The Athenæum, No. 2577 (March 17, 1877), pp. 361-362.
HERR JOACHIM’S DEGREE
Cambridge, March 10, 1877
[…] The reasons which led to this degree being conferred on the German violinist are simple. Prof. Macfarren is an enthusiast in his art, and has always been anxious to raise the status of musicians. As it is not the custom for our Government to bestow crosses and orders on musical men, as is done in most continental countries, Prof. Macfarren suggested that honorary degrees should be awarded to Herr Brahms, Herr Joachim, Sir John Goss, and Mr. Arthur Sullivan, and the University authorities readily adopted the suggestion.
[…] There would be considerable difficulty in finding artistic reasons for making Herr Joachim honorary Mus. Doc., if we looked only at his compositions. They are few in number, although they are clever and scholarly; but signs of genius there are none. We know here his March and Trio in c, his Hungarian Concerto, and his Dances (associated with Brahms). He has also composed Overtures to ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Henry the Fourth,’ and to the ‘Demetrius’ of Schiller,  and he has written songs, but there is really nothing in them to distinguish him from other clever composers, masters of the grammar of their art, but who possess neither fancy nor imagination enough to impress us with their individuality. Why, then, Mus. Doc. of Cambridge? Because as an executant he occupies an exceptional position — it may be added an unparalleled one. There have been violinists who have surpassed him in the creation and in the execution of difficulties, but there has never been another artist who possessed, so to speak, such a creative faculty in the interpretation of great classical works. He has the essential elements of perfect intonation, of a magnificent tone, of acute sensibility, and of a
thorough command of the most intricate scales. His self-possession enables him to play without extravagance of action; he manages the gradations of sound, to the softest pianissimo, without any apparent effort. His intellectuality and poetic temperament, combined with his classical taste in the concertos of Bach, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Spohr, have developed points and effects from innermost passages which had escaped all previous executants. When it is added that his career has been consistent throughout, that he has always aimed at introducing music by the masterminds, never pandering to popular prejudices, always encouraging artists as well as amateurs to cultivate a sound school, and that for a series of years, during his visits to this country, he has not only gratified but instructed the general musical public, enough has been stated to justify the University officials in selecting an executant for the first time for a musical degree. And so thought, evidently, the large assemblage gathered in the Senate House, when the Vice-Chancellor, the Master of Clare, greeted the new doctor. Besides being supported by the presence of so many professors and conoisseurs from London, Herr Joachim had University feeling on his side; the undergraduates, ready as they were at whistling music-hall tunes, including the ‘Rogues’ March,’ after the passing of the Mus. Doc., M.A.s, and B.A.s — for there were several — cheered the German artist repeatedly; but their sense of the ridiculous was touched when the orator associated Herr and Madame Joachim with Orpheus and Eurydice, and they supplied at once an Offenbach air.
To turn to the evening concert. Herr Joachim’s MS. Elegaic Overture, in commemoration of Heinrich von Kleist, — the patriot, poet, and dramatist, who committed suicide with a Frau Vogel in 1811, — can boast of little that is suggestive in its subjects, which are dry and formal, ably and vigorously developed as they are. The composer conducted his own work, and did the same duty for the MS. Symphony of his friend, Herr Brahms. […] In addition to the two novelties, the Overture, ‘The Wood-Nymphs,’ Op. 20, by Sterndale Bennett, so genial and graceful, and full of charm; the ‘Song of Destiny’ (Schicksalslied), Op. 54, by Herr Brahms; and the Violin Concerto of Beethoven, Op. 61 (wondrously played by Herr Joachim), were ably conducted by Mr. C. Villiers Stanford, organist of Trinity. […]
 The overture is actually to the ‘Demetrius’ of Herman Grimm.
