About This Site


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. I am currently writing about the overture, and would like to be able to study the manuscript. —

4) I would like to find Margaret Alsager Ayrton’s unpublished diary.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


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.


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.

[See More]

© 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.

Joseph Joachim’s Letter to his Parents after Schumann’s Death, August 12, 1856


[Joseph Joachim, unpublished MS, British Library: Joachim Correspondence, bequest of Agnes Keep, Add. MS 42718.]

Joseph Joachim to his Parents

[Düsseldorf], August 12 [1856]

Beloved parents,

I have been worried about many things since you heard from me last! Unfortunately, things didn’t go as well as they might have for me in Heidelberg; for the most part I had to struggle with my health, so that the cheerful enjoyment of the beautiful region and carefree creative activity, such as I had hoped for before I came, was out of the question.

Granted, it went better for me by the end of my stay here — but I had hardly begun to enjoy it when news of Schumann’s impending end called me away. You know my heartfelt admiration for the departed one, the warm sympathy that I hold for him and his family, and you may well imagine how deeply the news affected me; it was impossible to stay in Heidelberg and I traveled to Bonn, where indeed I found my deeply-mourned friend no longer among the living. I nevertheless found an opportunity, together with my colleague Brahms, to assist his esteemed wife with a number of acts of kindness.

Of course, Schumann’s condition in recent years has been such that, even as a friend, one wished for a release from the gloomy world that tormented the master; nevertheless, with his death it has become doubly palpable for me how much I have lost of pure benevolence, of encouraging sympathy for my artistic activities. You have no idea how loving, how gentle, how intelligent Sch. was — as a man and as a musician — in his interactions with honestly striving people of good will. Also, how in his never-resting diligence he was a true role model, whose whole significance is written in my heart for life.

After the funeral I traveled with Frau Sch: to here. Düsseldorf is on the way to Hanover, and I shall go back there tomorrow, if only temporarily, in order hear what the King’s plans are for September. I almost fear that I will have to accompany him to Norderney (Seaside resort — an island)! It wouldn’t be very congenial for me; though sea-baths might be quite good for me, and I am henceforth determined to face fortune with a good spirit. If I don’t have to go to Nordeney, I will go for a month to Berlin, in part because of the music library, which I do not yet know, and which I would like to use in the future, and partly also to see my friends there, namely the Arnims, since I far prefer them all to my acquaintances in Hanover. Just now I received a letter from dear Fritz, delayed in the mail, since it strayed first to Hannover, and then to Heidelberg before it caught up with me here. I had no idea that my dear brother was so near, and now I have not seen him! Have you received my last letter? I have not yet heard from you all, and I long so to know about you all in Pest. I will soon send you, from Hanover, the address where you may write to me. How did the baths suit dear Mother, and the stay in the country dear Father? And what is Hermine doing? Frau Schumann has very sweet children, with whom I liked to go for walks — that reminded me of my nieces and nephews!

Now that I am completely healthy again, and have reason to believe that, since my illness has played itself out, I am freed of it for a long time (through careful, regular living and cold baths, for ever!), I am again very happy, and want nothing other than to have good musical thoughts come into my head! I long for continual cheerfulness, and will give evidence of it through frequent writing.

With heartfelt greetings to you all,



Translation © Robert W. Eshbach 2017

                        12ten Aug.

Geliebte Eltern

Seitdem Sie zuletzt von mir gehört war ich mannigfach besorgt! Leider gieng es mir in Heidelberg selbst nicht das Beste; ich hatte meist mit meiner Gesundheit zu kämpfen, so ich an einen frohen Genuß der schönen Gegend an ein heiteres, schaffensfrohes Arbeiten, wie ich vor dem Kommen gehofft//

nicht zu denken war. In der letzten Zeit meines dortigen Aufenthalts freilich gieng es beßer— aber ich fieng kaum an mich dessen zu erfreuen, als mich die Nachricht von Schumanns bevorstehenden Ende dort fortrief. Sie kennen meine herzliche Verehrung für den verstorbenen, den warmen Antheil den ich für Ihn wie für die Familie derselben hege, und // werden denken können wie tief mich die Nachricht ergriff; es war mir unmöglich in Heidelberg zu bleiben und ich reiste nach Bonn, wo ich meinen tiefbetrauerten Freund zwar nicht noch lebend traf, doch wenigstens Gelegenheit fand seines verehrten Frau in manchem Liebesdienst nachträglich, vereint mit meinem Kollegen Brahms, beizustehen. //

Schumanns Zustand war freilich in den letzten Jahren so gewesen, daß man eine Erlösung aus der trüben Welt die den Meister quälte, selbst als Freund wünschte, dennoch ward mir mit dem Tode erst doppelt fühlbar wie viel ich an reinem Wohlwollen an fördernder Theilnahme für mein künstlerisches thun // verloren! Sie haben keine Idee wie liebevoll, wie mild, wie geistig Sch. als Mensch wie als Musiker gegen Reinstrebende Gutes Wollende im Umgang war. Auch darin wie im nimmer ruhenden Fleiß ein wahres Vorbild, deßen ganze Bedeutung mir für meine Lebens=Zeit ins Herz geschrieben ist. //

Nach dem Begräbnißtage reiste ich mit Frau Sch: hinher. Duesseldorf liegt auf dem Wege nach Hannover, und ich will morgen dorthin zurück, wenn auch nur vorläufig um zu hören was des Königs Pläne für den September sind. Fast fürchte ich, daß ich dann mit nach Nordeney (Seebad //

ein Insel) soll! Es wäre mir nicht sehr wilkommen; obschon mir vielleicht Meerbäder recht zuträglich sein könnten, und ich deshalb auch entschloßen bin mich mit gutem Geist ins Geschick zu ergeben. Brauche ich nicht nach Nordeney so würde ich mich noch auf einen Monat nach Berlin begeben, theils der musikalischen Bibliothek wegen, die ich noch nicht//

kenne und die ich gerne für die Zukunft brauchen will, theils auch um meine Freunde dort, namentlich Arnims wieder zu sehen da ich sie meinen Hanoverschen Bekannten allen weit vorziehe. Eben erhalte ich einen Brief von dem lieben Fritz, verspätet durch die Post; da er erst nach Hannover, dann nach Heidelberg//

gewandert war, bevor er mich hier traf. Ich hatte keine Ahnung dass der liebe Bruder so nah war, nun hab’ ich ihn doch nicht gesehen! Haben Sie meinen letzten Brief erhalten? Ich habe noch nicht seitdem von Ihnen allen gehört, und doch sehne ich mich recht von den lieben Allen in Pesth zu wißen?. Von Hannover aus will ich //

gleich schreiben wohin Sie addressieren sollen. Wie ist das Bad der lieben Mutter bekommen, und der Landaufenthalt dem lieben Vater? Und was macht Hermine? Frau Schumann hat sehr liebe Kinder, mit denen ich gerne auf Spatziergänge verkehrte — das erinnert mich an die Nichten und Neffen! //

Jetzt, wo ich wieder ganz frisch bin, und Grund habe zu glauben, daß ich durch die Sommer, wo sich mein Uebel recht austobte, auf lange, (bei vorsichtig regelmäsigem Leben und kalten Bädern auf immer!) befreit bin, bin ich auch wieder ganz //

freudig und will mir auch nichts als gute musikalische Gedanken in den Kopf kommen lassen! Ich sehne mich nach fortdauender immer Heiterkeit und will das durch oftes Scheiben beweisen.

Alles von Herzen grüßend,