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

Nur das Bedeutungslose fährt dahin,
Was einmal tief lebendig ist und war,
Das hat Kraft zu sein für immerdar.

Only the meaningless passes away.
That which is and was once deeply alive
Has the power to be for eternity

Joseph Joachim in Agathe von Siebold Schütte’s Stammbuch, Fall, 1894

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).



Joseph Joachim at the time of his Adelskasino debut

This priceless historical artifact was erroneously sold by Stair Galleries on September 13, 2008 as “Joseph Joachim Guernier — The Young Violinist,” “Oil on panel, 8 3/4 x 6 3/4 in. Provenance: Property from the New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations.” It’s whereabouts are currently unknown.

Thank you! RWE

Joseph Joachim


JJHanfstaengelPSCrop copy


* 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.


Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 12.01.39 PMoseph 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

Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 2.55.47 PM

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.

Early American Performances of Joachim’s “Hungarian” Concerto, op. 11

Early American Performances of Joachim’s “Hungarian” Concerto, op. 11


10 December, Harvard Musical Association, Boston, (first movement) Bernhard Listemann, violin.


25 November, Boston Symphony Orchestra, open rehearsal, Boston Music Hall, Bernhard Listemann, violin, George Henschel, conductor.

26 November, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Boston Music Hall, Bernhard Listemann, violin, George Henschel, conductor. Program


29 October, Boston Symphony Orchestra, (first movement) open rehearsal, Boston Music Hall, Franz Kneisel, violin, Wilhelm Gericke, conductor.

30 October, Boston Symphony Orchestra, (first movement), Boston Music Hall, Franz Kneisel, violin, Wilhelm Gericke, conductor. Program


11 April, Boston Symphony Orchestra, (first movement) open rehearsal, Symphony Hall Boston, Felix Winternitz, violin, Wilhelm Gericke, conductor. Program

12 April, Boston Symphony Orchestra, (first movement) open rehearsal, Symphony Hall Boston, Felix Winternitz, violin, Wilhelm Gericke, conductor. Program


21 October, Boston Symphony Orchestra, open rehearsal, Symphony Hall Boston, Willy Hess, violin, Wilhelm Gericke, conductor. Program

22 October, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Hall Boston, Willy Hess, violin, Wilhelm Gericke, conductor. Program

31 October, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Academy of Music Philadelphia, Willy Hess, violin, Wilhelm Gericke, conductor. Program

3 November, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Carnegie Hall New York, Willy Hess, violin, Wilhelm Gericke, conductor. Program


22 October, Boston Symphony Orchestra, open rehearsal, Symphony Hall Boston, Willy Hess, violin, Max Fiedler, conductor. Program

23 October, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Hall Boston, Willy Hess, violin, Max Fiedler, conductor. Program


11 February Boston Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Hall Boston, Anton Witek, violin, Karl Muck, conductor. Program

12 February Boston Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Hall Boston, Anton Witek, violin, Karl Muck, conductor. Program

16 February Boston Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Theatre Baltimore, Anton Witek, violin, Karl Muck, conductor. Program

18 February Boston Symphony Orchestra, Academy of Music Brooklyn, Anton Witek, violin, Karl Muck, conductor. Program

16 March Boston Symphony Orchestra, Carnegie Hall New York, Anton Witek, violin, Karl Muck, conductor. Program

18 March Boston Symphony Orchestra, Carnegie Hall New York, Anton Witek, violin, Karl Muck, conductor. Program


4, 7 November, New York Philharmonic, Albert Spalding, violin, Walter Damrosch, conductor.


Program Note, Boston Symphony Orchestra, 11,12 April, 1902. (Philip Hale)


(Born at Kittsee, near Pressburg, June 28, 1831; now living at Berlin.)

From 1853 to 1868 Joachim was in the service of blind George V. at Hanover. He was solo violinist to the King, conductor of symphony concerts, and he was expected to act as concert-master in performances of the more important operas, that the strings might thereby be improved. His yearly vacation was five months long, and he was allowed in winter to make extended concert tours. It was at Hanover that Joachim wrote his overtures, “Hamlet,” “Demetrius,” “Henry IV.,” an overture to a comedy by Gozzi, and one to the memory of von Kleist; the Third Violin Concerto (G major), Nocturne for Violin and Orchestra (Op. 12), Variations for Viola and Piano, Hebrew Melodies, pieces for violin and piano, and the Hungarian Concerto.

