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Anecdotal


JJ Reutlinger Paris Old BNF PS2

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April 17 [1901]

Lunched with Felix Moscheles. He had just finished and sent off a picture which so delighted Robert Browning that the poet became its godfather and presented it with a handsome sonnet. Amongst other guests were Joachim and Herbert Gladstone. The former was in great force. It is strange to see a man who has lived to become a classic and is associated with severity and sublimity so genial and so good a story-teller. He told us how he was getting his hair cut in Kensington, and the hairdresser proposed to snip off a certain lock which the violinist always wears behind his ear. If it is not long enough to fit into that resting-place, it falls over his forehead as he bends over the fiddle and disturbs him playing. So he is careful to keep it long.

“I should have it short,” said the hairdresser.

“Oh, no,” said Joachim, alarmed.

“Oh, yes,” the barber insisted. “Have it cut off. It makes you look like a philosopher ——”

“The barber was evidently thinking of Locke,” interrupted a frivolous guest.”

“It makes you look like a philosopher,” continued Joachim, ignoring the interruption, “or one of them German fiddlers who come over.”

— Sir Henry William Lucy, The Diary of a Journalist, New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1922: 134.


§ Harry B Cohn, the Montreal violinist and critic, was in Berlin for several days. While here he attended a concert of the celebrated Joachim Quartet. Asked how he liked their playing, Mr. Cohn replied: “I fully realized that there is only one quartet on earth—the Kneisel Quartet, of Boston.”

— The Musical Courier, New York (5 March 1902): 35.


§ Mr. Ap’M. […] has been favored with an anecdote of Joseph Joachim, in Teuton:—

Der Violinvirtuose Joachim wollte in diesem Winter in Hannover das Schlittschuhlausen [sic] noch erlernen fiel dabei tüchtig hin und sein Lehrmeister, der Bahnwärter, sagte ihm: “Ja, ja so licht is dat nicht, als Viggelin speelen.”

[This winter in Hanover, the violin virtuoso Joachim wished to learn to skate, and fell down hard. His teacher, the railroad signalman, said to him: “Ja, ja. It’s not as easy as playing the fiddle.”]

The Musical World, London (23 April 1864): 269.


§ Once at a dinner with his intimate friends, the sisters Anna and Julie von Asten, Joachim asked “Do tell me why you have no red wine on your table to-day?”

One of the hostesses replied, “My dear Joachim, you told us last time you were here that you did not like wine with your dinner, and therefore we ordered Munich beer.”

Joachim: “To-day I want some wine very much, and I think you would do well to follow my example, for depend upon it wine is much wholesomer than beer.” Naturally the ladies hastened to fulfill the wishes of their guest, and commissioned their servant to purchase wine from a neighbouring wine-merchant. With a hearty laugh Joachim stopped them, and, feeling in the breast pocket of his coat, produced the following letter, which he proceeded to read to his astonished hostesses:—

“HONOURED HERR PROFESSOR,—Having heard that you move in good society, we permit ourselves to ask if you feel disposed to recommend new customers to our firm. You could in this way with great ease considerably augment your income, for on every order you would receive a commission of 25 per cent.—Faithfully yours,

“N. N., Wholesale Wine-merchant.”

The whole manœuvre with the red wine was only in order to see how far he was qualified for such a post! Amid roars of laughter the company testified to his qualifications as a wine-agent.

— Andreas Moser (Lila Durham, trans.), Joseph Joachim: A Biography (1831-1899), London: Philip Welby, 1901: 317-318.


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Lady Macfarren, Recollections of Dr. Joachim

I first saw Joachim at a vistit Professor Macfarren and I paid to his uncle, Mr. Figdor, residing at Tulse Hill. It was a grey, warm afternoon, and I saw a tall, genial youth, who I was told was a great violin player. I had a long game of ball with him, several times resumed, on the lawn, whilst Professor Macfarren and his uncle walked up and down on the paths at the sides of the garden. There was no music, and I remember no other people.

The song ‘Kleine Blumen, kleine Blätter,’ mentioned in your article, recalls to me that Joachim said he would like to write a song for me, and I looked out several sets of words. I must have told him of my regret that I could not sing Beethoven’s song to the above words, which I was very fond of, as it was too high for me and does not lend itself favourably to transposition. I have a dim remembrance of my surprise and pleasure to see these words set by Joachim for me. The copy was inserted into Professor Macfarren’s album.

We had returned from America in 1850, and in the first days of the Crystal Palace concerts I remember our hearing Joachim play the Beethoven Concerto and his joining us afterwards. We had our (then) little girl with us, and Joachim swung her on his shoulder to take her to look at the bears, pronouncing the word as rhyming with tears, which amused us all.

In 1854 or ’55 we took a small house in a large piece of ground in Alpha Road, St. John’s Wood, and there we saw the most we ever did of Joachim, of whom I treasure a store of delightful recollections. He was fond of the place, its shrubs and trees. He loved every spring to see the lovely blossom of an old medlar tree; took the liveliest interest in all our doings, down to some pigeons in an old shed, where he would go up a ladder to see all about them. He always brought his violin, took our early dinner with us, and if Professor Macfarren was writing anything new he wished to hear it, often playing a voice or solo part from my transcription. In successive years he brought many works to us that were appearing in Germany of Bach and others, his own fine Hungarian Concerto and other things. He played them over and over again with the earnest enthusiasm we all had noted so long. Those were happy, memorable occasions. Many a book I heard of only from him, and he often noted what we were reading in English.

In my memory he stands as one of the dearest of friends, who gave me much invaluable musical advice, for which I shall remain indebted whilst I live.

— Lady Macfarren, Recollections of Dr. Joachim, The Musical Times (October 1, 1907): 662.


§ … on a misty afternoon, with a young cousin, a friend of Miss Horsley’s, [the author] went to inquire for Mrs. Horsley, the mother of the family, who was dangerously ill in her house on Campden Hill. There was a garden in front of the house, and the door opened as we came up, and then some one who had been watching from the window ran out quickly from within, passing the maid who had come to the door, and saying: “I saw you crossing the garden. Come in, come, both of you. Come quietly; my mother is very, very ill. But Joachim is here, he has come to play to her; she wanted to hear him once more….” In a dim, curtained back room looking across another garden the dying mistress of the house sat propped up with cushions in a chair. Joachim stood with his back to the window, holding his violin, and we waited in silence by the doorway while he played gravely and with exquisite beauty. The sad solemn room was full of the blessing of Bach, coming like a gospel to the sufferer in need of rest.

—  Anne Thackeray Ritchie, Blackstick Papers, New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1908: 60-61.


§ [Felix Weingartner] described his encounter with Joseph Joachim when, in 1907, as part of the preparation for the upcoming centennial Haydn activities, they were both invited to sit on the advisory committee of the Breitkopf & Härtel complete Haydn edition. Weingartner had had little prior contact with Joachim, who was suspicious of Weingartner’s Wagnerian and Lisztian sympathies. Non the less, at the meetings Joachim (then a man of over seventy, who would die later that year) more than once took Weingartner’s hand and asked, ‘Truly, was not Haydn indeed a great man?’

— Leon Botstein, “The consequences of presumed innocence: the nineteenth-century reception of Joseph Haydn,” Haydn Studies, W. Dean Sutcliffe (ed.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998: 6.