Joseph Joachim (June 28, 1831 – August 15, 1907) was a Hungarian violinist, conductor, composer and teacher. He is widely regarded as a great and significantly influential violinist of the late 19th century.
Joseph Joachim was born in Kittsee (Kopčany / Köpcsény), near Bratislava and Eisenstadt, in today's Burgenland area of Austria. He was the seventh of eight children born to Julius and Fanny Joachim. His father was a wool merchant. Joachim was born Jewish, and spent his infancy as a member of the Kittsee Kehilla (Jewish community), one of Hungary's prominent Siebengemeinden ('Seven Communities') under the protectorate of the Esterházy family. He was a first-cousin of Fanny Wittgenstein, the mother of Karl Wittgenstein and the grandmother of Ludwig Wittgenstein.
In 1833 his family moved to Pest, where he studied violin with Stanislaus Serwaczynski, the concertmaster of the opera in Pest. (Serwaczynski later moved to Lublin, Poland, where he taught Wieniawski). In 1839, Joachim continued his studies at the Vienna Conservatory (briefly with Miska Hauser and Georg Hellmesberger, Sr.; finally — and most significantly — with Joseph Böhm). He was taken by his cousin, Fanny Wittgenstein (grandmother of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and the pianist Paul Wittgenstein) to live and study in Leipzig, where he became a protégé of Felix Mendelssohn. In his début performance in the Leipzig Gewandhaus he played the Otello Fantasy by Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst. The twelve-year-old Joachim's 1844 performance of the Beethoven Violin Concerto in London (under Mendelssohn's baton) was a triumph, and helped to establish that work in the repertory. Joachim remained a favorite with the English public for the rest of his career.
Following Mendelssohn's death in 1847, Joachim stayed briefly in Leipzig, teaching at the Conservatorium and playing on the first desk of the Gewandhaus Orchestra with Ferdinand David. In 1848, Franz Liszt took up residence in Weimar, determined to re-establish the town's reputation as the Athens of Germany. There, he gathered a circle of young avante-garde disciples, vocally opposed to the conservatism of the Leipzig circle. Joachim was amongst the first of these. He served Liszt as concertmaster, and for several years enthusiastically embraced the new "psychological music", as he called it. In 1852 he moved to Hanover, at the same time dissociating himself from the musical ideals of the 'New German School' (Liszt, Richard Wagner, Hector Berlioz, and their followers, as defined by journalist Franz Brendel) and instead making common cause with Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms. His break with Liszt became final in August 1857, when Joachim wrote to his former mentor: "I am completely out of sympathy with your music; it contradicts everything which from early youth I have taken as mental nourishment from the spirit of our great masters."
Joachim's time in Hanover was his most prolific period of composition. During this time, he frequently performed with Clara Schumann and with Brahms, both in private and in public. In 1860 Brahms and Joachim jointly wrote a manifesto against the "progressive" music of the 'New German' School, in reaction to the polemics of Brendel's Neue Zeitschrift für Musik. This manifesto met with a mixed reception, being heavily derided by followers of Wagner.
On May 10, 1863 Joachim married the contralto Amalie Schneeweiss (stage name: Amalie Weiss) (1839-99). Amalie gave up her own promising career as an opera singer and gave birth to six children. She did continue to perform in oratorios and to give lieder recitals. In 1865 Joachim quit the service of the King of Hanover in protest, when the Intendant of the Opera refused to advance one of the orchestral players (Jakob Grün) because of the latter's Jewish birth. In 1866, Joachim moved to Berlin, where he became founding director of the Royal Academy of Music. There, he founded an orchestra, and, in 1869, the Joachim String Quartet, which quickly gained a reputation as Europe's finest. Other members of the Quartett were Carl Halir (2nd violin), Emanuel Wirth (viola) and Robert Hausmann (cello).
In 1884, Joachim and his wife separated after he became convinced that she was having an affair with the publisher Fritz Simrock. Brahms, certain that Joachim's suspicions were groundless, wrote a sympathetic letter to Amalie, which she later produced as evidence in Joachim's divorce proceeding against her. This led to a cooling of Brahms and Joachim's friendship, which was not restored until some years later, when Brahms composed the Double Concerto in A minor for violin and cello, Op. 102, as a peace offering to his old friend.
In Berlin on August 17, 1903, Joachim recorded five sides for The Gramophone & Typewriter Ltd (G&T), which remain a fascinating and valuable source of information about 19th-century styles of violin playing. He is the earliest violinist of distinction known to have recorded.
Joachim's portrait was twice painted by Philip de Laszlo. A portrait of Joachim was painted by John Singer Sargent and presented to him at the Jubilee celebration of his English debut in London in 1904.
Joachim remained in Berlin until his death from actinomycosis in 1907. He is survived by relatives in the United States, mainly the Bass family.
Among the most notable of Joachim's achievements were the revivals of Bach's Sonatas and partitas for solo violin, BWV 1001-1006, and particularly of Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61. Joachim was among the first to play Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor, which he studied with the composer. Joachim played a pivotal role in the career of Brahms, and remained a tireless advocate of Brahms's compositions through all the vicissitudes of their friendship. He conducted the English premiere of Brahms's Symphony No. 1 in C minor.
