Joseph Joachim Recommends Young Richard Burgin, October 4, 1902
Charlottenburg Berlin den 4ten Oktober 1902
Es gereicht mir zu besonderen
Vergnügen zu bezeugen daß der
neunjährige Knabe Richard
Burgin eine außerordentliche
Begabung für die Violine besitzt.
Ich war geradeuzu überrascht von
dem Aplom und der Leichtigkeit mit
welcher das Kind einen schwierigen
Satz von Vieuxtemps vortrug.
Wenn irgendwo so ist es hier ange-
bracht für eine nachhaltige ern-
ste Führung zu sorgen und zu ver-
hüten, daß ein Talent vorzeitig in
der Oeffentlichkeit ausgebeutet wird.
Charlottenburg, Berlin, October 4, 1902
It gives me great pleasure to attest that the nine-year-old boy, Richard Burgin, possesses an extraordinary talent for the violin. I was genuinely surprised by the confidence and ease with which the child performed a challenging movement by Vieuxtemps. If anywhere, it is appropriate here to ensure serious and sustained guidance and to prevent premature exploitation of such talent in the public eye.
For a fascinating memoir of Richard Burgin see Diana Lewis Burgin’s website: http://dianaburgin.com/Memoralia01-Introduction.html from which this letter is taken.
Transcription and translation © Robert W. Eshbach, 2023
Hans Joachim Moser: “Erinnerungen an Joseph Joachim und eine Gedenkrede.” ed. Dietz-Rüdiger Moser
Literatur in Bayern, vol. 22/23, no. 88/89 (June/September 2007): 42-49
A Letter to Wagner 6 April 1854
Joseph Joachim to Richard Wagner, Hanover, 6 Apr 1854
Folder 392-09-010, Special Collections Records, New York Philharmonic
Shelby White & Leon Levy Digital Archives ID: 392-09-010
In October, 1853, Joachim traveled with Liszt and a number of other Liszt disciples, to Basel, Switzerland, to visit Wagner, who was in political exile there. They spent time together at the Hotel Les Trois Rois — Wagner read aloud from his new Nibelung poem (Siegfried), and they ended up drinking the intimate “Du” to one another (something Bülow subsequently had a hard time making himself do with Liszt). Joachim was smitten with Wagner, and the elder man, for his part, promised Joachim that he could play concertmaster when the Ring cycle was eventually premiered.
This letter, written the following April, mentions Joachim’s resolve to perform Wagner’s Tannhäuser in Hanover — still a rather daring thing to do, given Wagner’s poor reputation with the music director there (Marschner), with the public, and especially Wagner’s status as a political radical (had Wagner attended, he would have been arrested, tried as a traitor, and risked a death sentence).
[Marschner on Wagner: “If Wagner were a real composer (apart from a spiritually rich person) and possessed all the natural gifts necessary for such a composer, he would certainly not have had to make such noise and resort to such means in order to achieve the fame as a tone poet that his ambition (or is it something else?) makes him thirst for.”]
A Wagner devotée, Joachim succeeded in pushing it through with the Crown and the theater intendant (who made the programming decisions) and Tannhäuser was indeed performed on January 21, 1855, with Niemann singing the title role. The Hanover opera house was new at that time, and considered one of the best in Germany. A prestigious performance.
Hannover, am 6ten April
Endlich erhältst du mit
vielem Dank die Lohengrin=Stücke
die hoffentlich noch zeitig genug ein=
treffen fürs Musikfest der Eidgenossen.
Meine Hoffnung, vor Schluß der Saison
noch eine Aufführung derselben und
der 9ten Sinfonie zu erbitten, ist
vereitelt — wie es eben meist mit
den besten Wünschen geht, hat man
Mich auf den nächsten Winter mit auch
diesem Lieblingswunsch vertröstet.