The Musical World, Vol. 31, No. 8 (February 19, 1853), p. 110
BERLIN. — JOACHIM’S FIRST APPEARANCE. — The second concert of the Sternsche Verein was rendered remarkable by the first appearance of the young violinist, Joseph Joachim. His name was already well known, but himself, his artistry, had yet to be appreciated. His birth-place is Pesth; he went early to Leipzig, where, as a boy, he was the favourite of Mendelssohn; was afterwards greatly distinguished by Liszt in Weimar, and is now Concert-master in Hanover. But his genius stands not in need of patronage. He came forward as one of those rare artists who in the performance of a few bars manifest the entire greatness of their genius. This it would seem impossible to do in a simple theme, or in some unimportant passages: but yet it is so. Joachim had not played twelve bars when the most joyful astonishment was shewn on every face. His soft, full tone, the charm of his phrasing, the exquisite refinement of his crescendo and decrescendo, in fact, the enchantment that it was to feel the presence of every quality that is desired in an artist, placed him at once in the first rank in our esteem, and proved him to be, perhaps, the greatest living performer on his instrument. The grand cadence that he introduced in the Beethoven concerto seemed to shew that he could also perform all the modern “tours de force” as well as, and better, than the best bravura players of our time. But he had already shewn a gift in which he is unrivalled, and therefore this test of his powers was hardly needed. His external appearance, the awkward, embarrassed way of presenting himself; the half-shy, half-sulky, and yet so winning physiognomy, all shew that the outward world hardly touches him; that it is his art alone which engrosses him entirely. Even his success — and of course he excited a storm of approval, which from the audience of these concerts, the most intelligent in Berlin, is saying a great deal — he received with indifference. — Suddeutsche Musik Zeitung.
Allgemeine Wiener Musik-Zeitung, Vol. 1, No. 139 (November 20, 1841) p. 582.
Large Musical-Declamatory Academy
Sunday, November 15, 1841 in the k. k. Hoftheater near the Kärntnertor, for the benefit of the Institute of the Merciful Sisters, sponsored by Mr. Jos. Wache, Agent of the Institute.
Joseph Joachim’s playing and performance of [Charles de] Beriot’s Adagio and Rondo truly surprised us, and fully justified anew our conviction and our often-made claim about the soundness of Herr Prof. Böhm’s teaching method; for here, everything was accomplished — even the most audacious expectations that one can ask of an 8-to-9-year-old [Joseph was 10] — and the word virtuoso, if we wish to assign it to the little violinist, would not be an arrow shot too high above the target. Without question, one cannot, and will not, expect and demand from a child performing a composition of Beriot the power of tone, the subjectively nuanced interpretation, the firm, bold playing of a man; but his tone is pure, strong, his bowing noble and correct, his staccato astonishing, especially with a short bow, his harmonics pure and secure; and there was not — and this is truly all that one can say here — a false tone to be heard in any passage; neither in the runs nor in the double stops. Herr Professor Böhm has already trained a number of outstanding pupils, and if Joachim follows in the path that has been set out for him, we may confidently predict the highest for him; he should beware of arrogance; otherwise false paths are unavoidable, and — the return to, and progress along, the path of genuine art is very difficult. Experientia docti — !
Große musikalisch = declamatorische Akademie
Sonntag den 15. November 1841 im k. k. Hoftheater nächst dem Kärnthnerthore, zum Besten des Institutes der barmherzigen Schwestern, veranstaltet von Hrn. Jos. Wache, Agenten dieses Institutes.
[…] Joseph Joachim’s Spiel und Vortrag des Beriot‘schen Adagio und Rondo hat uns wahrhaft überrascht, und auf’s neue unsere Überzeugung und unseren oftmaligen Ausspruch über die Gediegenheit der Lehrmethode des Hrn. Prof. Böhm aufs vollkommenste gerechtfertigt; denn hier ward alles geleistet, was selbst die kühnste Erwartung von einem 8 bis 9 Jahre alten Kinde fordern kann, und das Wort Virtuose, wenn wir’s schon dem kleinen Violinisten beilegen möchten, wäre kein über’s Ziel hinausgeschossener Pfeil. Daß man die Kraft des Tones, den subjectiv=nuancirten Vortrag, das feste, kühne Spiel eines Mannes bei einer Beriot‘schen Composition von einem Kinde niemals erwarten und fordern kann, und wird, ist zweifelsohne; allein der Ton ist rein, stark, die Bogenführung edel und richtig, sein Staccato, besonders im kurzen Bogen, überraschend, sein Flageolett rein und sicher, und es ließ sich — und dieß ist doch wahrlich alles was man hier sagen kann, in gar keiner Passage ein falscher Ton, weder in den Läufen noch in den Doppelgriffen, vernehmen. Hr. Professor Böhm hat bereits mehrere treffliche Zöglinge gebildet, und folgt Joachim der ihm vorgezeichneten Bahn, ist von ihm das Höchste mit Zuversicht zu erhoffen; er hüte sich aber vor Dünkel, sonst sind Abwege unvermeidlich, und — der Rück= und Weiterschritt auf dem echten Kunstpfad sehr schwer. Experientia docti — !
