The Scotsman, (June 27, 1931), p. 18


Ernst Denhof: From “Joseph Joachim Centenary. Personal Recollections” (1931)

A Tribute to the Master

The Joachim Quartet played again in my concerts the following year (1904.) In London great preparations had been made to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Joachim’s first appearance at a Philharmonic concert in London in May 1844. (Mr Fuller Maitland in “Masters of German Music” states that Joachim first appeared at a benefit concert for the librettist, Alfred Bunn, on March 18 of that year.) During all those years he had been a frequent visitor to Edinburgh, being connected with the Philosophical Institution, of which he was made an honorary member in 1889, and was, of course, very well known. When the date was fixed for the appearance of the Quartet, a committee was formed, with Professor Niecks as chairman, for the purpose of making a suitable gesture in the Scottish Capital. Dr Joachim was to be presented with an illuminated address, and a silver laurel wreath. More than 200 invitations were issued in musical circles for the afternoon of the day of the concert, in the large hall of the N.B. Station Hotel. Professor Niecks welcomed the four artists on behalf of those present, and in presenting the address containing some 150 signatures, paid warm tribute to Dr Joachim’s great qualities as an artist and as a man. My wife then presented the laurel wreath. Dr Joachim expressed his thanks in a few words, alluding to his visits to Edinburgh, and “his great appreciation of this address from the capital of a country which had given to the world many warm strains of music in immortal melodies which would live in the heart of the musical world long after more elaborate works had ceased to find an echo.”

An Interesting Incident

That evening the Quartet again played two string quartets by Beethoven (Op. 18, No. 1, F. major, and Op. 131, C sharp minor) and I played with Dr Joachim alone the Sonata, Op. 96, G major, and in this connection there was a small incident which may not be devoid of interest to amateurs and professionals alike. As is well known, the principal subject in the first movement of this work begins on the third beat with a short trill, for which Beethoven marked no final turn. As, however, he generally wrote very exactly, especially in his later works, to which this sonata belongs, it is evident that he did not want a final turn. Both ways, with and without final turn, have their advocates, and as the passage is repeated 27 times, it is necessary that both players be agreed upon the point beforehand. In my experience the majority of professionals play it without — as I did myself. Indeed, at the start of the rehearsal, also Dr Joachim said, “Of course, without the final turn,” and so the rehearsal proceeded normally. To my great surprise, however, at the end of the development before the re-entrance of the theme where the trill occurs four times, without the notes e, d, b, which follow in other instances, Dr Joachim interrupted, and after a moment’s thought, remarked, “I almost think a final turn should be made at this place!” It would be risky to attribute this opinion to the result of deep thought or a passing whim. I had played the sonata several times before, also with Lady Hallé, but always, logically, without the final turn throughout. I can only imagine that Dr Joachim took the view that at the place in question as the trill is only fragmentary and a kind of introduction to the full theme, it would indeed be better with the final turn. Nevertheless, I am not convinced that Dr Joachim always played it with the note of complement. The fact remains that Beethoven did not mark it in any instance.

The “Human Heart”

Despite the occasion and the great success of the afternoon reception, the concert in the evening was not so well attended as previously. The ways of the public are sometimes incalculable, and it was extremely painful to me to have to present Dr Joachim with a hall only two-thirds filled. The incident, however, afforded me a glimpse of “the man” Joachim, to whom Professor Niecks had referred and of proving that he, like Liszt and Brahms, had not only genius, but a human heart. When I handed him his cheque after the concert he declined to accept the agreed sum, saying in a friendly way, “No, you cannot possibly cover expenses for this concert; we do not want you to lose, and so we have decided to meet you by accepting a smaller fee,” and in naming the sum he went so far as to say that he would be content with less still but for their own expenses. As it was they made a considerable reduction, and I make a point of mentioning the fact because in the many years of my association with artists it was the first time that any of them, realising the position, though I had not betrayed it, had offered to accept less than our arrangement, of their own accord. True, many of them treated me as a colleague in the making of terms, knowing my enterprise to be purely artistic, but once an agreement had been reached, it was strictly adhered to.

After this concert I was Dr Joachim’s guest at dinner, at which were also Halir, Wirth, and Hausmann; also Professor Niecks, whom Joachim and I both knew intimately. “En petit commité,” we passed a most pleasant evening, separating only after midnight. It was Dr Joachim’s last evening in Edinburgh. He left the next morning never to return. Three years later, on August 15, 1907, the musical world was shocked with the announcement of his death, and the loss of one of the greatest violinists that ever lived.

The Scotsman June 27, 1931