Eine gute Nachricht ward mir indeß
zu Theil: die Aufnahme deines Tannhaü=
ser in unser Opern=Repertoire. Da
der neue Intendant, Graf Platen, keine
Mühe scheut, gute Sänger zusammen
zu kaufen (leider der passendste Aus=
druck!) so darf ich für den kommenden
Winter wohl auf eine gute Ausführung
Deiner Oper rechnen, denn das Orchester
hier ist in vielen Stücken wohl das
Deine Freunde müßen schon einstweilen
mit den deutschen Theatern zufrie=
den sein, bis du sie zu den Nibe=
lungen zu dir in die Schweitz rufst:
Du vergißt doch nicht, daß Du mich
mit der Concertmeisterei bei dem
Orchester betrauen wolltest? Ich
werde Dich noch daran erinnern! Ob
ich aber im kommenden Sommer
nach Zürich komme, kann ich noch
nicht mit Bestimmtheit sagen —
außer der Lust, die vorhanden ist, fehlt es mir an
manchen Dingen dazu; aber vielleicht
wird es noch ausführbar. Vor der Hand
bleibe ich den April über hier, um
einen versprochenen Besuch Liszt’s
abzuwarten. Später gehe ich wahrschein=
lich nach Göttingen: nicht um mich
für ein Doctor=Examen zu prepari=
ren! Es ist aber hübscher gelegen
als das öde Hannover, und ich
möchte gerne einiges Musikalische
aufschreiben. In verehrungsvoller
Hanover, 6th April 1854.
At last, you are receiving the Lohengrin scores with much gratitude, which will hopefully arrive in time for the Swiss Music Festival [Music Festival of the Eidgenossen]. My hope to request a performance of the same and the 9th Symphony before the end of the season has been thwarted — as is often the case with the best wishes, they are usually delayed. I have been consoled with the promise of fulfilling this favorite wish of mine in the upcoming winter.
However, some good news has come my way: the inclusion of your Tannhäuser in our opera repertoire. Since the new intendant, Count Platen, spares no effort to buy good singers (unfortunately, the most fitting expression!), I can count on a good execution of your opera for the coming winter. The orchestra here is, in many respects, one of the best in Northern Germany.
For now, your friends will have to be content with the German theaters until you summon them to the Nibelungen in Switzerland. You haven’t forgotten that you intended to entrust me with the concertmaster position in the orchestra? I will remind you of it again! However, I cannot say with certainty yet whether I will come to Zurich next summer. Apart from the desire that exists, some things are still lacking; but perhaps it will still be feasible. For the time being, I will remain here throughout April to await a promised visit from Liszt. Later, I will likely go to Göttingen: not to prepare for a doctoral exam! Nevertheless, it is more pleasantly situated than the desolate Hanover, and I would like to write down some musical things. In admiring devotion, your
Hanover Opera House
“Viele Boten gehn und gingen
Zwischen Erd’ und Himmelslust,
Solchen Gruß kann keiner bringen,
Als ein Lied aus frischer Brust.”
Poem by Joseph von Eichendorff
(* 10.03.1788 – † 26.11.1857)
Washington State University Libraries, Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections
Note from Joseph Joachim, undated (Autograph note, signed), with supporting documentation. 1855-1907.
Retrieved from the Digital Public Library of America, http://content.libraries.wsu.edu/cdm/ref/collection/signature/id/815.
(Accessed August 28, 2023.)
Sandys, John Edwin. Orationes Et Epistolae Cantabrigienses. London: Macmillan, 1910, 3-4.
[English translation below © Robert W. Eshbach]
J. E. Sandys: Oration at Cambridge University
Upon the Awarding of the Mus. Doc. to Joseph Joachim, March 8, 1877
QUAE abhinc annos triginta in hac ipsa curia, coram Alberto Principe Cancellario nostro admodum deflendo, coram ipsa Regina nemini nostrum non dilecta, hunc, vixdum e pueris egressum, eximios cantus fidibus modulantem audivit; eadem Academia virum, per omnem Europam inter principes totius artis musicae iam diu numeratum, hodie reducem salvere iubet. Hodie nobis redditus est Orpheus, —utinam ipsa etiam adesset Eurydice;  nunc iterum, ut poëtae verbis utar quem Cremonae vicina genuit Mantus, Academi in silvis Orpheus
‘obloquitur numeris septem discrimina vocum
iamque eadem digitis, iam pectine pulsat eburno.’ 
