Hochschule für ausübende Tonkunst (now Universität der Künste) Berlin. Joachim studied violin with Stanisław Serwaczyński and Joseph Böhm; composition with Gottfried Preyer and Moritz Hauptmann. He was a protégé of Felix Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann, and, in the early 1850s, Franz Liszt. In adulthood, he became a close friend and collaborator of Johannes Brahms and a celebrated opponent of the New German School of Wagner and Liszt. He is widely regarded as one of the most significant and influential musical personalities of the long 19th century.


jj-initials1Joseph Joachim was born in Kittsee (Kopčany/Köpcsény) Hungary, in what is now the Burgenland region of Austria. He was the seventh child of Fanny (Franziska) Figdor Joachim        (* ca. 1791 — † 1867), the daughter of a prominent Kittsee wool wholesaler then residing in Vienna, and Julius Friedrich Joachim (* ca. 1791 — † 1865), also a wool merchant, born 20 miles to the south in the town of Frauenkirchen (Boldogasszony). [1] Joachim’s birth date, now commonly accepted as June 28, 1831, has never been authenticated. [2]

Joachim was an Austro-Hungarian Jew, whose ancestors had been banished from SynagogueVienna by Emperor Leopold I in the early 1670s and settled in the Kittsee Kehilla, one of the culturally prominent Sheva Kehillot (“Seven Jewish Communities”) that arose in the late 17th century, and stood under the protectorate of the powerful Esterházy family[3] The Sheva Kehillot were among the wealthiest of the Hungarian Jewish communities, and their members were among the best educated of Hungary’s Jews. Many were traders, who enjoyed considerably more privileges than the ghetto Jews of nearby Pressburg (Bratislava). As merchants, they travelled freely throughout the region, maintaining close contact with Vienna’s Jewish population, as well as with the large numbers of their co-religionists in Pressburg and Pest. In the early 1820’s Joachim’s maternal grandparents, Isaac (* 1768 — † 1850) and Anna (* 1770 — † 1833) Figdor, left Kittsee and settled in the Viennese Vorstadt of Leopoldstadt, the district along the Danube canal that was home to most of Vienna’s Jewish population. That the Figdors, as Jews, were permitted to live in Vienna at that time, before the loosening of residential restrictions in 1848, is an indication of special status, and suggests affluence. [4] Amongst the Figdors’ other grandchildren was Fanny Figdor Wittgenstein, the mother of the industrialist Karl Wittgenstein and the grandmother of the pianist Paul Wittgenstein and the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Fanny Wittgenstein served as a surrogate mother to Joachim throughout much of his youth.

In 1833, the Joachim family settled in Pest, then the capital of Hungary’s thriving wool industry. [5] Joseph’s interest in music was stimulated by hearing his older sister, who studied voice and accompanied herself on the guitar. He became fixated on the violin when his father brought him a toy violin from a fair.

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© Robert W. Eshbach 2014

[1] The siblings were: Friedrich (*1812 — †1882, m. Regine Just *1825 — †1883), Josephine (*1816 — †1883, m. Thali Ronay), Julie (*1821 — †1901, m. Joseph Singer, *ca. 1818 — †1870), Heinrich (*1825 — †1897, m. Ellen Margaret Smart *ca. 1844 — †1925), Regina (*ca. 1827 — †1862, m. William Östereicher,  *ca. 1817, and later Wilhelm Joachim, *ca. 1812 — †1858), Johanna (*1829 — †1883, m. Lajos György Arányi, *1812 — †1877 and later Johann Rechnitz, *ca. 1812), and Joseph  (*1831 — †1907, m. Amalie Marie Schneeweiss *1839 — †1899). An 1898 interview with Joachim [Musical Times, April 1, 1898, p. 225] claims that Joachim was “the youngest of seven children.” In his authorized biography, however, Andreas Moser claims that Joseph was “the seventh of Julius and Fanny Joachim’s eight children.” The name and fate of the eighth and last sibling is unknown.