The Athenæum, Vol. 2, No. 1301 (October 2, 1852) p. 1072
Three Pieces for the Violin and Piano. By Joseph Joachim. Op. 2. — On the occasion of Herr Joachim’s concert we found it necessary [ante, p. 730] to speak in remonstrance against the path apparently preferred in composition by the most gifted young violinist of his day. This we did not merely on the strength of the music performed by him in public, but also with reference to these very three pieces with which we had made acquaintance in private. A return to them, without the interest thrown into them by their composer’s playing, has in no respect caused us to amend the judgment which it behoved us to record plainly in proportion as our admiration and hope for the future of Herr Joachim were sincere. In England we trust these pieces will not — because they should not — find favour: since such spirit and fancy as they contain are clogged, tormented, over-wrought, to a point far short of which the most willing sympathy for the over-anxieties of young experiment must stop short. Unless Herr Joachim altogether change his manner of working, he will never be to the new half-century what Dr. Spohr has been to the one just closed — the greatest German composer for the violin.
The Musical World, Vol. XXII, No. 20 (May 15, 1847), p. 313.
Beethoven Concerto, Herr Joachim
[…] This concerto — like the pianoforte concerto in G, played by Dr Mendelssohn at the last concert — should only be attempted by an artist who is equally a musician and a finished executant. The general complaint that it is not written for the display of the violinist’s peculiar powers, abounding rather in passages and tours de force than in canto — the latter being principally developed in the orchestra — is not altogether without truth. But the zealous musician will bear in mind that Beethoven should be interpreted at any sacrifice, and that in giving expression to his immortal inspirations the egotism of self-display is irrelevant and unartist-like. What Beethoven has written must be performed as it is written, and that in faith and humbleness. Joseph Joachim is one of those who best understand and most willingly accept this condition. He knows and feels that in giving a tongue to Beethoven’s thoughts he is glorifying his art, and he has too much modesty to regard himself at such a moment. But he has the secret of so interpreting the great master as to produce more effect than the most practised performer of fantasias could arrive at in the execution of never-so-brilliant and flighty a bravura-piece; and this he proved triumphantly on Monday night. It was a great and noble and artistic performance in every respect. To speak of the excellencies of the young violinist were to catalogue almost all the perfections that result from long and arduous study, facilitated by a rare and natural aptitude. The fullness and beauty of his tone, the correctness of his method, the rapidity and evenness of his scale passages, the sweeping grandeur of his arpeggios, the closeness and equality of his shake, the crisp lightness and energy of his staccato, and the healthy vigour of his style, which lends itself easily and unaffectedly to every variety of expression, from the most energetic to the most tender, are alike worthy of praise. These were exhibited to singular advantage, albeit he had to manifest them on a violin (a Guarnerius), which, though sufficiently good for an ordinary player, was scarcely capable of resisting the energy of his attack, or of answering all the exigencies of his tone. His cadenzas, of which there were two (in the allegro and the finale), were admirable as musical conceptions, and astonishing displays of mechanical force. Formed upon the themes of the respective movements in which they were introduced, they appeared as natural episodes in the work, rather than as superogatory demonstrations of executive skill. The applause was warm and frequent without, and at the end quite enthusiastic. Since he last performed this concerto at the Philharmonic, three years ago, Joachim has made great progress, although even then, as a mere child, he caused some of the first violinists to tremble for their reputation. How much farther he may go it is impossible to guess, for it is not easy to put bounds to the aspirations of such extraordinary genius and energy.
