In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Joseph Joachim

  • Introduction
  • Collected Editions
  • Catalogues and Bibliographies
  • Collections of Essays
  • General Collections
  • Memoirs, Recollections
  • Reception History
  • Iconography (Photography, Sculpture, Visual Arts)

Music Joseph Joachim
Katharina Uhde
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0247


Joseph Joachim (b. 1831–d. 1907), a Hungarian Jew born in Kittsee, occupies a central position in 19th-century German music history. After a brief period in Weimar (1850–1852), Joachim changed his aesthetic outlook by 1857 and spent the rest of his life as a tireless supporter of certain composers, regarded by him as “the classics.” Through his interpretations of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Spohr, Joachim contributed to cementing the aesthetic of “Kunstreligion” (art-as-religion) in 19th-century German culture. Joachim’s mission to conserve the classics was also evident in his playing. His performance practice aimed to bypass stylistic innovations emerging in the 1870s and onward such as continuous and conspicuous vibrato. His aim to preserve tradition impacted his institutional leadership in Berlin (1869–1907) and resulted in a state of stagnation regarding the institution’s openness to modernist aesthetics. Joachim moved to Pest in 1833 and to Vienna in 1839, where he studied at the Vienna Conservatory under Joseph Böhm before relocating to Leipzig in 1843. In Leipzig he studied composition with Moritz Hauptmann and embarked on his violin career under the tutelage of Mendelssohn. He composed virtuoso music influenced by the works of H. W. Ernst. In Weimar he served as concertmaster under Franz Liszt and expanded his violin-centered compositions toward Shakespearean narratives and other programmatic overtures. As a close friend of the Schumanns, Hans von Bülow, Franz Liszt, and Johannes Brahms, Joachim’s aesthetic position in the 1850s sheds light on the complexity of the “War of the Romantics”: what may look like a clear change of aesthetics turned out to be more nuanced in terms of Joachim’s continued interest in programmatic narratives, in terms of his continued fascination with virtuosity (see “Hungarian” Concerto), and in terms of his decision to offer another way of understanding Beethoven (e.g., through performance) than had Wagner and Liszt. In Weimar Joachim entered the circle of Bettine von Arnim and fell in love with her daughter Gisela von Arnim, with whom he began a passionate relationship (1852–1859). Joachim’s change of aesthetic in the mid-1850s, as evident from his letters, cannot be understood without acknowledging his intellectual immersion in the von Arnim circle. During the Hannover period (1853–1868), Joachim expanded his solo career and completed the majority of his compositions. He married Amalie Schneeweiss in 1863. Joachim moved to Berlin in 1869 and became the founding director of the Königlich Akademische Hochschule für Musik. Andreas Moser crafted his first biographical accounts (1898, 1901, 1908–1910), and published Joachim’s letters (Joachim 1911–1913, cited under Early 20th-Century Editions) together with Johannes Joachim. After the Nazi regime erased Joachim from the history of the Berlin institution he founded—his bust was removed; some of his pieces evacuated to Poland; etc.—post–World War II scholarship began to rediscover his life and works. Borchard 2005 (cited under Catalogues and Bibliographies), Eshbach 2007 (cited under Joachim as a Performer), Eshbach 2008 and Eshbach 2011 (both cited under Life and Works, Biographies), and Brahms 2012 (cited under Collected Editions), and Goertzen 2014 (cited under Instrumental Works) have contributed significantly to rethinking Joachim’s life and works. In the field of performance practice, notably Brown 2003, Brown 2004 and Milsom 2003 (all cited under Performance Practice) stand out, portraying Joachim’s remarkably classical aesthetic.

Collected Editions

There is not yet a complete edition of Joachim’s works. Most orchestral works were published with Breitkopf and Härtel, Simrock, and Bote & Bock during Joachim’s lifetime. Since 2010, Musikproduktion MPH Hoeflich began reissuing early editions of eight of Joachim’s works (see online). Valerie Woodring Goertzen (Brahms 2012) has edited the arrangements by Johannes Brahms of Joachim’s overtures to Hamlet, Henry IV, and Demetrius for the Brahms Gesamtausgabe. Katharina Uhde has edited two fantasies by Joseph Joachim, Fantasy on Hungarian Themes (1850) and Fantasy on Irish [Scottish] Themes (1852).

  • Brahms, Johannes. Ouvertüre zu Herman Grimms “Demetrius” op. 6 von Joseph Joachim; Ouvertüre zu Shakespeares “Hamlet” Op. 4 von Joseph Joachim; Ouvertüre zu William Shakespeares “Heinrich IV” Op. 7 von Joseph Joachim. In Johannes Brahms Werke, Complete Edition Series IX, Vol. 1, Arrangements of Works by Other Composers for One or Two Pianos Four Hands. Edited by Valerie Woodring Goertzen. Munich: Henle, 2012.

    Goertzen’s edition presents Johannes Brahms’s arrangements of Joachim’s overtures for one or two pianos four hands, and includes an introduction and detailed critical commentary. The introduction to each overture is divided into “Genesis and early performances of Joachim’s overture” (XI, XIV) and “Genesis of Brahms’s arrangement” (VIII; XVIII). Goertzen’s thorough investigation of the historical contexts and genesis of the overtures and arrangements, and of Joachim’s and Brahms’s correspondence about them, is invaluable not only for Brahms scholarship, but also for Joachim research.

  • Uhde, Katharina, ed. Fantasy on Hungarian Themes (1850), Fantasy on Irish [Scottish] Themes (1852) for Violin and Orchestra. Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2018.

    The two virtuoso fantasies contained in Uhde’s edition were composed in Leipzig. They represent Joachim’s earliest extant works for violin and orchestra.

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