Henry J. Wood, My Life of Music, London: Victor Gollancz Ltd. 1938, pp. 183-185.


JOACHIM (1904)

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Henry Wood ca. 1906

The outstanding event of the 1904 season was the diamond jubilee of Joseph Joachim. A wonderful reception was given for him in Queen’s Hall on Monday, May 16. The president was Arthur James Balfour whom, for the first time, I had the honour of meeting. On the programme appeared a delightful poem by Robert Bridges and, on the second page, a reproduction of a pencil drawing by Frau Moritz Hauptmann; also a recently-taken photograph.

I opened the concert with Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture. I may say that, in those early days of my conducting, Mendelssohn was not a great favourite of mine; I was more devoted to Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and Wagner. Joachim, on the other hand, had known Mendelssohn personally — indeed, he had played with him. He was naturally devoted to Mendelssohn’s works. I was therefore not a little proud of the result of my conducting of the Hebrides overture, for it brought nothing but words of praise from Joachim.

Later, that amazing personality Sir Hubert Parry read, and Balfour presented an illuminated address to Joachim together with his portrait by Sargent. The second item on the programme was announced as ‘solo violin’, and someone went into the artists’ room and brought Joachim’s fiddle-case which he opened amid tremendous applause and enthusiasm. I began the introduction to Beethoven’s violin concerto and Joachim gave a memorable performance of it with his own cadenza. This was followed by his arrangement of Schumann’s Abendlied for violin and orchestra. The musical part of the programme closed with Joachim conducting his own overture to Shakespeare’s King Henry IV (written in 1885) and also the Brahms Academic Festival Overture.

In his address Balfour referred to Joachim’s association with Mendelssohn and told us how the composer conducted the concerto we had just heard when Joachim played it at the Philharmonic concert of May 27, 1844. He then addressed Joachim thus:

“Learning from Mendelssohn and working with Brahms and in the comradeship of life-long friends, you have devoted your whole energies as executant and composer to continuing the tradition and maintaining the ideal of classical music. We now hold it that the sixtieth anniversary of your first appearance in London should not pass without greeting. Your first thoughts as a performer have ever been for the composer, not for yourself.”

The list of the committee and subscribers numbered six hundred and three and contained all the greatest names in music, literature, painting, and even politics.

Of Joachim I always felt that one was in the presence of a Hungarian gentleman of great intellect, and although his playing lacked the emotional depth of that of dear Ysaÿe, his was a quiet classical serenity free from any trace of exaggeration and always musical and scholarly. Joachim was always conscious of his dignity; one could never have the fun out of him that was possible with Ysaÿe. He was a great friend and always a welcome guest at the house of Edward Speyer in Elstree — generally known as the ‘Elstree Speyer’, and cousin to Sir Edgar. Those two did not quite hit it musically: Edgar was all out for the modern in music, Edward for the strictly classical.