Joseph Joachim

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Joseph Joachim
Joseph Joachim's signature

Joseph Joachim (28 June 1831 – 15 August 1907) was a Hungarian violinist, conductor, composer and teacher. A close collaborator of Johannes Brahms, he is widely regarded as one of the most significant violinists of the 19th century.



Joseph Joachim's birth house in Kittsee

Joseph Joachim was born in Kittsee (Kopčany/Köpcsény), near Bratislava and Eisenstadt, in what is today's Burgenland area of Austria. He was the seventh of eight children born to Julius, a wool merchant, and Fanny Joachim, who were of Hungarian Jewish origin. His infancy was spent 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 the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and the pianist Paul Wittgenstein.[1]

Early career[edit]

In 1833 his family moved to Pest, where he studied violin with Stanisław Serwaczyński, the concertmaster of the opera in Pest. (Serwaczyński later moved back 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 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 Beethoven's 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 avant-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). In 1853, he met the then publicly unknown 20-year-old Brahms, was highly impressed by him, and gave him a letter of recommendation to Robert Schumann. Brahms was received by Schumann and his wife Clara with great enthusiasm. After Robert's mental breakdown in 1854 and death in 1856, Joachim, Clara, and Brahms remained lifelong friends and shared musical views. Joachim's break with Liszt became final in August 1857, when he 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."

Joseph and Amalie Joachim

Joachim's time in Hanover was his most prolific period of composition. During this time, he frequently performed with Clara Schumann.[2] Joachim had extensive correspondence with both Clara and Brahms, as Brahms especially valued Joachim's opinion of his new compositions. 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 had few co-signers and met with a mixed reception, being heavily derided by followers of Wagner[3]

The famous Joachim Quartet. From left to right: Robert Hausmann (cello), Josef Joachim (1st violin), Emanuel Wirth (viola) and Karel Halíř (2nd violin)

On 10 May 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 continued 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.[4] In 1866, Joachim moved to Berlin, where he was invited to help found a new department of the Royal Academy of Music. There he became the director of the Hochschule für ausübende Tonkunst, or High School for Musical Performance.

On Good Friday, 10 April 1868, Joachim and his wife joined their friend, Johannes Brahms, in the celebration of one of Brahms' greatest triumphs, the first complete performance of his German Requiem at the Bremen Cathedral. Amalie Joachim sang "I Know that My Redeemer Liveth" and Joseph Joachim played Schumann's Abendlied. It was a glorious occasion, after which about 100 of the composer's friends, the Joachims, Clara Schumann, the Dietrichs, Max Bruch and others gathered at the Bremen Rathskeller.

In 1869, the Joachim String Quartet, was formed, which quickly gained a reputation as Europe's finest. Other members of the Quartet were Karel Halíř (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. It was co-dedicated to the first performers, Joachim and Robert Hausmann.

On 16 April 1889, in England, Joseph Joachim was presented a Stradivarius violin and Tourte bow once owned by Raphael Georg Kiesewetter. In late 1895 both Brahms and Joachim were present at the opening of the new Tonhalle at Zurich, Switzerland; Brahms conducted and Joachim was assistant conductor. But in April, two years later, Joachim was to lose forever this revered friend, as Johannes Brahms died at the age of 64 at Vienna. At Meiningen, in December 1899, it was Joachim who made the speech when a statue to Brahms was unveiled.

Joseph Joachim, by Philip Alexius de László, 1903

During 1899, Joachim was invited to become president of the newly established Oxford & Cambridge Musical Club in London. He remained club president until his death.[5]

In Berlin, on 17 August 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,[citation needed] only to be followed soon thereafter when Sarasate made some recordings the following year.

Joachim's portrait was twice painted by Philip de László. A portrait of Joachim was painted by John Singer Sargent[6] and presented to him at the 1904 "Diamond Jubilee" celebration of his sixtieth anniversary of his first appearance in London. In Berlin, a great concert took place, at which his pupils past and present, 116 violinists and violists, with 24 cellists who attended his classes played under the direction of Fritz Steinbach, a conductor of note, for his interpretations of Brahms' music. The great moment of celebration came when Joachim, without the slightest hesitation, responded to the spontaneous request to play Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D major.

Joachim remained in Berlin until his death in 1907.


Amalie's and Joseph's grave in Berlin-Charlottenburg

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 the second violinist 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 (which can be translated as "free but lonely", "free but alone", or "free but solitary"). 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).

