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JJ Initials


Port of London Bartlett

The Port of London

W. H. Bartlett, ca. 1844

Joseph first saw the “smoky nest,” as Mendelssohn called London, [i] under the most auspicious of circumstances. To be introduced as Mendelssohn’s protégé was to fling wide every door to London’s musical establishment. That Mendelssohn was the most highly regarded living musician in English musical life, there can be no doubt. England was Mendelssohn’s second home, and a place in which he received, if anything, greater and more affectionate recognition than he did in his native Germany.


Record of Joseph Joachim’s Arrival in London, March 23, 1844 [ii]

Mendelssohn had fortified Joseph with extraordinary letters of introduction, with praise such as only the young could endure. To William Sterndale Bennett he wrote: “The bearer of these lines, although a boy of thirteen, is one of my best and dearest friends, and one of the most interesting people I have met for a long time.” [iii] Upon meeting Joseph, the eminent pianist Ignaz Moscheles wrote in his diary: “Joachim, a boy thirteen years of age, has come to London, bringing with him a letter of recommendation from Mendelssohn; his talent, however, is his best introduction. We organized a small party expressly for him. I listened with delight to him and Emily [1] playing in Mendelssohn’s lovely D minor trio; after that I was fairly taken by surprise by Joachim’s manly and brilliant rendering of David’s Variations and De Bériot’s Rondo. Mendelssohn is right, here we have a talent of the true stamp.” [iv]

Joachim Daguerreotype


Joseph Joachim at the time of his English Debut, From a Daguerreotype [4]

Joseph’s first London appearance came on March 28, when he performed between the first and second acts of Balfe’s operetta The Bohemian Girl at the Drury Lane Theatre. [2] This “Miscellaneous Concert,” produced by the impresario Alfred Bunn, [3] also included performances by three pianists: Ignaz Moscheles, Madame Louise Dulcken (Ferdinand David’s sister), and C. M. von Weber’s former pupil, Julius Benedict. The program declared “The celebrated Hungarian boy, MASTER IOACHIM [sic], will make his first appearance before an English public and perform Grand Variations for the violin on a theme from Rossini’s Othello, by Ernst.” [vi] Joseph was embarrassed by the merciless teasing that the “Hungarian Boy” received for being introduced at a performance of the “Bohemian Girl,” but Mendelssohn thought it was hilarious, and would later kid him as he arrived for his lessons: “Now, my ‘Hungarian Boy,’ what have you to show me?” [vii]

 St. Paul's

St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, 1844

While residing with his Uncle Bernhard Figdor [5] in Basinghall Street near St. Paul’s Cathedral, Joseph spent time attending concerts and taking in the musical landscape. After three weeks, he sent a newsy letter to Ferdinand David, thanking him for introductions to relatives: a certain Herr David, who lived along his travel route in Cologne, and to Mme. Dulcken in London. “There is a superabundance of foreign fiddlers here,” he wrote. “Ernst, Sivori, [6] Pott [7] (who will play in the 4th Philharmonic), Gulomy [8] (of whom one hears nothing at all), and Rossy, [9] 16 years old, who comes with good recommendations from Rossini and is supposed to play badly, as competent people say.” [viii]

His sharp observations demonstrate a remarkable level of personal and musical maturity, and also paint a vivid picture of London’s musical scene. “I find that the Philharmonic Concerts do not deserve the reputation that they have,” he wrote, “for when one is used to hearing Beethoven’s symphonies in Leipzig, one cannot find edification in the performances here. Even the tempos were mistaken, in my possibly incorrect opinion.” The concert he attended was the second of the Philharmonic series, at which H. W. Ernst performed Spohr’s Gesangscene concerto. This was a piece that Joseph knew well: having performed it recently in the Gewandhaus, he had brought it with him to perform in London. “Ernst did not play the Gesangscene faithfully,” he told David; “he made the cadenza much more modern (although with the same harmony), introduced great difficulties, completely left out the beautiful modulations in the passage in the Allegro (in F), and made very modern endings to the terminations of every solo in the Allegro, played the staccato run in thirds, which required him to take the passage somewhat slower. I consider Ernst to be a very great violin player, and find him incomparably greater as a virtuoso, artist and human being than Sivori. [10] The latter creates truly surprising difficulties, but he often plays inaccurately, and is really a great Charlatan […]. Dr. Mendelssohn is very certainly expected here today:



I will go right away to H[err] Klingemann and see whether he is not yet here. Farewell, and do not completely forget your thankful Alderchen

J. Joachim.” [ix]

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The Morning Post, March 29, 1844, p. 1.