Quid dicam de illis qui inter fautores tanti ingenii olim exstiterunt, de viris sempiternae memoriae Mendelssohnio et Schumanno? Nobis autem tamquam triplici vinculo hospitii coniunctus est Regiae Academiae Artium apud Berolinenses Professor, trium deinceps Professorum Cantabrigiensium amicus, primum Thomae Attwood Walmisley, deinde Wilelmi Sterndale Bennett, denique illius qui nuper horum sacrorum antistes a vobis est creatus,
τὸν πέρι μοῦσ᾽ ἐφίλησε, δίδου δ᾽ ἀγαθόν τε κακόν τε:
ὀφθαλμῶν μὲν ἄμερσε, δίδου δ᾽ ἡδεῖαν ἀοιδήν. 
Tantis igitur gloriatur praeceptoribus ars illa, quae in solitudine consolatur, in turba delectat vitaeque communis societatem iucundiorem reddit; quae fessos recreat, aegrotantibus, si non ipsam dare salutem (sicut olim insanienti Hebraeorum regi), auxilium tamen aliquatenus ferre hodie conatur; quae ipsum Dei cultum adiuvat, et intimos animi affectus exprimit, ipsa intima numerorum cantuumque nixa scientia. Quid autem si ars tanta Musarum nomine vere digna, in hac etiam Musarum domo quasi in ordinem redacta atque via quadam et ratione alumnis nostris tradita, inter severiora nostra studia sedem suam aliquando vindicabit? Quid si, inter tot ‘tripodas, praemia fortium,’ novam quandam laureolam Apollini Musagetae dedicare volueritis? Interim huic Apollinis ministro quem ipsum prope appellaverim Arcitenentem, huic interpreti certe divinorum in arte sua virorum Sebastiani Bach et Ludovici Beethoven; qui magnus ipse vates magnorum vatum memoriam non sinit interire;  hanc lauream nostram Apollinarem, hunc titulum Doctoris in Musica, donare licet: qui honos numquam antehac ab ulla Academia Britannica habitus est alienigenae, uno illo excepto, qui nascentis mundi primordia immortali cantu consociavit, Iosepho Haydn. 
At enim Λίνον μὲν ἐπ᾽ εὐτυχεῖ μολπᾷ Φοῖβος ἰαχεῖ, τὸν κάλλειφθιτόν
κιθάραν ἐλαύνων πλήκτρῳ χρυσέῳ. 
Gravamur hodie abesse popularem huius viri, alterum Musarum Teutonicarum decus, virum in difficillimo musicae genere facillimum, Iohannem Brahms. Quamquam autem ipse fato iniquo procul retentus est, carmen illius egregium quod ‘fatorum’ nuncupatur vesperi audietis; audietis etiam novum opus, quo non modo ceteros omnes sed se ipsum superasse dicitur. Post tot triumphos nemo negabit tanto viro consentaneam esse requiem. Ceterum quo maiore animi aegritudine illum absentem desideramus, eo elatiore gaudio praesentem salutamus Iosephum Ioachim.
 [Meant is] Amalie Joachim
 Virgil, Aen. iv. 646 [recte: vi — RWE] [“Matching their gestures with the seven tones,
Striking the lyre, now with his fingers, now with his ivory plectrum.” — RWE]
 “Then the herald drew near, leading the good minstrel, whom the Muse loved above all other men, and gave him both good and evil; of his sight she deprived him, but gave him the gift of sweet song.” Homer, Od. Viii 61.
 In the context of the phrase “inter tot ‘tripodas, praemia fortium,'” the word “tripodas” refers to the ancient Greek tripod, which was a three-legged stool or stand often used as a ceremonial or artistic prize. It symbolized victory, honor, and recognition. In this context, “tripodas” metaphorically represents prestigious awards or accolades given to accomplished individuals or victors. — RWE
 Overture on the death of the patriot-poet Heinrich von Kleist, composed for this occasion. [Elegiac Overture ‘In Memoriam Heinrich von Kleist’, Op. 13 — RWE]
 Mus. Doc. At Oxford, 1794.