Joseph Joachim

List of compositions[edit]

Original compositions[edit]

  • Op. 1, Andantino and Allegro scherzoso, for violin and piano (1848): dedicated to Joseph Böhm
  • Op. 2, Three Pieces, (circa 1848–1852), Romanze, Fantasiestück, Eine Frühlingsfantasie for Violin or Viola and Piano
  • Op. 3, Violin Concerto in One Movement, in G minor (1851); dedicated to Franz Liszt
  • Op. 4, Hamlet Overture (1853)
  • Op. 5, Three Pieces for Violin and Piano: Lindenrauschen, Abendglocken, Ballade; dedicated to Gisela von Arnim
  • Op. 6, Demetrius Overture (Herman Grimm, dedicated to Franz Liszt)
  • Op. 7, Henry IV Overture (1854)
  • Op. 8, Overture to a Comedy by Gozzi (1854)
  • Op. 9, Hebrew Melodies, for Viola and Piano
  • Op. 10, Variations on an Original Theme, for Viola and Piano (1855)
  • Op. 11, Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor "in the Hungarian Manner" ( ca. 1853, published in 1861)
  • Op. 12, Notturno for Violin and Orchestra in A major (1858)
  • WoO, Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major (1875)
  • Op. 13, Elegiac Overture "In Memoriam Heinrich von Kleist" (ca. 1877)
  • Op. 14, Szene der Marfa from Friedrich Schiller's unfinished drama "Demetrius" (ca. 1869)
  • WoO, Ich hab' im Traum geweinet for voice and piano, pub. Wigand, 1854.
  • Scene from Schiller's Demetrius (1878)
  • WoO, Rain, rain and sun, Merlin's Song (Tennyson), pub. C. Kegan & Co., 1880.
  • Melodrama zu einer Schillergedenkfeier (unpublished, autograph in Hamburg Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek)
  • Overture in C major' (Konzertouvertüre zum Geburtstag des Kaisers) (1896)
  • Two Marches for orchestra
  • Andantino in A minor, for violin and orchestra (also for violin and piano)
  • Romance in B-flat major, for violin and piano
  • Romance in C major, for violin and piano
  • String Quartet Movement in C minor
  • Variationen über ein irisches Elfenlied for piano
  • Variations for Violin and Orchestra in E minor (ca. 1879); dedicated to Pablo Sarasate
Joseph Joachim (1853) by Adolph Menzel


  • In 1855 Joachim made a version for full orchestra of Schubert's Grand Duo in C major for piano duet (D. 812), which many scholars at that time considered (probably incorrectly) to be a draft or piano reduction of a lost symphony.[citation needed]
  • He also made a virtuosic transcription for violin and piano of all 21 of Brahms's Hungarian Dances.[citation needed]
  • He produced numerous editions of music, many in collaboration with Andreas Moser.[citation needed]


  • Beethoven, Concerto in D major, Op. 61
  • Brahms, Concerto in D major, Op. 77
  • Kreutzer, Concerto No. 19 in D minor
  • Mozart, Aria from Il re pastore, Concerto No. 3 in G major, K. 216, Concerto No. 4 in D major, K. 218, and Concerto No. 5 in A major, K 219
  • Rode, Concerto No. 10 in B minor, and Concerto No. 11 in D major
  • Spohr, Concerto in A minor, Op. 47 (Gesangsszene)
  • Tartini, Sonata in G minor (Devil's Trill)
  • Viotti, Concerto No. 22 in A minor

Recordings of Joachim's compositions[edit]

Joseph Joachim at age 53

Joachim's own discography[edit]

  • J. S. Bach: Partita for Violin No. 1 in B minor, BWV 1002: 7th movement, Tempo di Bourée, Pearl Catalog: 9851 (also on Testament (749677132323)).
  • Brahms: Hungarian Dances (21) for Piano 4 hands, WoO 1: No. 1 in G minor (arr. Joachim), Opal Recordings (also on Testament (749677132323)).
  • Brahms Hungarian Dance No. 2 in D minor (arr. Joachim), Grammophon Catalogue #047905; HMV, D88.
  • Joachim: Romance in C major, Op. 20, Pearl Catalog: 9851

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.

Joachim's students[edit]

Joseph Joachim and the young Franz von Vecsey. Note the strongly incurving, arthritic first finger of his left hand. The chair in which he is sitting was a special present to him. He willed it to Donald Tovey, and it is now owned by the University of Edinburgh Museum.[7]

Other pupils are mentioned by Wilhelm Joseph von Wasielewski in his "Die Violine und Ihre Meister."