Joseph made a number of appearances before his official Philharmonic debut. On April 22 he gave his own performance of the Gesangscene Concerto in the Societa Armonica concert. [12]

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The Morning Post, April 25, 1844, p. 5

The following day, he played an important “audition” organized by John Ella, with many influential guests present:

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The Morning Post, April 24, 1844, p. 5

Two days later, he performed for the Melodists’ Club, and on May 1, he played at Miss Nunn’s Soirée:

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The Morning Post, April 27, 1844, page 5

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The Morning Post, May 2, 1844, p. 5


Record of Hermann Wittgenstein’s Arrival in London, May 10, 1844

Joseph took part in Madame Caradori-Allan’s extravaganza on May 17. [x] “At Caradori’s morning concert I accompanied some twenty-two vocal pieces in which the concert-giver and a host of vocalists took part” wrote Moscheles; “the legion of instrumentalists was headed by Joachim, who played Ernst’s ‘Otello’ Fantasia in the most masterly way.” [xi]

Joseph had a special affinity for this 15-minute showpiece — his war-horse — and an increasingly intimate personal relationship with its composer. Ever since he had first heard Ernst play in Vienna in 1839, Joseph had looked to him as a role model. Ernst’s kind and supportive intervention at that crucial moment had rescued Joseph’s violin-playing career, and his informed advice had steered young Pepi toward his all-important study with Joseph Böhm. [13]

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The Morning Post, April 19, 1844, p. 1

On this first English trip, Ernst and Joachim would solidify their friendship. The impresario John Ella records an occasion at which Joseph assisted as page-turner for Ernst during a performance of the second Razumovsky Quartet of Beethoven. He also assisted Mendelssohn during a performance of Mendelssohn’s Trio in D Minor:

Had the art of photography in 1844 been popular, as at the present time, we might have had a pictorial souvenir of this performance of Mendelssohn, and Joachim at his side, with Ernst and Hausmann at the violin and violincello [sic]. In the first Allegro, Ernst failing to turn his page in time for the rentrée of the violin, Mendelssohn improvised an elegant rhythm of four additional bars of music, which elicited bravos from all present. A bank director humorously accused Mendelssohn of “putting more notes into circulation than allowed by printed authority.” The composer, with joyous spirit, laughed heartily at the success of his improvisation, and Thalberg had his joke upon Ernst, voltando, non subito. [xii]

Ernst performed his famous Elegie at the same concert. On May 5, Ernst wrote to his brother: “Little Joachim is here […], creating a sensation. He is really extraordinary and to be placed far above the Milanollos with regard to execution and musicianship. I love him very much and see him often.” [xiii] Three weeks later, Joseph wrote to their teacher, giving news of his activities and conveying Ernst’s greetings:

Joseph Joachim to Joseph Böhm in Vienna [xiv]

[London, shortly before May 27, 1844]

Dear H[err] Professor,

I have owed you an answer for such a long time — can assure you, however, that it was neither ingratitude nor neglect that inhibited me from writing, but that I am truly very busy. Things are going very well for me here, thank God; on Monday the 27th I will play in the Philharmonic Concerts, the Beethoven Concerto, and if it is possible to work it out, also a solo. This evening, I will play quartets in public: No. 70 by Haydn in D Major, Quintet No. 2 in G minor by Mozart, Quartet with the fugue in C, No. 3 of the Razumovskys. [14] Ernst just left me; he wants me to send you and your wife many warm greetings. He is a magnificent person and artist. — If I get a little peace, I will write more to you, and better. With warm greetings, and a Handkuss to your wife, I am your eternally grateful, obedient pupil,


[…] Please convey many greetings and regards to Herr Preier, who I thought would come here, from his pupil.

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The Morning Post, May 15, 1844, p. 5

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[1] Moscheles’ daughter. Emily was 16 years old at the time.

[2] This concert was arranged for him by Moscheles. Balfe’s operetta, then very popular, is the source of the “hit” song “I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls.” — “There is a dreadful vulgar ballad, composed by Mr. Balfe and sung with most unbounded applause by Miss Rainforth ‘I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls’ which is sung and organed at every corner in London. I think you may imagine what kind of flowing 6/8 time of the last imbecility it is. The words are written by Mr. Bunn! ‘Arcades ambo.’” (Edward Fitzgerald to F. Tennyson, October 10, 1844) [Demuth/ANTHOLOGY, p. 206] The operetta is set in Pressburg, five miles from Joachim’s birthplace of Kittsee.

