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JOSEPH JOACHIM

* 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.


LIFE

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.

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[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.