The first volume of Andreas Moser and Johannes Joachim’s Briefe von und an Joseph Joachim, pp. 5-7, contains a letter from Joachim to his violin mentor Ferdinand David, dated London 12. April 1847, in which Joseph describes in interesting detail the concerts and players that he is encountering in the British capital. By internal evidence, the letter is mis-dated. The correct date should be 1844: the year of Joachim’s first visit to England, when he made his legendary début playing the Beethoven Violin Concerto with the Philharmonic Society Orchestra, conducted by Mendelssohn.
Perhaps the most interesting revelation to come from the correct dating of this letter is that Joachim arrived in London expecting to play, not the Beethoven Concerto, but Spohr’s Concerto no. 8 in A minor, op. 47, “Gesangsszene.” As it happened, Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst played the Gesangsszene on Monday, April 15 in the second Philharmonic concert, conducted by Sir George Smart, forcing Joachim to change his repertoire. The history-making performance of the Beethoven Concerto almost did not happen! In any case, Joachim played the Beethoven Concerto, not the Spohr, in the fifth Philharmonic concert, on Monday, May 27, 1844, with Felix Mendelssohn conducting.
This letter shows that, even at the young age of twelve, Joachim was an astute observer and critic of other musicians. He writes rather dismissively of the London orchestra, comparing it unfavorably to the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. He writes of how Ernst, a dear and important role model, nevertheless took great liberties with the Spohr — something that, young as he was, Joachim disliked. He calls Sivori a charlatan, who plays out of tune. He writes of other violinists: Auguste Pott (who played his own concerto in the fourth Philharmonic concert on May 15), Jeròme Louis Gulomy (first violinist to the Emperor of Russia—”a fine player, but not of the first class” [The Morning Post, 27 June]) who gave a number of concerts that season, and of Carlo Rossi, “16 years old, who has good recommendations from Rossini and is reputed to play badly.”
The letter is newsy and interesting, and speaks for itself. The references to Schumann are of course incorrectly annotated — the trip mentioned was the Schumann’s trip to Russia, not a trip to Berlin for a performance of Paradise and the Peri. Paradise and the Peri had been completed in late 1843, and we know that Mendelssohn took Joachim to hear its Leipzig premiere on 4 December. Thus the quotation (or mis-quotation) from memory.