 “Now Apollo plucks his sweet-voiced lyre with a golden plectrum and a sad song follows his song of joy.” Euripides Heracles, H. F. 349.
Thirty years ago, in this very hall, in the presence of our esteemed Chancellor Prince Albert, and before our beloved Queen herself, this man, barely out of his childhood, was heard playing exquisite melodies on the strings of his violin. Today, the same Academy bids welcome to a man who has long been counted among the foremost in the whole art of music, as recognized throughout all of Europe. Today Orpheus has been restored to us—would that Eurydice  herself were also present! Now, once again, as the poet born in Mantua near Cremona says, Orpheus speaks in the forest of the Academy:
‘obloquitur numeris septem discrimina vocum
iamque eadem digitis, iam pectine pulsat eburno.’ 
What can I say about those who once stood among the admirers of such great talent, about men of eternal memory like Mendelssohn and Schumann? But for us, he is connected as if by a triple bond of hospitality, a Professor at the Royal Academy of Arts among the Berliners; he is also a friend of three successive Professors at Cambridge, first of Thomas Attwood Walmisley, then of William Sterndale Bennett, finally, that person who recently was appointed by you as the leader of these sacred rites,
τὸν πέρι μοῦσ᾽ ἐφίλησε, δίδου δ᾽ ἀγαθόν τε κακόν τε:
ὀφθαλμῶν μὲν ἄμερσε, δίδου δ᾽ ἡδεῖαν ἀοιδήν. 
Therefore, that art boasts such great masters which comforts in solitude, delights in the crowd, and makes the fellowship of common life more enjoyable; which refreshes the weary, and though it may not grant salvation itself (as it did once to the mad Hebrew king), strives today to offer some degree of succor to the sick; which aids in the worship of God himself and expresses the innermost emotions of the soul, relying on the profound understanding of numbers and the science of sacred song. But what if this art, worthy of the name of the Muses, organized even within this very house of the Muses and handed down to our students through a specific approach and system, should someday claim its place among our more serious pursuits? What if, among all these “tripods”  and “rewards for the brave,” you were to wish to dedicate a new kind of laurel to Apollo, the leader of the Muses? Meanwhile, this minister of Apollo, whom I have almost called the Arcitenens [“bow-carrier” — Apollo] himself, this interpreter of divine works in his own art,  and certainly of Sebastian Bach and Ludwig Beethoven, who are themselves great prophets, does not permit the memory of great prophets to perish. Our Apollinian laurel, the title of Doctor of Music, can indeed be bestowed upon him. This honor has never before been given by any British Academy to a foreigner, except for one, who united the beginnings of the nascent world with immortal music: Joseph Haydn. 
Λίνον μὲν ἐπ᾽ εὐτυχεῖ μολπᾷ Φοῖβος ἰαχεῖ, τὸν κάλλειφθιτόν
κιθάραν ἐλαύνων πλήκτρῳ χρυσέῳ. 
We are greatly saddened by the absence today of that beloved man, the other pride of the Teutonic Muses, the most adept in the most challenging genre of music, Johannes Brahms. However, although he himself has been kept far away by cruel fate, you will hear this remarkable composition of his, which is called “Fate,” this evening; you will also hear a new work, by which it is said that he has not only surpassed all others but even himself. After so many triumphs, no one will deny that such a great man deserves appropriate rest. However, the more we long for Brahms in his absence, the greater our joy in welcoming Joseph Joachim in his presence.
New-York Tribune, 7 May, 1899, Illustrated Supplement
HOW THE SIXTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF
THE GREAT VIOLINIST’S FIRST AP-
PEARANCE WAS CELEBRATED
Berlin, April 28.