Der Adler: Allgemeine Welt- und National-Chronik, vol. 1, no. 156 (Vienna, July 6, 1843), p. 651.
[Pesth] Der kleine Violin-Virtuose Joseph Joachim aus Pesth, ein wahrer Wunderknabe, ist von Wien, woselbst er von den ersten Meistern Unterricht erhielt, hier angekommen. Dieses ausgezeichnete musikalische Genie hat in der Residenz vor den höchsten Personen außerordentliches Aussehen erregt, und bereits hat er hier in Privatzirkeln sich hören lassen und die Zuhörer in Erstaunen versetzt. Man hofft, ihn bald in einem öffentlichen Konzerte bewundern zu können (Spiegel.)
New Monthly Belle Assemblée; A Magazine of Literature and Fashion, vol. 21, (London, July to December, 1844), p. 61.
MACFARREN AND DAVISON’S CONCERTS.
The last of the series was a very charming concert, opening with Mendelssohn’s trio in D minor, by the composer, pianoforte; Herr Joseph Joachim, violin; and Mr. Hausman, violoncello; performed with great delicacy, and each of the four movements was encored. We first heard Dr. Mendelssohn in 1829, when he led the performance of his beautiful overture to the “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” worthy of the work which inspired it, like Locke’s music to Macbeth; and since then he has taken the highest place amongst living composers. But what a wondrous boy is this Herr Joseph Joachim — not more than seven years old, it is said, and he does not look more than ten — who plays the most difficult music, upon the most difficult of instruments, with a purity of tone and power of execution which only veteran professors can achieve after years of toil and study! “There is more than natural in this, if philosophy can find it out.” To assist those who have not seen him, we add, he is not what most people would think — an “interesting” boy; his manner is awkward and ungainly, and his countenance dull; but the forehead is remarkably full and overhangs his eyes (which are so heavy as to give a momentary impression of blindness) like a pent house; au reste, he is like any other boy, and looks as if he would enjoy a game at marbles or peg-top.
Bentley’s Miscellany, vol. 25 (London, May, 1849), pp. 646-647.
MUSICAL NOTES FOR MAY
BY TARTINI’S FAMILIAR
… if one desired a text, a theme whereupon to perform a sonata of praise, conviction, and hope, à la mode Germanorum, here is one within our gates ready to hand at this very “time of asking,” — in the head, heart, bow-arm, five fingers, and Cremona of young Joachim the violin player, who is more likely than not, one day to become THE VIOLIN PLAYER! More sterling nature — more sterling art — do not exist than those which he has to present to us. He exhibits power, passion, and prudence on his instrument — he plays like a man and like a master, because he has worked, and still works, like a scholar and a patient aspirant. Anything simpler, sincerer, or nobler than his style — anything completer, more perpetually instinct with intelligence, than his execution — comes not within my record. It was to him that poor Mendelssohn used to point with pride — the pride of a true German and a true artist — as to one who was likely to do credit to their country. The composer loved to hear the boy (for it is only yesterday that Joachim was a boy) play his music; and encouraged, and counselled, and played with him, as though he had been the boy’s elder brother. Well, all that is over now! — and, for the moment, German discord bids fair to make German music cease out of the land. But should good days ever come again for the art, and life and health be spared to him (he is happily strong and sound — in this not the least of a genius or a prodigy) the world can hardly fail to hear, far and wide, of Joachim as Spohr’s successor, with additions and emendations.
Translation © Robert W. Eshbach, 2013
Allgemeine Zeitung des Judenthums, Vol. 3, No. 103 (Leipzig, December 21, 1839), p. 673
[Joseph Joachim’s first notice outside of Hungary]
Universal admiration was elicited by the young, eight-year-old Joachim in Pest, who promises to become one of the heros of the violin.
Allgemeine Bewunderung erregt der junge, achtjährige Joachim in Pesth, welcher ein Heros der Violine zu werden verspricht.