[2] Joachim himself was unsure of his birth date. For the first 23 years of his life, he believed he had been born in July — either the 15th or the 24th (Carl Ferdinand Becker, for example, in his Die Tonkünstler des Neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, (Leipzig, 1849, p. 82), gives Joachim’s birthdate as July 15, 1831. Joachim was living in Leipzig at the time, and was, undoubtedly, the source of this information). Joachim’s boyhood friend Edmund (Ödön) Singer (* 14 October 1831, Totis, Hungary — † 1912) also calls into question the year of Joachim’s birth. “All reference books gave 1831 as Joachim’s birth year, as well as the birth-year of my humble self. […] Joachim himself asked me one day: ‘How does it happen that we are always mentioned as having been born in the same year?  I am at least a year older than you!’ — I, myself, finally established my glorious birth-year after many years, while Joachim tacitly allowed the wrong date to persist.” [Edmund Singer, “Aus meiner Künstlerlaufbahn,” Neue Musik-Zeitung (Stuttgart), Vol. 32, No. 1, (1911), p. 8.]

[3] Deutschkreutz, Eisenstadt, Frauenkirchen, Kittsee, Kobersdorf, Lackenbach and Mattersburg (Hungarian: Német-Keresztur, Kismarton, Boldogasszony, Köpcsény, Kábold, Lakompak and Nagy Marton, respectively). Before 1924, Mattersburg was called Mattersdorf. Principal among these closely cooperating communities was Eisenstadt (Kismarton).

[4] Joseph’s maternal grandparents were Isaac [Israel, Isak] Figdor [Avigdor, Vigdor, Victor] (*1768 — †1850), k.k. priv. Großhändler [Imperial and Royal Wholesaler], and Anna Jafé-Schlesinger Figdor (*1770 — †April 12, 1833). Isaac and Anna had ten children: Regine, Karoline, Ferdinand, Fanny, Michael, Nathan, Bernhard, Wilhelm, Eduard, and Samuel. [E. Randol Schoenberg, GENI website: http://www.geni.com/people/Isak-Figdor/6000000008300436213?through=6000000007800493942 accessed 2/14/2011.]

[5] Wool was one of Hungary’s principal articles of commerce and a major source of capital for the Hungarian economy, primarily because it was one of the few export commodities that the Austrian government did not tax. Due to improved farming methods and the introduction of Spanish merino sheep to the region, Hungarian wool was of exceptional quality and highly prized by English woolen manufacturers. Each year, nearly 9 million pounds of wool were offered for sale at the spring trade fair in Pest, most of it bought by German merchants for resale in England. This trade in wool was largely carried on by strategically networked Jewish families, many of whom, like the Figdors, had relatives placed in each of the wool-trading capitals of Europe. The Figdor family connections extended from Pest and Vienna to Leipzig, London, and Leeds. This network of family and business connections was critical to the establishment, guidance, and promotion of Joachim’s musical career, which in its early years, not coincidentally, was centered in those same cities.

Robert Bridges: To Joseph Joachim


could not be unframed in S.E.

To Joseph Joachim

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elov’d of all to whom that Muse is dear
Who hid her spirit of rapture from the Greek,
Whereby our art excelleth the antique,
Perfecting formal beauty to the ear;
Thou that hast been in England many a year
The interpreter who left us nought to seek,
Making Beethoven’s inmost passion speak,
Bringing the soul of great Sebastian near.
Their music liveth ever, and ’tis just
That thou, good Joachim, so high thy skill,
Rank (as thou shalt upon the heavenly hill)
Laurel’d with them, for thy ennobling trust
Remember’d when thy loving hand is still
And every ear that heard thee stopt with dust.

Robert Bridges, May 2, 1904
First published in the Times, May 17, 1904, p. 11

Portrait of Joseph Joachim (1904)
John Singer Sargent
American, 1856-1925
Oil on canvas. 87.6 x 73.0 (34 1/2 x 28 3/4 in.).
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Frank P. Wood 1928 901
©Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto

JJ Conf.

Hans von Bülow

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Hans von Bülow, 1855 [i]

In early June, 1851, Hans von Bülow arrived in Weimar to begin his studies with Liszt. [ii] At twenty, Baron Hans Guido von Bülow (1830-1894) was already a brilliant and accomplished musician and person of deep culture. Neither his precocious talent for music, nor his taste for the musical avant-garde were fully understood or appreciated by his family, however, and it would take all of Liszt’s tactful personal involvement and moral support, as well as his musical and professional mentorship, to pave the way for Bülow to become one of the 19th century’s greatest pianists and conductors. The von Bülows were a noble family that traced their heritage to the 12th century. Hans’s grandfather, Ernst Heinrich Adolf von Bülow, was a major in Napoleon’s army (Saxony fought on the side of the French). His father, (Carl) Eduard von Bülow, was a writer. Beginning in 1828, Eduard had published numerous works, including stories and novellas, and an abundant array of translations and editions of standard authors. His knowledge of French, English and Italian literature was immense. Eduard von Bülow was a friend and colleague of the canonic Romantic writer Ludwig Tieck, with whom he edited Novalis’s works. In 1851, at the time that Hans made his way to Weimar, he published Tieck’s Die Sommernacht. Ein dramatisches Fragment.

