Jablonski, Marek (Michael)

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B. Borchard: Stimme und Geige: Amalie und Joseph Joachim, ein Betrag zur Künstlersozial- und Interpretationsgeschichte des 19. Jahrhunderts (Frankfurt am Main, 2000)


Joachim, Joseph

(b Kitsee, nr Pressburg [now Bratislava], 28 June 1831; d Berlin, 15 Aug 1907). Austro-Hungarian violinist, composer, conductor and teacher. He was born on the Esterházy estates into a Jewish family which moved in 1833 to Pest. His talent was recognized at an early age and systematically nurtured. His first teacher was the leader of the Pest Opera Orchestra, Serwaczyński, with whom Joachim made his public début at the Adelskasino in Pest, on 17 March 1839. He went to Vienna to play first for Hauser and then for Georg Hellmesberger the elder, and took lessons from Joseph Böhm, a former pupil of Rode, himself taught by Viotti, both of whom adhered to the classical French school.

By the age of 12 his technique was fully developed, and in early 1843 he began studying with Mendelssohn in Leipzig. The meeting with Mendelssohn was so decisive for the young Joachim that his life can be understood in terms of a mission to promote Mendelssohn's work. The composer arranged for Joachim to receive composition tuition from Hauptmann, and also a good general education. After a successful début playing Bériot's Adagio and Rondo at the Leipzig Gewandhaus in August 1843, Joachim was taken by Mendelssohn to London, where he played Beethoven's Violin Concerto to tremendous acclaim in May 1844. Thereafter the concerto was inextricably linked with Joachim and, with the exception of the Bach D minor Chaconne, it became the work he performed most often.

On Mendelssohn's death in 1847 Joachim experienced a deep crisis. Despite being deputy leader of the Gewandhaus Orchestra and a teacher at the Leipzig Conservatory, he decided to undertake further study with Liszt in Weimar. Like Mendelssohn, Liszt spent many hours making music with Joachim, and also encouraged his composing (the Violin Concerto in G minor op.3 and the overture to Demetrius op.6 are both dedicated to Liszt). In Weimar Joachim gave his first chamber concerts, which included a performance of Beethoven's ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata with Hans von Bülow in 1852. From 1853 to 1868 Joachim was principal violinist at the Hanover Court, and also appeared regularly in England, Belgium and the Netherlands; in 1855 he founded his first string quartet. The Hanover years were his most prolific as a composer, most of his 56 completed works dating from this period. Crucial events at this time included his baptism as a Lutheran, his close friendship with the Schumanns and Brahms and consequent rejection of Liszt and the New German School, his decision to abandon composing, and his marriage in 1863 to the mezzo-soprano Amalie Schneeweiss.

In 1868 Joachim and his wife moved to Berlin, where Joachim set up a school of instrumental music in the Königliche Akademie der Künste (from 1872 the Königliche Hochschule für Musik), and set his stamp on Berlin's musical life through his work as a teacher and through his various concert series, notably his quartet recitals over a span of 40 years with colleagues from the Hochschule (see Joachim Quartet). The Hochschule grew rapidly to include an orchestra which Joachim conducted in public concerts. However, Joachim's opposition to Liszt and Wagner during his years at the Hochschule gained the establishment a reputation as rigid and reactionary. Joachim shared his artistic outlook with Brahms, and they admired each other's work, but with Brahms siding with Amalie when the Joachims divorced in 1884 the friendship cooled. Joachim nevertheless continued to promote Brahms's music and was responsible for the first performances of many of Brahms's chamber works, introducing them also to England.

Joachim's paramount importance as an interpreter in the second half of the 19th century stems partly from his direct contact with many leading composers of the day. Like Clara Schumann among pianists, he represented a new species of ‘ascetic’ violinist, subordinating himself to the composer rather than glorying in his virtuoso technique. This philosophy drew him inevitably to chamber music. As a soloist he concentrated on just a handful of works: Bach's solo sonatas, the violin concertos of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Viotti and Spohr, and his own concertos, notably the Konzert in ungarischer Weise op.11. It was Joachim who initiated entire recitals devoted to string quartets, and in them he presented the entire classical repertory, from Haydn to Brahms.

The few extant recordings of Joachim's playing, from 1903 (see illustration), document his subtle command of rubato, his long-arched phrasing and his sparing use of vibrato. Many works were written for him, such as Schumann's Violin Concerto and Phantasie op.131, and Brahms's Violin Concerto (on which he collaborated) and Double Concerto. His own compositions, admired by Liszt, Schumann and Brahms, were predominantly sombre in character. They reveal, especially in the overtures, a mastery of orchestration, and have a distinctive tone of voice – somewhere between the introspective poetry of Schumann and Liszt's programme music; according to Tovey, Joachim defined his style using the term ‘psychological music’. His own violin concertos pose such formidable technical demands that, in spite of their musical value, they have completely disappeared from the repertory. Joachim also contributed to many musical editions, including one of the Bach solo violin sonatas.


principal source D-Bsb

Ovs.: Hamlet, op.4 (Leipzig, c1855); Demetrius (H. Grimm), op.6; Shakespeare's Heinrich IV, op.7 (Leipzig, c1855); Zu einem Gozzi'schen Lustspiel, op.8 (Berlin, 1902); Elegische Ouvertüre, op.13 (Berlin, n.d.)

Vn, orch (also arr. vn, pf): Andantino und Allegro scherzoso, op.1 (Leipzig, ?1850); Konzert in einem Satze, g, op.3 (Leipzig, c1855); Konzert in ungarischer Weise, op.11 (Leipzig, 1861); Notturno, op.12 (Berlin, n.d.); Variations, e (Berlin, 1882); Conc., G (Berlin, 1899)

Chbr: 3 Stücke, vn, pf, op.2 (Leipzig, c1850); 3 Stücke, vn, pf, op.5 (Leipzig, c1855); Hebräische Melodien (after Byron), va, pf, op.9 (Leipzig, 1855); Variationen über ein eigenes Thema, va, pf, op.10 (Leipzig, c1860); Romanze, C, vn, pf (Leipzig, c1900); Allegretto, pf, 1844

Cadenzas: Beethoven Vn Conc. (Berlin, n.d.); Aria with vn obbl from Mozart's Il re pastore

Other works: Szene der Marfa nach Demetrius (F. Schiller), Mez, orch, op.14 (Berlin, 1878); 2 Marches, orch (Berlin, 1871); 3 Songs (J.W. von Goethe, H. Heine, A. Tennyson)

Edns/arrs. of works, incl. Bach (Conc., 2 vn; with A. Moser: Vn Sonatas and Partitas), Beethoven (Sonatas, pf, vn; with Moser: Qts), Brahms (Vn Conc. arr. vn, pf and cadenza; Ungarische Tänze, arr. vn, pf), Bruch (Vn Conc., vn part only), Corelli (Trio Sonatas, opp.1, 2), Mendelssohn (chbr works; Vn Conc.), Mozart (Vn Conc., k218, k219, arr. vn, pf and cadenzas), Schubert (Grand Duo, op.140)

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