Robert Imandt
Photo: University of South Florida
Charles Ringling Family Collection

I’ve been thinking about this beautiful, artistic, photograph, so reminiscent of Julia Margaret Cameron, and thinking I had seen it before — which, of course, I have — in a celebrated painting of Joseph Joachim by Cameron’s friend George Frederic Watts. The photo is of Robert Imandt (1894-1969), a French-born American violinist and photographer who, in his youth, not only studied with Joachim, but lived with him in his Berlin home. It is clearly an hommage.

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Imandt had a burgeoning career that was interrupted by WWI: he served for a number of years in the French military, and was wounded twice — once receiving a shrapnel wound in the first two fingers of his left hand. He never fully recovered his ability to play, though he tried for some years. Eventually, he became a known photographer, and his photographs still sell on the market…

In any case, as I say, I find this photo to be extraordinarily beautiful and artistic — even far surpassing Watts’s painting, which I have never particularly liked. It captures the same gaze — the same “inwardness”  — which has always been mentioned as characteristic of Joachim’s playing, and of Watts’s painting of him, but also gives a wonderful impression of virtuosity (which the Watts painting does not, intentionally so) — the pronated bow hand, blurred in motion, the head thrown back instead of forward — the complete package of an artist. I would like to have heard Imandt in his prime. He was said to possess a perfect technique, including a sensational bow arm. Having been brought up by Joachim, I imagine he was also a superlative musician. He died in 1969 — late enough that I might have known him and been able to learn from him, had I been involved with Joachim at that time, and able to travel to speak with him. Alas, his son died in Springfield MA just a few years ago…

There is a very fine article on the Watts painting and the whole issue of ‘sentimentalism’ by Stephen Downes in a recent issue of 19th Century Music — much to be recommended: Stephen Downes, “Sentimentalism, Joseph Joachim, and the English,” 19th Century Music, XLII/2 (Fall, 2018): 123-154.

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The Owosso Times, Owosso, Michigan, 24 March, 1922, p. 5:

Robert Imandt, one of our most noted French artists. Imandt’s musical career began with Louis Beittinhofer, a disciple of the great Jules Garcin. Later he journeyed to Berlin and played before the great Hungarian Master, Joseph Joachim. He not only was taken in by Joachim as a pupil, but as one of the family. At the age of thirteen Robert made his formal Berlin debut and filled numerous engagements in Paris and Provinces of France as well.

At the age of fourteen he was received at the Paris conservatory carrying off the first prize of violin with more than one hundred competitors. Later after spending considerable time in Berlin and Poland, Robert was called into service, sacrificing six years of his artistic career for the need of his country. He enrolled as a simple private, was wounded twice and won croix de guerre with citations. He later took up radio work and was commissioned. His first two fingers being injured with sharpnel [sic], was [sic] restored to usefulness in a few weeks at Fort Sheridan, N. S.

Imandt also possesses a voice which is incomparable, it has been trained from infancy by his master Joachim to faithfully interpret the works he plays. Imandt has rare tone quality, absolute accuracy, marvelous technic and perfect control of the bow.

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