From: Edward Normanton Bilbie, Experiences of a Violinist at Home and Abroad, Ann Arbor: privately printed, 1921, pp. 26-27.




This great player and musician has had so much said about him that I shall speak mainly of his technique and a few points in style. In fame he stands beside the greatest players and his name will be carried down in history. He was famous from a child to the day he died. He was pre-eminently a player of the classics and a great quartette player. His style was so satisfying that when one heard him play a solo it seemed that his way must be the only way to play it. His bowing was remarkable, his left hand fine. His spiccato was so liquid, so delicate, or again it was so solid, so hammer-like. His trill, his scale runs, his broad, full tone, his various qualities of tone, his portamento, all were specially fine in comparison with the best players of his time, yet he never moved the common feelings but filled you with the full satisfaction of hearing


music played that seemed to speak to you. You lived in it for the time. He was so impersonal that though as a pupil trying to acquire the so-called “Joachim bowing” I would intend watching him, as soon as he began to play I practically never saw him again until he was through. He seemed absolutely without affectation and drew no attention to himself. He dressed shabbily at times. I have walked behind him on the street and noted his splendid build, the noble head. He was not tall but heavy without being corpulent. His interpretation of the three B’s and the rest of the classical writers could not be surpassed, but apart from all this his influence was of the greatest good in the musical world. He set an example to artists as much as to pupils and of his teaching I need say nothing. He was associated with Wagner and Liszt as a young man but pulled away from them. This was a good thing for it left him to do his great work as an exponent of the classics and Wagner did not need him. Strange to say, Joachim often played out of tune but one excused it in him. He was frequently nervous and I have often heard his bow tremble when first starting out on a solo but it soon would ring clear. In quartette he even scratched some at times, but what of it! He did not play the violin like a mincing dancing-master, but like a man full blooded, intellectual, human. In selecting his pupils from the crowds who went to him in all parts of the world, he considered their character as much as their talent. He was born at Kitsee, Hungary, in 1831, and died at Vienna [sic] at the age of 75, while on a concert tour [sic]. Like his boyhood’s friend, Mendelssohn, he was a Christian Jew. Although reputed to be poor at the time I studied in Berlin, he died worth $380,000. I did not study with Joachim — he had a long waiting list and I could not wait. I know a young man who studied in the Hoch Schule for five years and only got with Joachim four the last five months of his sojourn in Germany. I studied with a man so musically alluring that the thought of leaving him seemed unthinkable.