The Hungarian Concerto, dedicated to Johannes Brahms, was written in the fifties. Joachim played it at the first of the London Philharmonic Concerts in 1859, early in April. He played it at Hanover, March 24, 1860. Dr. Georg Fischer, in “Opern und Concerte im Hoftheater zu Hannover bis I866,” speaks of the work as one of “great seriousness and deep passion, execdingly difficult, abounding in double stopping and three-voiced passages. It is also very long: it lasted forty minutes.” Joachim played it in 1861 in Vienna, Budapest, and other towns. Hanslick wrote: “The first movement, which is the broadest and most richly developed, is striking on account of the well-sustained tone of proud and almost morose passion. In its unbridled freedom it sometimes assumes the character of a rhapsody or prelude.” The Pesth Lloyd Zeitung exclaimed: “this is the means by which the type of Hungarian national music will ripen into artistically historical and universal significance; and we have a double reason for being delighted that Hungary possesses in its patriotic countryman a great instrumental artist, who bears the spirit of Hungarian music upon eagle’s pinions through the wide world.” Many rhapsodies have been written upon this theme. Here is a favorable example, which I quote without correction: “Every idea of displaying virtuosity foreign to his intention, he flew to his violin on the contrary as his most faithful friend and companion to clothe in outward form what resounded and vibrated in his soul, combining with the violin, however, the orchestra, on at least a footing of perfect equality.” The following paragraph from the Illustrated Times (London), 1862, shows that Joachim was then strongly Hungarian: “To put Herr before the name of Joachim the musician, who by simply playing the Rakoczy march on his violin raises the patriotic enthusiasm of his compatriots to the highest pitch, and thus produces as great an effect as the most successful orator could obtain, is not only a mistake, but almost an insult.”

Andreas Moser, in his “Joseph Joachim” (Berlin, 1898),—a long drawn-out and fawning eulogy,—speaks of this concerto as follows: “It is the mature outcome of Joachim’s intimate knowledge of the national music of his native country. In his childhood scarcely a day passed in which he did not hear the intoxicating strains of gypsy music, and the repeated visits which he paid to his home only tended to strengthen his love for the characteristic melodies, harmonies, and rhythm of the Magyar folksongs and dances.” Moser mentions the technical difficulties, and adds: “It taxes severely the player’s physical strength and power of endurance. … But another difficulty exists in addition to these for all those not Hungarian by birth: that of bringing out adequately the national characteristics of the concerto.”

*    *

The first movement of this concerto was played by Mr. Bernhard Listemann at a concert of the Harvard Musical Association, Dec. 10, 1868. Mr. Listemann played the whole concerto on Nov. 26, 1881, at a Symphony Concert. Mr. Kneisel played the first movement at a Symphony Concert, Oct. 30, 1886.

The concerto was played at Berlin, March 1, 1889, at the concert in honor of Joachim’s jubilee. The first movement was played by Hugo Olk, the second by Johann Kruse, the third by Henri Petri, all of them pupils of the composer.

Program note, NY Philharmonic, 4,7 November, 1926


Kitseee, 1831 Berlin, 1907

Joachim spent the greater part of his time from 1853 to 1868 in Hanover. He was solo violinist to the blind king, George V. and conductor of the symphony concerts. He was
expected to act as concert master in all the principal opera performances so as to improve the quality of the strings. He busied himself with chamber music and teaching. He had occasional leave of absence for concert tours in winter and five months vacation in summer. Without slighting his other labors he managed also to write a surprisingly large amount of music. The “Concerto in the Hungarian Style” provoked loud reverberations. Even Brahms (to whom it is dedicated) and Clara Schumann hailed it extravagantly. Clara was moved by it “to tears of joy” — the same Clara, who as late as 1864 was protesting that she could find in Wagner’s “Tannhäuser” not one page of what she regarded as music! Hans lick acclaimed it rousingly in Vienna and across the Hungarian border the “Pester Lloyd” newspaper cried out: “This is the means by which the type of Hungarian national music will ripen into artistically historical and universal significance!” and spoke of Joachim as bearing the message of Hungarian music on eagle pinions through the world. Today the concerto has almost dropped from the repertoire. Its last performance here was a concert of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in March, 1916. Anton Witek, then concert master, was the violinist. Dr. Karl Muck conducted.

The work was written in the summer of 1857. Joachim first played it at a concert of the London Philharmonic, May 2, 1859. The following year he revised it, retaining the themes but making fundamental alterations in the solo part. This version he brought out at the Düsseldorf Festival and in Hanover. The leading critic of the last named city saluted it as “a work of great seriousness and deep passion, exceedingly difficult, abounding in double stopping and three-voiced passages.” He also added with respectful awe: “It is very long, it lasts forty minutes.” The London “Illustrated Times” said that the concerto “made it almost an insult” to put “Herr” before the name of so perfect a Hungarian as Joachim.

In America the first movement was played by Bernhard Listeman [sic] of Boston, as early as 1861. In subsequent years the interpreters of the concerto included besides Mr. Listeman Messrs. Winternitz, Hess and the late Franz Kneisel. Philip Hale recalls a singular performance in Berlin given as part of Joachim’s jubilee ceremonies in 1889 at which Hugo Olk, Johann Kruse and Henri Petri, all pupils of the composer, played a movement each.

The principal, theme, of melancholy character, is enunciated by the ‘cellos at the outset and then reiterated by the violins. The second theme appears in the wood-wind and the solo violin enters with passagework afterwards taking the first melody. A characteristically Hungarian cadence is a feature of this theme and figures prominently in the development. There is abundant passage and decorative work for the soloist and an elaborate, partly accompanied cadenza.

In the romanza the violinist introduces the theme and then adorns it. The finale is an alla zingara, oscillating between D major and D minor, which Moser compared with the flashing “friska” of a Hungarian rhapsody.