Hans’s mother, Franziska Elisabeth Stoll von Bülow, also came from old nobility. She grew up in the house of her sister Henriette, who was twelve years older, and married to Leipzig Geheimkammerrat, Stadthauptmann Christian Gottlob Frege, one of the patricians of Leipzig society. [1] Franziska was musically gifted, and thoroughly au fait with the excellences of gesellige Bildung. The Frege houshold was a center of Leipzig geselligkeit, and through their acquaintances Franziska and Henriette learned to converse, not only in French and Italian, but in Russian and Polish as well. Goethe and Herder were among the Frege’s guests; the Mendelssohns, Schumanns and Niels Gade were close family friends.

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The Frege house
Katharinenstraße 11, Leipzig

            Von Bülow’s parents did not have a happy marriage. Eduard lacked a steady job, and his income was sporadic and insufficient for family needs. His liberal romantic views and irregular habits did not sit well with his conservative wife. The couple divorced in 1849, when Hans was nineteen. Shortly thereafter, Eduard married Countess Louise Bülow von Dennewitz, a woman of means, and he started a second family with her in Switzerland.

Hans grew up in Dresden, a sickly, nervous child, who suffered from numerous life-threatening brain inflammations. It was after his recovery from the fifth such inflammation that his musical talent first began to show itself. His mother took him to a local ‘cellist named Hänsel, from whom he received his first instruction in music. He began piano lessons shortly thereafter. The precocious child entertained himself during his illnesses by deciphering scores in bed. From his second decade, he often heard such luminaries as Felix Mendelssohn and Clara Schumann. Clara would occasionally accompany his cousin’s wife, Livia Frege, a well-known singer and an intimate friend of the Mendelssohns and Schumanns. The family’s relations with Tieck, with Dresden’s Theaterintendant von Lüttichau, and with Dresden Concertmaster Karl Lipinski (who lived in the same building as the Bülows) helped to make Hans an avid theatergoer and opera lover. At the age of 12, already a knowledgeable and perceptive critic, he witnessed the premiere of Wagner’s Rienzi, performed by Joseph Tichatschek and Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient. By his own account, that triumphant performance made him a “Wagnerianer.” For the rest of his life, Wagner would remain his musical idol, despite the appalling treatment he would eventually receive at Wagner’s hands.

It was about this time that the Bülows became acquainted with Liszt, though the story that the young boy was roused from his sleep, at Liszt’s insistence, to hear the master play is doubtless apocryphal. Hans’s musical interests quickly became consuming. At age fourteen, he went to live in Leipzig, where he was able to study music theory with Hauptmann and piano with Louis Plaidy, both of the Leipzig Conservatory. In 1845-1846, he studied piano with Friedrich Wieck, the father and teacher of Clara Schumann. Wieck was a strict and pedantic teacher, toward whom Bülow remained cool, despite the oft-cited flattering letter he wrote to his former teacher some years later: “I have never forgotten. . . what I owe you, most honored master. You were the one who first taught my ear to hear, who impressed upon my hand rules and regulations, logical order; led my talent upward out of the twilight of the unconscious to the bright light of consciousness…”[iv] He was later to be embarrassed by this letter, which had been written in response to a note that Wieck had scribbled after a concert: “Highly honored master, My esteem for you, Master of Masters, for the present in writing — in person later this month in Berlin…” By the time this exchange occurred in 1863, Bülow’s relations with Clara, Joachim and Brahms had become strained, and, taking Wieck’s note for irony, he responded with wary and unwarranted politeness. A more reserved and honest comment is contained in Bülow’s letter to Wieck from 1846: “I have more and more insight into the excellence of your teaching, and try to follow your instructions.”