The great hall of the Philharmonie was filled to overflowing on Saturday night, April 23, for the celebration of the jubilee of Joseph Joachim, who sixty years ago, a little boy, eight years old, made his first public appearance as a virtuoso in Budapest, and began the career which has made him the master violinist of Germany, and in the opinion of many of the whole world. Bach, Schumann, Mendelssohn, and the entire “noble army” of musicians, who as cameo reliefs on the pale green wall keep watch over the splendid hall, looked down on one of the most brilliant assemblies of famous men and women ever gathered together in Berlin to honor a man great “by the grace of God.” Musicians, artists, men of letters and learning, high officers and Ministers of State, with countless orders gleaming on their breasts, crowded the parquet, the boxes and the gallery to bear witness to the esteem in which they held Germany’s “grand old man.”
He sat there among them in the centre of the hall, in his big chair of honor, decorated with gorgeous azaleas, smiling on them all, pleased as a child and modest as only a great man can be. Only a few minutes before every one of those thousands of men and women, from the highest dignitary to the humblest music student at the far corners of the hall, had risen and cheered at his entrance, while the trumpets of three of the finest regiments in Berlin sounded a fanfare of welcome. How simple he was, as he came in, accompanied by a few devoted men, stopping to shake hands with a friend in the box above him, or laying his hand affectionately on the shoulder of an old colleague as he passed him on his way down the aisle! The shouts of the people and the blare of the trumpets did not for one moment distract his attention from the familiar faces that beamed on him from all sides.
Indeed, they were all familiar faces. Robert von Mendelssohn, the banker and ‘cellist, descendant of the great Felix, and Joachim’s friend for many years, sat in the chair to his right. Across the passage to his left was the beloved old professor, Hermann Grimm, who had composed the prologue for the occasion, and coming toward him to welcome him was his friend and neighbor, Herr von Keudell. In the orchestra, every member of which was standing and waving his or her handkerchief, stood Wirth and Hausmann, Halir, and Moser and Markees, the two capable instigators and managers of the festival, and, besides these, old friends and pupils from all over the world, gray-haired men, middle-aged men, boys and girls, and no one could make noise enough. When the trumpets had ceased and the vast audience was seated, Fraulein Poppe, of the Royal Theatre, came to the front of the stage and recited the anniversary poem which Professor Grimm had written. It was a touching tribute, which grew in eloquence and feeling up to the last words, which were addressed to the orchestra, and as one exquisite mellow voice 144 stringed instruments responded with the opening strains of the overture to Weber’s “Euryanthe.” If ever an orchestra was inspired, that one was! No one who was not there can realize how perfectly the love and devotion to Joachim which every performer felt were breathed into that beautiful music. The audience sat spellbound. And no wonder, for such a collection of artists never played together before. Every city in Germany which could boast of a violin virtuoso sent him to play on this unique occasion, and not only Germany, but England, whose devotion to the great master is almost, if not quite, as great as that of his own country, sent the best two professors of the London Conservatory to represent her. Scattered among the older men were a few young ones, present pupils of Joachim, and about a dozen young girls in their light dresses, some of them with their hair still hanging in braids down their backs—German, English, American.
After the Joachim Variations, played by Petri, of Dresden, and after the overtures of Schumann and Mendelssohn, the “Genoveva” and “Midsummer Night’s Dream” and the Brahms Symphony in C Minor, there were three stars on the Programme. “What did they mean?” Every one looked at every one else and nobody knew, but a surprise was evidently in store. Then a note from some one on the stage was carried to Joachim, and at the same moment the whole orchestra rose and began to croon softly the first measures of the Beethoven Concerto. Then all understood and cheered and clapped, but the master himself was of a different mind. He could be seen expostulating and gesticulating and shaking his head and sitting down, only to get up again to expostulate further. But the orchestra never stopped; the soft music went on insistently—it would not be denied. The people behind the boxes, standing on tables and chairs, leaned forward, not to lose a sight or sound. “They’re bringing his violin,” the whisper ran through the excited crowd; and, sure enough, there came three girls, a deputation of his favorite pupils, down the aisle toward him, holding out his wonderful Stradivarius.
