From: The Musical Times, Vol. 50, No. 788 (October 1, 1908), p. 644

A correspondent who signs himself ‘Nimrod’ writes: ‘Being a Düsseldorfer, I was much interested in the Foreign Note in your September issue which stated that a tablet is to be affixed to the house in the Eilkerstrasse, in which the Schumanns lived for three years. Only I could not remember any Eilker Street in the fair garden city on the Rhine. Then it struck me that no doubt the Bilkerstrasse, named after the suburb Bilk, was meant. That street I know well, for as a little boy I went to school there. I connect it in my mind chiefly with sundry canings — no doubt well deserved — that I received, and with a fascinating baker’s shop where we children used to spend our Pfennigs on capfuls of broken pieces of confectionery. Perchance it was the identical shop that supplied bread and cakes to the Schumanns some years before I patronized it to the tune of an occasional farthing. Rather a dull street my memory recalls, but it leads at right-angles to the Haroldstrasse, facing the ornamental water, the Schwanenspiegel, where Joseph Joachim lived for a time in 1855 in rooms procured for him by his young friend Johannes Brahms. The latter was then living in Düsseldorf so as to be near Frau Clara Schumann in her great trouble and anxiety due to her husband’s tragic illness. Joachim’s rooms would be within two or three minutes’ walk from the Schumann’s house. I can well believe Herr Kalbeck’s statement in vol. i. of his Brahms biography, that many Düsseldorfers would forgather on the promenade along the Schwanenspiegel, outside Joachim’s rooms, to listen to the performances of quartets and other chamber music given by the young master-fiddler, his pupil K. L. Bargheer, a Danish friend, Waldemar Tofte, and a cultured amateur, Herr Assessor von Diest, who lived in the same house as Joachim, and was a violoncellist of sufficient excellence to play at the Lower Rhenish Festivals at the first desk.


‘We may be sure that young Brahms — “der blonde Johannes” as his friends called him — profited greatly by these performances under so gifted a leader, for he had not previously enjoyed many chances of hearing classical chamber music. He would sit in the corner of the sofa, cover his eyes with his hand and utter never a word. Once, says Herr von Diest, during the playing of a Mozart Adagio he suddenly jumped up, walked with heavy steps to the door, and closed it behind him with a bang. He had felt like one seasick, he afterwards explained to Joachim, who remonstrated with him for h is “rudeness”; he could not possibly listen to another note, he was too full of music! When a pianoforte was required for the performances, the party met at Frau Schumann’s house. Brahms generally played the pianoforte part on these occasions, the hostess explaining her reluctance to take a share in the performances by remarking to Herr von Diest: “I do not like to play when Brahms is present. He is too severe a critic; and alas! he is always right.” While they are about it, why do not the Düsseldorfers affix a tablet to the house in the Schadowplatz where young Brahms lived at what was a turning point in his career? Are they perhaps ashamed of the notorious fact that when a new Musikdirektor had to be chosen in succession to Robert Schumann, they preferred a nonentity like Julius Tausch to the young genius then living in their midst who had been hailed as a “strong fighter” and the coming man in the clarion-tones of Schumann’s famous Neue Bahnen article?’

See also: Gustav von Diest: from “Aus dem Leben eines Glücklichen” (1904)