It was in 1846 that Bülow heard Wagner conduct an unforgettable performance of Beethoven’s ninth symphony, and made up his mind to meet his idol. Their first meeting occurred on July 29, while Wagner was vacationing. Wagner wrote in Hans’s Stammbuch:

If within you there smolders a genuine, pure warmth for art,
then surely the beautiful flame will be kindled for you;
but it is knowledge that nurtures and purifies
this warmth into a powerful blaze. [v]

            In 1846, Bülow and his mother moved to Stuttgart, where Hans began a friendship with the young composer Joseph Joachim Raff, who was at that time working on his opera Alfred, and supporting himself by writing music criticism. On January 1, 1848, Bülow gave his first public concert, performing Raff’s fantasy on themes from Friedrich Wilhelm Kücken’s (1810-1882) opera Der Prätendent. Violinist and composer Bernhard Molique (1802-1869), another of Bülow’s acquaintances, observed: “Even then, as a grammar-school boy, Hans von Bülow had an extremely intelligent appearance and lively features: a dark-complexioned face, fine, impeccable manners, chivalrous and noble in the fullest sense of the word. He often made music with my older sister Karoline; when he spoke with my father and explained to him this or that about music, one could read in his face his rapid comprehension, lightning-quick understanding and varying feelings. . . . When Bülow sat at the piano, one observed that a young master commanded the instrument. His fiery, noble delivery, his powerful and yet so wonderfully delicate and finely nuanced piano playing was, for my sister especially, a joy. He, for whom his mother planned a diplomatic career, was actually already a musician with his entire soul.” [vi]

Bülow spent the turbulent years of 1848-1849 as a university student in Leipzig, living with his Aunt and Uncle Frege. There, the eighteen-year-old was forced to endure his family’s pronounced disdain for both the music and the politics of his hero, Wagner. In the conservative atmosphere of Leipzig patrician society he developed a disgust for “the stubbornness and laziness toward the new, which people do not immediately understand and therefore despise.” [vii] When Tannhäuser was given in Dresden, he wrote to his mother: “I was seized by a strong feeling of bliss and pain. What would I have given to have been there! I would have walked there. . . I thank you, God, that I am not like. . . the Pharisees; that I am capable of grasping the full sacredness and holiness of the music that brings this work before the inner eye, and to understand the mission of the apostle Wagner. Therefore, I do not despise Wagner’s enemies when I am seized by a personal prejudice against them, but I pity them, that they are incapable of raising themselves out of the dust!” [viii] Despise or pity, he chafed against the restrictions of his home environment, and longed for the much-vaunted freedom of a proper university student.

Bülow would eventually become one of Liszt’s most beloved students. He married Liszt’s daughter, Cosima. Alexander Siloti would later write:

The name of Bülow is irresistibly linked with that of Tausig in my memory. These two were Liszt’s most beloved pupils. When he spoke of them his face became so radiant, and his voice so charged with emotion, that one felt at once the depth and power of his love for them. There were only two portraits standing on Liszt’s writing-table, one of the Gräfin Wittgenstein and one of Bülow; from these two he has never parted, even when travelling. He invariably spoke of Bülow as ‘dear Hans.’ Once while I was there Bülow came to Weimar. . . and Liszt was all excitement and happiness at the thought of seeing his ‘dear Hans’ fully three days before he arrived. He used to say that Bülow’s noble, chivalrous character should be a model for all artists. Liszt’s Danse Macabre was dedicated to Bülow with these words: ‘To the high-souled herald of our Art.’ (dem hochherzigen Progonen unserer Kunst). I cannot read the title ‘high-souled’ without emotion. In these two words there lies such boundless esteem for the artist and the man, and in uttering them Liszt raised Bülow nearer to his own inaccessible height. [ix]

