Profiles in Joachim’s students 3: Georg Hänflein (1848-1908)

Adolph Brodsky’s performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in Vienna on 4 December 1881 is usually assumed to be the warhorse’s first public outing. However, in 1880 the little-known violinist Georg Hänflein played the Concerto on a subscription concert in Hanover, where he was concertmaster–almost two years before Brodsky’s premiere. The brief review in the Signale für die musikalische Welt dismissed the work as a waste of time, remarking that Hänflein “had to use no less than all his artistic talent to keep afloat a rather sterile – with the exception of a few beautifully utilized melodies – uninteresting, and very long violin concerto in D major by Tchaikovsky.”1“Herr Concertmeister Hänflein hatte sich durch die Wahl zweier umfangreicher Violinnovitäten gerade keine dankbare Aufgabe gestellt. Es galt wenigstens seine ganze Künstlerschaft einsetzten, um ein ziemlich steriles, mit Ausnahme einiger hübsch verwerteter (fla*cher ? illegible) Melodien interesseloses und sehr langes Violinconcert in D dur von Tschaikowsky einigermaßen über Wasser zu halten.” Signale für die musikalische Welt 38 no. 26 (1880): 409. This performance was also mentioned in a summary of the year’s events: Signale 39 no. 7 (1881): 98.

Georg Hänflein (1848-1908) was one of the earlier students of Joachim at the Hochschule: he studied there from 1871-1874. As a teenager he had studied with Ferdinand David from 1862-65, and at eighteen went to St. Petersburg to play in the Italian Opera orchestra until 1871. His fine pedigree was rewarded with a prestigious appointment as concertmaster at Hanover, where Joachim himself had been employed.
Hänflein’s solo career was reaching its peak when he played the Tchaikovsky Concerto. Besides performing as soloist with the Hanover orchestra, he also played several times in nearby Göttingen. In 1878 he played the Spohr Violin Concerto No. 9 on a Museum Concert in Frankfurt, and in 1882 he played on one of the Richter Concerts in London.2Musikalisches Wochenblatt 9 no. 46 (8 November 1878): 555; Musical World 60 no. 23 (10 June 1882): 354. In 1881 he performed Joachim’s Hungarian Concerto in Hanover, and the Bruch G minor Concerto in Göttingen and Hildesheim.3Musikalisches Wochenblatt 12 no. 6 (3 February 1881): 70; and 12 no. 3 (24 March 1881): 158.

Hänflein was better known for leading a Quartet and Piano Trio in Hanover. The Quartet was in existence from his first year there in 1874 and still giving regular concerts in 1886.4See the Allgemeine Deutsche Musik-Zeitung 1 (1874): 318, where the other players are listed as Engel, Kaiser, and Matys. The program included string quartets by Haydn in D major and Beethoven in E-flat. In 1878 they were Kaiser, Kirchner, and Matys (Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung 13 (27 March 1878): 201-02, and in 1882 Kaiser was replaced by Kothe (Musikalisches Wochenblatt 17 No. 46 (11 November 1886): 568).

The Hänflein Quartet is included in Ehrlich’s 1898 book Das Streichquartett im Wort und Bild. This would indicate that the ensemble lasted even longer, perhaps twenty years. Ehrlich prefaces the description of this group with a solemn declaration about the importance of Joachim and his students:
Not a small part of the great value of old master Joachim’s classical school can be attributed to how his style has been transplanted into chamber music. For years now a considerable number of his disciples have been passing on to a large musical community the profound insights which the high priests of art have left as a legacy to all those who wish to build upon them.5“Das herrliche Verdienst der klassischen Schule des Altmeisters Joachim beruht nicht zum wenigsten in der Verpflanzung seines Stiles in der Kammermusik. Eine ansehnliche Zahl seiner Jünger vermittelt nun seit Jahren einer grossen Musikgemeinde die genialen Eingebungen, welche Hohepriester der Kunst allen, die sich daran erbauen wollen, zum Erbe gelassen haben.” Ehrlich, Das Streichquartett im Wort und Bild (1898), 58.

What is one to make of this discovery of Hänflein’s 1880 performance of the Tchaikovsky Concerto, published the year before? The only reason I unleashed the historian’s fact-checking superpower on Hänflein was because I was looking for more evidence of Joseph Kotek’s early performance of the Concerto (see the previous post). It is very possible there were performances before Hänflein’s–I would just need to search for them. At this point in my research I can only observe that the early reception of Tchaikovsky’s Concerto can be more accurately documented, and this is needs to be done because what we have now are contradictory accounts.

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