When he took it in his hand the music suddenly ceased, and every drum and horn and fiddle began to pound and toot and shriek in a most enthusiastic “Tusch.” When he had taken his stand, the noble old man turned to the audience in a modest, deprecating way and said: “I haven’t practiced for three days and my hands ache. I have clapped so hard. There are many men in this orchestra who can play this better than I can, but if you really wish me to, I’ll do my best.” A pinfall could have been heard when he began. Every one sat breathless, expectant, and no one was disappointed. If another man in the world could have played better, no one in the audience would have conceded as much, for to a German a false note by Joachim, the “violin king,” is more inspired than the most perfect note of any other violinist living.
When he was through and had returned to his comfortable chair, they made him come back again and again and bow and bow, and were not satisfied until he took the baton in his hand and himself conducted the last number on the programme, the Bach Concerto in G Major. It was written for three violins, three violas, three ‘cellos and basso continuo, but was played by sixty-six violins, the number of the other instruments being increased in proportion. The whole orchestra remained standing throughout in honor of the director, and he deserved it, for Bach, in Joachim’s hands, has beauties which the most stubborn Philistine must feel.
The public had been requested to depart immediately after the close of the concert, that the room might be cleared for the banquet that was to be held there in honor of the hero of the evening, so the rank and file went early, leaving the more fortunate to enjoy the speeches and reminiscences of bygone times.
New-York Daily Tribune (August 16, 1907) p. 7.
N. B.: Obituaries are posted for historical interest only, and should not be taken as sources of accurate biographical information.
JOSEPH JOACHIM DEAD.
Celebrated Violinist Passes Away in Berlin.
Berlin, Aug. 15.—Joseph Joachim, the celebrated violinist, conductor of the Royal Academy of Music, Berlin, and music director of the Royal Academy of Arts, died at 1:45 p.m. to-day. He had been suffering for a long time from asthma and had been unconscious for several days.
Joseph Joachim was born in Hungary, on July 15, 1831, [sic] and early in life attracted much attention by his rare skill as a violinist. He studied under the great masters and appeared at all the capitals of Europe while still a young man. He was created an honorary musical doctor of the University of Cambridge in 1877, and in 1882 was appointed conductor of the Royal Academy of Music in Berlin and music director of the Royal Academy of Arts.
Herr Joachim’s first appearance was made at Pesth, when, after two years’ study, he had attained his seventh year. He first became acquainted with the violin at Kitsee, [sic] a small village in the neighborhood of Pressburg, where he was born. At the age of five he began to learn the instrument. On his first appearance Joachim played a duet with his professor, a Polish maestro named Szervacsinsky, who directed the music at the Pesth Opera House. From Pesth he moved to Vienna, and from Vienna to Leipsic, where, in 1842, he visited Ferdinand David, the eminent violinist, for whom Mendelssohn wrote his famous concerto. David declined to give lessons to one who, he said, already played better than himself. But the experienced virtuoso helped the young player with his advice, and behaved in a fatherly way toward him during his stay at Leipsic, where he studied composition under Hauptmann, chiefly known in the present day as the friend and frequent correspondent of Spohr. In the early part of 1844 Joachim went to London with introductions from Mendelssohn, who, in a letter to Sterndale Bennett, said of him: “I assure you that, although he is only thirteen, I already regard him as one of my most intimate and dearest friends.” Soon afterward Mendelssohn himself went to London, and at a Philharmonic concert given under his direction the brilliant young violinist played in marvellous style the Beethoven concerto.