Joachim's instruments[edit]

Joseph Joachim
  • As a child, Joachim played a Guarneri del Gesù, which he gave to Felix Schumann after he acquired his first Stradivarius.
  • In his Hanover years, Joachim played on a Guadagnini made in 1767.[15]
  • He later bought a 1714 Stradivarius, which he played until 1885.[16]
  • He exchanged this instrument for a 1713 Stradivarius, which was later acquired by Robert von Mendelssohn and lent for life to Joachim's student Karl Klingler.
  • A 1714 Stradivarius "de Barreau/Joachim" which he bought in 1881 and sold in 1897, later owned by Richard von Mendelssohn, Baron Knoop, and Karl Klingler.[17]
  • A 1698 Joachim Stradivarius is held by the Royal Academy of Music[18]
  • A violin, the ex-Joachim Stradivarius of 1715 is currently held by the Collezione Civica del Comune di Cremona.[19] It was presented to Joachim on the occasion of his Jubilee celebration in 1889.
  • Another 1715 Stradivarius, the Joachim-Aranyi.[20]
  • Another 1715 Stradivarius, later owned by George Eastman[21]
  • A 1722 Stradivarius, later owned by Willy Burmester, Mischa Elman and Josef Suk.[22]
  • Another 1722 Stradivarius, also owned by the Mendelssohn family.[23]
  • A 1723 Stradivarius[24]
  • A 1725 Stradivarius, later owned by Norbert Brainin[25] Currently played by Rainer Küchl.
  • A 1727 Stradivarius, currently owned by Suntory, Ltd. and currently on loan to Mayuko Kamio.[26][27]
  • The Ex Joachim, Joseph Vieland Viola by Gasparo da Salò, Brescia, before 1609 is held by the Shrine to Music No. 3368,[28][29]
  • According to the Henley Atlas of Violin Makers, during the time he spent in France, Joachim performed on a violin made by French luthier Charles Jean Baptiste Collin-Mezin.
  • A violin by Francesco Ruggeri bearing the label Nicolaus Amati[30]
  • A Joachim Tielke viola anno 1670, Hamburg, bought by Joachim in the late 19th Century in the Vuillaume shop. Currently played by David Yang.
  • Joachim also played a Guarneri del Gesu, loaned by the Wittgenstein family, perhaps a 1737 Guarneri del Gesu?[31]
  • A Johannes Theodorus Cuypers anno 1807 was bought by Joachim in the mid 19th century and taken on tour throughout Europe. There is also evidence that the instrument was played by Joachim in a recital in Paris a half century later, in 1895. The same instrument was also played by Fritz Kreisler in a 1955 Carnegie Hall concert.[32]
  • A 1747 Pietro Guarneri[33]
  • A c. 1735 Montagnana, inherited by his youngest son, Paul Georg Joachim (1877–1933), owned by the family since that time. The documents on the origin of the violin were destroyed during the Nazi dictatorship.
  • A 1767 Guadagnini[15]
  • A 1775 Guadagnini[34]
  • A Carlo Testore violin[35]
  • A Alfred Stelzner No. 158 violin.
  • Among Joachim's bows was a Tourte, previously owned by Ernst.

Cultural references[edit]

The English poet Robert Bridges wrote a sonnet about Joachim in his first major work of poetry The Growth of Love.[36]


  1. ^ Monk Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius: p.5
  2. ^ For example, in October-November 1857 they took a joint concert tour to Dresden, Leipzig, and Munich: Litzmann, Berthold, 1913, Clara Schumann: An Artist's Life based on material found in Diaries and Letters, translated from the fourth German edition by Grace E. Hadow, MacMillan, London, p. 152.
  3. ^ Jan Swafford, Johannes Brahms, Knopf (1997) reprinted Papermac (199) pp. 207–211
  4. ^ Moser (1901) 202–6
  5. ^
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ The University of Edinburgh Museums, Galleries & Collections
  8. ^
  9. ^ Bronislaw Huberman
  10. ^
  11. ^ de:Bernhard Listemann
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ a b violin by Giovanni Battista Guadagnini, 1767 (ex-Sennhauser; ex-Joachim)
  16. ^ violin by Antonio Stradivari, 1714 (Joachim)
  17. ^ violin by Antonio Stradivari, 1714 (De Barrau; Joachim)
  18. ^ violin by Antonio Stradivari, 1698 (Kortschak; Joachim)
  19. ^ violin by Antonio Stradivari, 1715 (Cremonese; Harold Joachim)
  20. ^ violin by Antonio Stradivari, 1715 (Joachim; Aranyi)
  21. ^ violin by Antonio Stradivari, 1715 (David Hochstein; Nowell, Joachim)
  22. ^ violin by Antonio Stradivari, 1722 (Joachim; Elman)
  23. ^ violin by Antonio Stradivari, 1722 (Laurie)
  24. ^ violin by Antonio Stradivari, 1723 (Joachim; Wanamaker, Arbos)
  25. ^ violin by Antonio Stradivari, 1725 (Chaconne; Hammig)
  26. ^
  27. ^ violin by Antonio Stradivari, 1727
  28. ^ Bowed Stringed Instruments Made Before 1800 at the National Music Museum
  29. ^ viola by Gasparo di Bertolotti da Salò, before 1609
  30. ^ violin by Francesco Ruggieri (ex-Joachim)
  31. ^ violin by Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù, 1737 (Joachim)
  32. ^ Caline.dom
  33. ^ violin by Pietro (of Venice) Guarneri, 1747 (ex-Joachim)
  34. ^ violin by Giovanni Battista Guadagnini, 1775 (ex-Joachim)
  35. ^ violin by Carlo Antonio Testore
  36. ^ Robert Bridges


