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.

[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

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.

Ernst Rudorff on Joachim and Liszt


Ernst Rudorff über die Künstlerschaft Liszts und Joachims

Brahms Institut Lübeck: http://www.brahms-institut.de/db_jjb/projekt_joachim_varia.php
Provenienz: Teilnachlass Joseph Joachim / Sammlung Hofmann
Sign: Joa : D2 : 4 Inv. Nr. ABH 6.3.106
(aus seinen Lebenserinnerungen. Nicht gedruckt!)

Abschrift anonym 3 Seiten


…Joachim hatte mir gegenüber einmal die Aeusserung getan: “Auch in der Zeit meiner höchsten Schwärmeri für Liszt habe ich ihn niemals so spielen hören, dass nicht im geheimsten Winkel meines Inneren die Stimme der Gewissens Einspruch dagegen erhoben hätte.”

Als ich Joachim später einmal daran erinnerte, behauptete er: “das kann ich nicht gesagt haben, denn ich weiss Z. B. dass Liszt einmal mit Cossmann und mir zusammen das B-dur-Trio von Beethoven so herrlich gespielt hat, wie ich er nur jemals in meinem Leben gehört habe. Freilich, da musizierten wir drei ganz allein miteinander. Sobald nur irgendeine Dame auftauchte war es natuurlich aus mit dem Künstlerischen Ernst, und die Schauspielerei begann.” Trotz dieses seines Einwände blieb für mich die Tatsache bestehen, dass er jene Aeusserung getan hatte, und wann die Ausnahme mit dem B-dur-Trio wirklich stattgefunden hat, woran ich nicht zweifeln darf, so wurde sie ja nur die Regel bestätigen. Gewiss ist er verständlich, dass Liszt mit seinem schlechthin unvergleichlichen Klaviergenie, seinem blitzartig unmittelbaren Erfassen jeder Musik den um viele Jahre juungeren Joachim einstmals ganz und gar sich hätte zu eigen machen können. Aber so nahe sich hier die Talente berührten, so grund-verschieden seien die Charaktere. Es war eine kurze Täuschung, dass beide glaubten, einander von Grund aus anzugehören; die Wege die sie ihrem innersten Wesen nach einschlagen mussten, führten sie diametral auseinander. Liszt von früh auf das Urbild eines Virtusoen im weitesten und verwegensten Sinn des Wortes, suchte und fand bei allem was er leistete, lediglich die Triumphe seines Ichs. Kein Künstlerisches Bedenken hielt ihn in seiner Jugend ab, die Musik des Don Juan zu zerpflücken, um aus den Brocken ein frivoles Effektklavierstück zusammenzubrauen, und wiederum Meyerbeer war ihm für


solche Zwecke ebenso recht wie Mozart oder Mendelssohns Sommernachtstraum. In Berlin spielte er in einem seiner Konzerte Beethovens Cis-moll-Sonate mit so unerhörten Tempoverzerrungen, dass die Masse zwar unbändig Klatschte, alle musikalischen Leute aber empört waren. Ein paar Tage darauf trug er dieselbe Sonate einem kleinen Kreis von Musikern vor, u-zwar dieses Mal in ganz angemessenem Zeitmass. Als die Zuhörer ihre Verwunderung darüber laut werden liessen, erwiderte er ohne Scheu, dem Publikum gegenüber müsse man andere Saiten aufziehen als den Kunstgenossen, um Eindruck zu erzielen. Seinen Schülern prägte er dann in späterer Zeit die Lehre ein, erstes Gebot beim Öffentlichspielen sei, keinen Augenblick vorübergehen zu lassen, ohne irgendwie das Publikum auf sich aufmerksam zu machen. Mit anderen Worten also: zu verblüffen um jeden Preis ist die Aufgabe des Künstlers, oder auch: der Triumph der Person ist der alleinige Zweck aller Reproduktion. Nun aber vergegenwärtige man sich dem gegenüber Joachim mit all seinem Fühlen, Tun, Streben und Wirken lebenslang, das nur darauf gerichtet war, mit der einen Kraft dem Echten, Bleibenden, wahrhaft Schönen, auch im Kampf mit mächtigsten zu dienen, sener Überzeungung treu zu bleiben, auch im Kampf mit mächtisgsten und gewissenlosesten Elementen, und man wird begreifen, dass dieses Joachim, deslebenslang mit seiner Person hinter der Sache zurück, die ihm heilig war, unmöglich im Bunde mit Liszt bleiben konnte.