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Hans von Bülow

Upon his arrival in Weimar, Bülow stayed at a Gasthof in town, until, encouraged by his friend Raff (by then working as Liszt’s assistant), he took up lodgings in the Altenburg. “There, on the third floor of the adjoining building, I have four beautiful rooms at my disposal,” he wrote to his father, “I make do, however, with two — actually only with one — in which a grand piano that is adequate for practicing stands next to my bed.”[xi] There he practiced eight to ten hours a day, with a break at mid-day for a walk and lunch at the Hotel Erbprinz (“one must do that, for in Weimar one must be seen in respectable society, and meet with musicians, singers, etc.”), and another walk into town for dinner at 9. “At 10:30 I am mostly back home,” he wrote, “and I improvise on the piano in the moonlight or cloudy sky — it makes no difference. Since there is only one copy of the house key, it is necessary for me to climb over a broken-down wall to get into the courtyard, and then to scramble through a sash window that can be opened from the outside in order to get into the house.” [xii] It was Liszt’s intention to groom him for a virtuoso career, and he did his best to seek acceptance into “the school of the école de Weimar” as Liszt had expressed it in both German and French. “I have for now relinquished my autonomy, and allow myself to be ‘Weimarized;’ of course I still retain enough of my ‘ego’ to be able to judge the results of the experiments that I allow to be conducted on my person.” [xiii]

Princess Caroline’s illness had kept Liszt was away from Weimar for most of the year, and by the end of summer his return was eagerly awaited. Bülow occupied himself at the piano, and, guided by Raff, made his first attempts at “that which until today had seemed almost to be a thing of complete impossibility, namely to write a proper piece for piano.” No one could help him better than Raff, he wrote, “who in his piano compositions has heard and grasped all the characteristic effects and tricks that Liszt has invented, and made very practical use of them. . . ” [xiv]

Bülow had first met Joachim at the Frege house in Leipzig in June of 1845. [xv] Now, little more than a week after his arrival, he joined Joachim and Bernhard Cossmann [2] for a private performance, on Liszt’s good piano, of an “intractably difficult” trio by Raff (“that even Liszt had had to take exceptional pains over”). [3] “I have never had two such exceptional partners in my life,” Bülow wrote. [xvi] “Joachim, who earlier in Leipzig had always behaved somewhat distantly toward me, here treats me quite pleasantly— in short, it does me a lot of good, finally to be among my peers, who, insofar as I deserve it, also value me. I can’t tell you how this eternal realization that I am undervalued has embittered and ultimately enervated me.” [xvii] Four days later, Bülow wrote to his mother: “I have found a congenial friend in Concertmaster Joachim.” [xviii]

In August, when heat made the noon walk oppressive, Joachim and Bülow studied Spanish. “The country and nation interest me,” Bülow wrote, “and I shall probably soon also have an opportunity to go there; furthermore, the language seems easy to me, and I want to continue to cultivate my facility in languages. After Spanish we want to learn Italian; we give ourselves at most a quarter-year for each.” [xix] Bülow, Raff and Joachim became constant companions. In the evening, the three friends would go for a walk to work up an appetite for dinner. For Bülow, language study, meals and walks provided the only diversion from his composing and practicing. “Other than Raff and Joachim, with whom I often make music, I have no companionship at all.” [xx]

[1] Frege was the godfather of Otto von Bismarck.

[2] Bernhard Cossmann (1822-1910) was a great German-Jewish violoncellist. Mendelssohn brought Cossmann to the Leipzig Gewandhaus in the year of his death (1847). Beginning in August 1850, Cossmann was principal in the Weimar orchestra under Liszt, and Joachim’s frequent chamber music partner.

[3] Among the auditors were writer and women’s rights activist Fanny Lewald (1811-1889) and her future husband, writer and critic Adolf Stahr (1805-1876).

[i] In vol. II of Briefe.

[ii] Bülow/BRIEFE I, p. 329.

[iii] Reimann/BÜLOW, p. 44.

[iv] Bülow/BRIEFE I, p. 554.

[v] Reimann/BÜLOW, p. 127.

[vi] Reimann/BÜLOW, pp. 139-140.

[vii] Reimann/BÜLOW, p. 172.

[viii] Bülow/BRIEFE I, p. 123.

[ix] Siloti/LISZT, pp. 67-68.

[x] From Reimann/BÜLOW

[xi] Bülow/BRIEFE I, p. 329.

[xii] Bülow/BRIEFE I, p. 332.

[xiii] Bülow/BRIEFE I, p. 331.

[xiv] Bülow/BRIEFE I, p. 350.

[xv] Reimann/BÜLOW, p. 120.

[xvi] Bülow/BRIEFE I, p. 330.

[xvii] Bülow/BRIEFE I, p. 333.

[xviii] Bülow/BRIEFE I, p. 338.

[xix] Bülow/BRIEFE I, p. 351.

[xx] Bülow/BRIEFE I, p. 351-352.