Joseph Joachim
  • Adolph Kohut, Josef Joachim. Ein Lebens- und Künstlerbild. Festschrift zu seinem 60. Geburtstage, am 28. Juni 1891, Berlin: A. Glas, 1891.
  • Johannes Joachim and Andreas Moser (eds.), Briefe von und an Joseph Joachim, 3 vols., Berlin: Julius Bard, 1911–1913
  • Andreas Moser (ed.), Johannes Brahms im Briefwechsel mit Joseph Joachim, 2nd ed., Berlin: Deutsche Brahms-Gesellschaft, 1912.
  • Letters From and To Joseph Joachim, selected and translated by Nora Bickley with a preface by J. A. Fuller-Maitland, New York: Vienna House, 1972.
  • Andreas Moser, Joseph Joachim: Ein Lebensbild, 2 vols. Berlin: Verlag der Deutschen Brahms-Gesellschaft, vol. 1: 1908; vol. 2: 1910.
  • Andreas Moser, Joseph Joachim: A Biography, translated by Lilla Durham, introduction by J. A. Fuller Maitland, London: Philip Wellby, 1901.
  • J. A. Fuller-Maitland, Joseph Joachim, London & New York: John Lane, 1905.
  • F. G. E., "Joseph Joachim", The Musical Times, 48/775 (September 1, 1907): 577–583.
  • Hans Joachim Moser, Joseph Joachim, Sechsundneunzigstes Neujahrsblatt der Allgemeinen Musikgesellschaft in Zürich, Zürich & Leipzig: Hug & Co., 1908
  • Karl Storck, Joseph Joachim: Eine Studie, Leipzig: Hermann Seemann Nachfolger, n.d.
  • Anne Russell, "Joachim", The Etude, (December 1932) 884–885.
  • Siegfried Borris, "Joseph Joachim zum 65. Todestag", Oesterreichische Musikzeitschrift XXVII (June 1972): 352–355.
  • Barrett Stoll, Joseph Joachim: Violinist, Pedagogue, and Composer, Ph.D. Diss., Univ. of Iowa, 1978.
  • Brigitte Massin, Les Joachim: Une Famille de Musiciens, Paris: Fayard, 1999. ISBN 2-213-60418-5
  • Otto Biba, "'Ihr Sie hochachtender, dankbarer Schüler Peppi' Joseph Joachims Jugend im Spiegel bislang unveröffentlicher Briefe", Die Tonkunst, vol. 1, nr. 3, July 2007, 200–204.
  • Beatrix Borchard, Stimme und Geige: Amalie und Joseph Joachim, Biographie und Interpretationsgeschichte, Wien, Köln, Weimar, Böhlau Verlag, 2005.
  • Beatrix Borchard, "Groß-männlich-deutsch? Zur Rolle Joseph Joachims für das deutsche Musikleben in der Wilhelminischen Zeit", Die Tonkunst, vol. 1, nr. 3, July 2007, 218–231.
  • Dietmar Shenk, "Aus einer Gründerzeit: Joseph Joachim, die Berliner Hochschule für Musik und der deutsch-französische Krieg", Die Tonkunst, vol. 1, nr. 3, July 2007, 232–246.
  • Ute Bär, "Sie wissen ja, wie gerne ich, selbst öffentlich, mit Ihnen musicire! Clara Schumann und Joseph Joachim", Die Tonkunst, vol. 1, nr. 3, July 2007, 247–257.
  • Gerhard Winkler (ed.) "Geigen-Spiel-Kunst: Joseph Joachim und der 'Wahre' Fortschritt", Burgenländische Heimatblätter, vol. 69, nr. 2, 2007.
  • Robert W. Eshbach, "Der Geigerkönig: Joseph Joachim as Performer", Die Tonkunst, vol. 1, nr. 3, July 2007, 205–217.
  • Robert W. Eshbach, "Verehrter Freund! Liebes Kind! Liebster Jo! Mein einzig Licht. Intimate letters in Brahms's Freundeskreis", Die Tonkunst, vol. 2, nr. 2, April 2008, 178–193.
  • Robert W. Eshbach, "Joachims Jugend", Die Tonkunst, vol. 5, nr. 2, April 2011, 176–190.
  • Robert W. Eshbach, "Joachim's Youth – Joachim's Jewishness", The Musical Quarterly, vol. 94, no. 4, Winter 2011, 548–592

External links[edit]