Schleiermacher hat bei irgendeiner Gelegenheit den Ausspruch getan: “Grosse Gaben der Geister ohne sittliche Gesinnung sind ohne Wert.” Es liegt mir gewiss fern, die gewinnenden ethischen Züge in Liszts Persönlichkeit, seine Ritterlichkeit, seine unbegrenzte Hilfsbereitschaft jeder Bedurftigkeit gegenüber irgendwie herabsetzen oder verkennen zu wollen, aber darum bleibt es doch leider wahr, dass jenes strenge Wort auf die Künstlerschaft des vielgefeierten Mannes Anwendung findet. Der jugendliche Liszt hat auf seinem Triumpfzug durch die Welt die Heute in einen Rausch taumelhaften Entzückens versetzt wie kaum je ein anderer Sterblicher. Aber bei dem Rausch des Augenblicks hatte er auch sein Bewenden [?]. Erhoben, ergriffen, getröstet, mit Frieden erfüllt, wie es die echte Kunst unserer Meister in un-


verfälschster Wiedergabe tut, hat er die Menschen nicht. Und wie der Meister, so seine Gefolgschaft. Liszt hat eine Schule der Willkür, der Affektation, des effektvollen Pose hinterlassen, der es leider gelungen ist, Boden im Überfluss zu gewinnen. Das Rüstzeug, dessen man sich hier bedient, um aufzufallen und geistreich zu erscheinen, besteht in unmotivierten Temporückungen, in Übertreibungen der Stärkegrade nach oben und unten hin, Übertreibungen der Kontraste sowohl in dynamischer wie in rhythmischer Beziehung, ungebührlicher Anwendung der Verschiebung und ähnlichen Dingen.

Dass Liszts Vorbild und Unterweisung auf dem Gebiet der rein technischen Seite des Klavierspiels ausserordentlich fördernd sein musste, versteht sich von selbst. Um die Bildung des Anschlags scheint er sich weniger bemüht zu haben.

Liszt hat eine ausserordentliche Menge von Kompositionen niedergeschrieben. Dass es ihm — ganz abgesehen von den Bedenklichkeiten seiner Harmonik und seines Aufbauens — an eigentlicher musikal. Erfindung so gut wie ganz gefehlt hat, wird wohl heute nur von einer kleinen Minderheit bestritten werden. Wirklich erfinderisch dagegen war er auf dem Gebiet der Klavieristischen Wirkungen. Ganz ungetrübte Freude kann man an diesen Zeugnissen seines Genies in allen den Fällen haben, wo er ein fremdes, für andere Mittel erfundenes Stück ohne irgendwelche eigene Zutaten zu einem Klavierstück umschafft. Meisterwerke dieser Art sind namentlich seine Übertragungen Paganini’scher Capricen für das Klavier. Auch eine Reihe Schubert’scher Lieder gehören hier her. Es ist unverkennbar, dass Brahms in seinen Klavierkompositionen rücksichtlich des Klaviersatzes mit grossem Erfolg bei Liszt in die Lehre gegangen ist…”


Joachim once commented to me: “Even in the time of my greatest enthusiasm for Liszt, I never heard him play in such a way that, in the innermost corner of my being, the voice of conscience did not object.”

Later, when I reminded Joachim of this, he claimed: “I can’t have said that, because I know, for example, that Liszt, Cossmann and I played the B flat Major trio of Beethoven as beautifully as I have ever heard it in my life. To be sure, the three of us were making music quite alone. As soon as some woman appeared, it was naturally all over with artistic seriousness, and the theater began.” In spite of this objection, the fact remained for me that he had made that comment, and if the exception with the B flat Major trio had really taken place, which I do not doubt, then it merely served to prove the rule. It is certainly understandable that Liszt, with his incontestably incomparable genius for the piano, with his lightning-quick comprehension of every music, would have completely captivated the many-years-younger Joachim. But as proximate as their talents were, so radically different were their characters. It was a short beguilement, that both believed that they fundamentally belonged to one another; the paths that their innermost natures compelled them to take led them in diametrically opposite directions. Liszt, from early times the epitome of a virtuoso in the broadest and most audacious sense of the word, sought and found in everything that he did merely the triumph of his ego. In his youth, no artistic scruples prevented him from picking to pieces the music of Don Juan, in order to concoct a frivolous effect-piece for piano out of the shards; Meyerbeer served him in turn just as well as Mozart or Mendelssohn’s Midsummer night’s Dream. In a concert in Berlin, he played Beethoven’s C sharp minor sonata with such egregious distortions of tempo, that, while the masses indeed clapped wildly, all musical people were outraged. A few days later, he performed the same sonata for a small circle of musicians — and this time in a completely suitable tempo. When the auditors expressed their astonishment at this, he replied unabashedly that one must string the piano differently for the public than for connoisseurs, in order to make an impression. In later time, he impressed upon his students that the first commandment of playing in public was not to let an instant go by, without somehow calling the audience’s attention to oneself. In other words, the job of the artist is to astound at any cost, or also: the triumph of the person is the sole objective of all reproduction. Picture this now in comparison with Joachim, with all his lifelong feeling, doing, striving and action directed solely, with all his strength, towards remaining true to his conviction of the genuine, enduring, truthfully beautiful — even in conflict with the most powerful and unscrupulous elements — and one will realize that it was impossible for this Joachim, who throughout his life placed his person behind the matter that was holy to him, to remain united with Liszt.

Translation © Robert W. Eshbach, 2013