[3] “This was the gentleman of whom [soprano Maria] Malibran is said to have shown her indignation at an outburst of his managerial temper by saying: ‘I shall call you Good Friday, because you are a hot, cross Bunn!’” [The Musical Times, Vol. 39, No. 662 (April 1, 1898), p. 226.]

[4] This was one of the earliest portraits of this kind: the Daguerreotype process was patented in 1839.

[5] Bernhard Figdor (1806-1876) was the youngest of ten siblings, of whom Joseph’s mother was the oldest. He was born in Kittsee, and died in Baden, near Vienna. For many years, he represented Figdor family business concerns in London.

[6] Camillo Sivori (1815-1894) was Nicolò Paganini’s only pupil, and a renowned virtuoso. Among the numerous valuable instruments that he played, his favorite was a gift from Paganini — J. B. Vuillaume’s impeccable copy of Paganini’s Guarneri del Gesù, il cannone.

[7] August Friedrich Pott (1806-1883). Like Ferdinand David, Pott was a student of both Spohr and Hauptmann in Kassel. He made his debut with the London Philharmonic in 1838, playing Lipinski’s Concerto in B minor.

[8] Jérôme Louis Gulomy (1821-1887). A Livonian, Gulomy was one of the first violinists to perform the Beethoven Concerto (in Leipzig, 1841).

[9] Carlo Rossi. According to Moser, Rossi was a violin student of Menzel in Vienna. He was better known as a pianist, and lived, after 1851, in Venice.

[10] The reviewer for The Musical World concurred: “This dextrous violinist gave his first concert on Friday last at the Hanover-square rooms, and played several of the Paganini difficulties with wonderful address and neatness. Praise must pull up here; for feeling, expression, and everything like poetical enthusiasm, were swallowed in the flood of executive mechanisms. […] We give him great preferences as an astonisher. He is, however, very inferior to Ernst in the main essentials of his art. The latter has tone, pathos, and poetry, which Sivori never dreams of; and what is more, he selects, principally, such music for his displays as shall largely contain these desirable elements. [The Musical World, Vol. 19, No. 17, (April 25, 1844), p. 145.]

[11] Incorrectly quoted from memory from Schumann’s recently premiered Paradies und Peri.

[12] The Societa Armonica was one of four organizations that gave regular orchestral concerts in London at that time, the other three being the Antient Concerts, the Society of British Musicians, and the Philharmonic Society. The Society of British Musicians programmed exclusively works by British composers.

[13] Years earlier, Ernst’s encouragement had also helped to steer Robert Schumann toward a musical career.

[14] Hob. III: 70, K. 516 and op. 59, no. 3, respectively.

[i] F. G. E./JOACHIM, p. 577.

[ii] Ancestry.com, accessed 9/30/2011. England, Alien Arrivals, 1826-1869. Source Citation: Class: HO 2; Piece: 129; Certificate Number 310. The National Archives (England) Public Record Office.

[iii] G. Selden-Goth (ed.), Felix Mendelssohn Letters, London: Paul Elek, 1946.  p. 333

[iv] Coleridge/MOSCHELES II, pp. 116-117.
[v] Original from Brahms Nachlaß in Brahms-Institut, Lübeck. This is backwards—similar one in Ernst Burger, Robert Schumann.

[vi] Quoted in Fuller-Maitland/JOACHIM, p.6; also in The Musical Times, Vol. 45, No. 736 (June 1, 1904), p. 377.

[vii] The Musical Times, Vol. 39, No. 662 (April 1, 1898), p. 226; Moser/JOACHIM 1908 I, p. 62.

[viii] Joachim/BRIEFE I, p. 6.

[ix] Joachim/BRIEFE I, pp. 5-6. The date on this letter is incorrectly given as 1847. By internal evidence, it should be 1844. The letter, which was sold at Sotheby’s on June 9, 2010, is on four 8vo pages (20 x 12.5 cm), and bears the watermark “WHATMAN 1843.”

[x] The Musical Times, Vol. 45, No. 736 (June 1, 1904), p. 377.

[xi] Coleridge/MOSCHELES II, p. 117.

[xii] Ella/SKETCHES, p. 252.

[xiii] Rowe/ERNST, p. 128. [Quoted from Heller, Amely, H. W. Ernst in the Opinion of his Contemporaries, ed. Samuel Wolf, trans. Roberta Franke (Linthicum Heights: Swand Publications, 1886), p. 18. %]

[xiv] Biba/PEPPI, p. 203.