Jablonski, Marek (Michael)

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EMC2 (R. MacMillan)

‘Otto Joachim: a Portrait’, Musicanada (1969), no.20, pp.8–9

C. Fidelman: ‘Playing with Notes: Composer Experiments with Music’, Montreal Gazette (9 June 1994)


Joachim Quartet.

German string quartet. It was founded in Berlin in 1869 by the violinist Joseph Joachim, director of the Hochschule für Musik for many years. Together with colleagues from the Hochschule für Musik, Joachim gave a concert series each winter in the Berlin Singakademie for close to four decades. Ernst Schiever was second violinist from 1869 to 1872, followed by Heinrich de Ahna (1872–92), Johann Kruse (1892–7) and Carl Halir (1897–1907); de Ahna, the original viola player, was succeeded by Eduard Rappoldi (1872–7), Emanuel Wirth (1877–1906) and Karl Klingler (1906–7), while the quartet’s cellists were Wilhelm Müller (1869–79) and Robert Hausmann (1879–1907). The viola player sat opposite rather than next to the second violinist and, unusually for the time, the group functioned almost exclusively as a quartet, only rarely adding a second viola or second cello.

The annual series of concerts in Berlin were the highlights of the city’s musical life, the programmes aiming ‘to educate the nation’ as well as to provide a ‘model for students and enjoyment for the public’. The quartet also played frequently in Vienna and no German music festival was considered complete without their presence. Visits abroad included Paris, Budapest and Rome, where they gave a complete cycle of Beethoven quartets in the Palazzo Farnese in 1905. Though Joachim played regularly with Reiss, Straus and Piatti at the London Monday Popular Concerts, he did not perform with his Berlin quartet in England until 1900. They appeared annually until 1904 in St James’s Hall and moved to the Bechstein (now Wigmore) Hall in 1905. In 1906 they gave the complete chamber works of Brahms in the Queen’s Hall.

Moser wrote of the quartet’s fine shading, unanimity of conception and astounding blend of the voices (in part due to their fine Stradivari instruments) as well as the subordination of the individual to the whole ensemble, which still allowed for freedom of expression. Recitals featured works by Joachim’s Berlin colleagues and programmes devoted entirely to Beethoven (their performances of the late Beethoven quartets being legendary) and Joachim established a canon of chamber music that embraced the complete quartets of Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Brahms.

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