Monday, January 25, 2016

Joseph Joachim Conference in Boston, June 2016

by Robert W. Eshbach

John Singer Sargent, portrait of Joachim.
Art Gallery of Ontario Toronto
Joseph Joachim is widely acknowledged to have been one of the most important musicians of the long 19th century. A Hungarian Jew, he rose to the pinnacle of the Prussian musical establishment and wielded enormous power as the founding director of Berlin’s Königlich Akademische Hoschschule für ausübende Tonkunst (Royal Academic College for Musical Performance). As a performer who stressed the importance of interpretation over virtuosity, his influence was profound and lasting. Yet, despite his prominence, scholarship has not kept up with Joachim. Until recently, the final German edition of Andreas Moser’s authorized biography, Joseph Joachim: Ein Lebensbild (1908), was still the standard reference on his life, and it remains the basis of all other biographies, including Beatrix Borchard’s recent Stimme und Geige: Amalie und Joseph Joachim. Biographie und Interpretationsgeschichte (2005). As a consequence, much about Joachim’s life and legacy remains to be explored.

In his own time, Joachim was portrayed and eulogized as he portrayed himself: as the embodiment of the “German spirit” in music — the last of a Classic school. Seen through the filter of 20th-century German musicology, Joachim the Hungarian, Joachim the Romantic, Joachim the Jew, or the English Victorian Sage, have been largely ignored. Further, as a result of his turn against Liszt, Wagner, and the “progressive” German school, Joachim the composer has received scant critical attention. Consequently, his position in the musical pantheon has become that of the distinguished, musically conservative violinist, the graybeard gatekeeper of 19th-century Germany’s musical establishment, and especially as the eminent “Friend of Brahms.” Today, few remember Jussuf Joachim, the youthful Joseph, who stood at the center of the greatest artistic disputes of his age — an age renowned for its partisan spirit. Few remember Joachim the Zukunftsmusiker, the member of the musical avant-garde who, at the dawn of Weimar’s second Golden Age, helped give birth to the tone poem and the Wagnerian music drama, and contributed some convincing works of his own in the new “psychological” style.

Recent scholarship has begun to probe the façade of Joachim’s carefully-crafted German image, to consider Joachim as a significant composer in his own right, and to pose new and fascinating questions about his multi-faceted artistry and far-flung influence. From June 16-18, 2016, prominent scholars and performers from around the world will gather at the Goethe Institut of Boston for three days of papers, performances, and festivities exploring the full range of Joachim’s life and legacy. The Joseph Joachim at 185 International Conference, organized by Robert Whitehouse Eshbach and Valerie Woodring Goertzen, and supported by the University of New Hampshire, the Goethe Institut of Boston, and the American Brahms Society, will present new research concerning Joachim’s compositions, his British career, his relationship to Liszt’s Weimar circle, his Jewish and Hungarian heritage, his performance practice and instruments, his interactions with women, and his influence as a teacher. On the evening of Friday, June 17, a concert of music by Joachim, Bach, and Brahms will feature violinist James Buswell, ‘cellist Carol Ou, and pianists Victor Rosenbaum and Mana Tokuno. The conference will conclude with a festive dinner at the College Club of Boston. The conference aims to build on the growing interest in Joachim since the centennial of his death in 2007, and to encourage a broader appreciation and understanding of his life and artistry.

Up-to-date information about the conference can be found online at:

1 comment:

  1. The Mendelssohn fragments in Variation XIII of Edward Elgar's 'Enigma' Variations cleverly encode the initials for Joseph Joachim's romantic motto ("Frei aber einsam") by means of their key letters. The fragments are presented in the keys of A-flat major, F minor and E-flat major. Those particular key letters may be reshuffled to form the well-known music cryptogram F.A.E. These notes serve as a primary motive in the F-A-E Violin Sonata composed collaboratively by Schumann, Brahms and Dietrich. To learn more about this and other ciphers embedded in the 'Enigma' Variations, visit