In 1848, at the age of eighteen, [sic] Joachim was nominated to the post of concert master and professor of the Leipsic Conservatory, in association with his friend, Ferdinand David. A year or two afterward he became, on Liszt’s invitation, concert master at Weimar, and later on received from the King of Hanover a like appointment at the Hanoverian court. Most of the artistic and literary centres of Germany were, indeed, well known to Herr Joachim when he was still a young man; and it must be mentioned that, apart from his musical instruction, he went through a course of study at Göttingen. At Paris he played with great success the year after his first visit to London. This visit was repeated from time to time with brief intervals until 1859; and since that year, from which dates the establishment of the popular concerts, he appeared in London almost every year. His visits to London were broken in 1905, and on August 27 of that year the music critic of The Tribune wrote, on receipt of news that Joachim was too ill to make the journey to England, “whither he has gone with great regularity to preach the evangel of his noble art for half a century,” as follows:
In 1889 he celebrated the semi-centenary of the beginning of his artistic career, and $25,000 was raised as the beginning of a fund for providing poor students at the Hochschule für Musik, which he founded in 1869, with fitting instruments. Last year the diamond jubilee of his first appearance in England was celebrated in Queen’s Hall, London, when a portrait painted by J. S. Sargent, R. A., was presented to him by the Right Hon. A. J. Balfour, and at a concert he conducted his own overture to “Henry IV” and played the Beethoven Concerto, which he had played in London for the first time at a concert of the Philharmonic Society under the direction of Mendelssohn on May 27, 1844. At a similar celebration in Berlin in 1899 past and present pupils of his to the number of 116 violins and violas, with twenty-four violoncellists who had attended his ensemble classes, took part in a concert conducted by Fritz Steinbach. From these circumstances it may be gathered how significant a figure Joachim has been in the musical life of the world since his advent as a prodigy nearly two generations ago.”
The critic of the Tribune quotes as follows from a monograph written by J. A. Fuller Maitland, the music reviewer of “The London Times.”
“Though it were universally conceded that the personal character and disposition of eminent men were to be guarded never so strictly from public inspection, yet in the case of public performers, where technical skill has reached its highest perfection, a kind of self-revelation takes place in every performance; and, besides the ideal interpretation of the music which he plays, Joachim unconsciously tells every one who has ears to hear what manner of man he is in himself. Truth, rectitude, earnestness of purpose, singleness of artistic aim, a childlike clarity of the inner vision, combined with the highest dignity—all these are evident to any but the most superficial listener, and there is a certain quiet ardor, eloquent of strong emotion strongly controlled, such as distinguishes only those who possess the highest imagination. It is recorded that on one occasion, when he played at first sight Schumann’s ‘Fantasia,’ for violin, the composer, instead of bursting into ecstasies over the player’s immediate grasp of the inner meaning of the music or the cleverness of his execution, whispered to his neighbor, ‘One can never love him enough.’ It is, perhaps, this power of stirring up a real personal affection in worthy hearers that is the greatest of all the player’s attributes, and such a power is indeed of priceless value.
“If one had to say in a word what was the secret of Joachim’s influence as an artist, one would surely say that this quality was that in which he stands alone among all the musicians who have ever lived. To hear him lead the Cavatina in Beethoven’s Quartet in B flat, Op. 130, or the Canzona in mode lidico from that in A minor, Op. 132, is to be allowed to gaze into the uttermost profundity of human emotion, into a depth far below the source of tears. In the former quartet two contrasting qualities of the great violinist’s art are set in close proximity, for the beginning of the finale is one of those things in which his youthful impetuosity is almost startlingly displayed. No one who has ever heard him lead a quartet of Haydn can have failed to realize that the dignity of a noble old age is associated with the insouciance, the buoyant fun and frolic of a schoolboy.”
Gustav Eilers: Joseph Joachim (1890)
Portrait of Joseph Joachim at age 59, etching on paper by
Gustav Eilers (1834–1911), Berlin, 1890.
Published by Paul Bette.
Printer: Bruno Fischer.
Height 347 mm x width 268 mm.
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Object number RP-P-1951-612.
A signed copy of this portrait hangs in the venerable Zum Arabischen Coffe Baum in Leipzig, near Robert Schumann’s Stammtisch.
Available from New York Public Library Music Division
Shelf locator: Muller Collection (Joachim, Joseph #12)
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b16492080
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 287bf6a0-c59f-012f-711d-58d385a7bc34
Joseph Joachim by Hanfstaengl’s Kunstverlag, Munich
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