A number of Joachim's composer colleagues, including Schumann, Brahms, Bruch, and Dvořák composed concerti with Joachim in mind, many of which entered the standard repertory. Nevertheless, Joachim's solo repertoire remained relatively restricted. Despite his close friendship with Brahms, Joachim performed his Violin Concerto in D major only six times in his career. He never performed Schumann's Violin Concerto in D minor, which Schumann wrote especially for him, or Dvořák's Violin Concerto in A minor. The most unusual work written for Joachim was the F-A-E Sonata, a collaboration between Schumann, Brahms, and Albert Dietrich, based upon the initials of Joachim's motto, Frei aber Einsam (free but lonely). Although the sonata is rarely performed in its entirety, the third movement, the Scherzo in C minor, composed by Brahms, is still frequently played today.
Joachim's own compositions are less well known. He has a reputation as a composer of a short but distinguished catalogue of works. Among his compositions are various works for the violin (including three concerti) and overtures to Shakespeare's Hamlet and Henry IV. He also wrote cadenzas for a number of other composers' concerti (including the Beethoven and Brahms concerti). His most highly regarded composition is his Hungarian concerto (Violin Concerto No 2 in D minor, Op. 11).
Original pressings are single-sided and have a flat red G&T label. Later reeditions have a black G&T label (or, from 1909, a label showing the 'His Master's Voice' trade-mark), and those made for the German market are double-sided. They are better in quality.
Other pupils are mentioned by Wilhelm Joseph von Wasielewski in his "Die Violine und Ihre Meister."
JOSEPH JOACHIM (1831-1907), German violinist and composer, was born at Kittsee, near Pressburg, on the 28th of June 1831, the son of Jewish parents. His family moved to Budapest when he was two years old, and he studied there under Serwaczynski, who brought him out at a concert when he was only eight years old. Afterwards he learnt from the elder Hellmesberger and Joseph Bohm in Vienna, the latter instructing him in the management of the bow. In 1843 he went to Leipzig to enter the newly founded conservatorium. Mendelssohn, after testing his musical powers, pronounced that the regular training of a music school was not needed, but recommended that he should receive a thorough general education in music from Ferdinand David and Moritz Hauptmann. In 1844 he visited England, and made his first appearance at Drury Lane Theatre, where his playing of Ernst's fantasia on Otello made a great sensation; he also played Beethoven's concerto at a Philharmonic concert conducted by Mendelssohn. In1847-1849and 1852 he revisited England, and after the foundation of the popular concerts in 1859, up to 1899, he played there regularly in the latter part of the season. On Liszt's invitation he accepted the post of Konzertmeister at Weimar, and was there from 1850 to 1853. This brought Joachim into close contact with the advanced school of German musicians, headed by Liszt; and he was strongly tempted to give his allegiance to what was beginning to be called the "music of the future"; but his artistic convictions forced him to separate himself from the movement, and the tact and good taste he displayed in the difficult moment of explaining his position to Liszt afford one of the finest illustrations of his character.
His acceptance of a similar post at Hanover brought him into a different atmosphere, and his playing at the Dusseldorf festival of 1853 procured him the intimate friendship of Robert Schumann. His introduction of the young Brahms to Schumann is a famous incident of this time. Schumann and Brahms collaborated with Albert Dietrich in a joint sonata for violin and piano, as a welcome on his arrival in Dusseldorf. At Hanover he was kiiniglicher Konzertdirektor from 1853 to 1868, when he made Berlin his home. He married in 1863 the mezzo soprano singer, Amalie Weiss, who died in 1899. In 1869 Joachim was appointed head of the newly founded konigliche Hochschule per Husik in Berlin. The famous "Joachim quartet" was started in the Sing-Akademie in the following year. Of his later life, continually occupied with public performances, there is little to say except that he remained, even in a period which saw the rise of numerous violinists of the finest technique, the acknowledged master of all. He died on the 15th of August 1907.
Besides the consummate manual skill which helped to make him famous in his youth, Joachim was gifted with the power of interpreting the greatest music in absolute perfection: while Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms were masters, whose works he played with a degree of insight that has never been approached, he was no less supreme in the music of Mendelssohn and Schumann; in short, the whole of the classical repertory has become identified with his playing. No survey of Joachim's artistic career would be complete which omitted mention of his absolute freedom from tricks or mannerism, his dignified bearing, and his unselfish character. His devotion to the highest ideals, combined with a certain austerity and massivity of style, brought against him an accusation of coldness from admirers of a more effusive temperament. But the answer to this is given by the depth and variety of expression which his mastery of the resources of his instrument put at his command. His biographer (1898), Andreas Moser, expressed his essential characteristic in the words, "He plays the violin, not for its own sake, but in the service of an ideal." As a composer Joachim did but little in his later years, and the works of his earlier life never attained the public success which, in the opinion of many, they deserve (see Music). They undoubtedly have a certain austerity of character which does not appeal to every hearer, but they are full of beauty of a grave and dignified kind; and in such things as his "Hungarian concerto" for his own instrument the utmost degree of difficulty is combined with great charm of melodic treatment. The "romance" in B flat for violin and the variations for violin and orchestra are among his finest things, and the noble overture in memory of Kleist, as well as the scena for mezzo soprano from Schiller's Demetrius, show a wonderful degree of skill in orchestration as well as originality of thought. Joachim's place in musical history as a composer can only be properly appreciated in the light of his intimate relations with Brahms, with whom he studiously refrained from putting himself into independent rivalry, and to whose work as a composer he gave the co-operation of one who might himself have ranked as a master.
There are admirable portraits of Joachim by G. F. Watts (1866) and by J. S. Sargent (1904), the latter presented to him on the 16th of May 1904, at the celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of his first appearance in England.
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