Robert Hausmann’s Piano Trio Ensemble

Hausmann, De Ahna, Barth, about 1885

Besides the Quartet, there was another chamber music series that Hausmann was involved in, which proved to be long-lived and very popular: this was a piano trio with his Quartet comrade Heinrich de Ahna and the pianist Heinrich Barth. They had started performing together as early as 1875, and started a subscription concert series in Berlin from 1878 until Hausmann’s death (with Wirth replacing de Ahna after he died). Their concert season was similar to the Quartet’s, starting in October and ending in March. Their first years of playing were in the Singakademie. However, once they moved to the much larger Philharmonie, they usually filled the 2000-plus seats.

Hausmann’s Piano Trio turned their subscription series into “popular” concerts at the Philharmonie starting in 1889, which were very successful.

Ad in the Berliner Tageblatt for a “popular concert” with tickets priced at 1 and 2 Marks. The program for October 20 was the Brahms Op. 60 Piano Quartet, Dvorak’s Bagatelles, and the Schubert Piano Trio in E-flat.

Professor Heinrich Barth (1847-1922)

Heinrich Barth had studied piano with Hans von Bülow and was also a long-time member of the faculty at the Musikhochschule. Besides appearing with the Trio, he performed as a soloist, although he never became as famous as his students Wilhelm Kempff, Heinrich Neuhaus, or Arthur Rubinstein.

Barth seems to have made a speciality of Brahms. As part of the Trio’s concerts he played the first performance in Berlin of the C major Piano Trio Op. 87 in January of 1883. They played the Piano Quartets and the Piano Quintet, violin sonatas and cello sonatas. He also performed solo piano works by Brahms, such as the Paganini Variations Op. 35 and the late piano pieces Opp. 117-119. When Brahms died, he represented the Conservatory at the funeral (the Joachim Quartet was in England at the time). In London he played the Handel Variations in 1878 and the First Piano Concerto in 1880. He played Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto in Berlin in 1883 with Joachim conducting, and the following November in London on a Saturday Popular Concert at Crystal Palace. At the Beethoven-Haus Bonn Festival in 1897, which was a memorial for Brahms that year, Barth played the Handel Variations.

Heinrich Barth, 1912

Barth began at the Hochschule as a humble instructor in 1871, coming over from the Stern Conservatory where he had been teaching since 1868. By the end of the century had become one of its most feared and respected professors. Wilhelm Kempff’s recollections of the “old East Prussian giant” were of incredibly high standards —“nothing got past his ear”—and a way of showing his displeasure that caused students to cry as they left his studio. Arthur Rubinstein described him when he was in his fifties as “more than six feet tall and heavily built, but still quite quick on his feet. His grayish hair showed just a touch of baldness. A long Brahmsian beard, the color of salt and pepper, and a bushy mustache covered a rather weak mouth and chin; but his gold-rimmed glasses gave him a look of uncompromising severity. I was terrified by him.”1“Quoted in Harvey Sachs, Rubinstein: A Life (Grove Press, 1995):27. Nevertheless, Rubinstein had lessons with him twice a week for six school years. By the time of Kempff and Rubinstein, he had stopped concertizing for he most part, but Kempff recalled that “it was said of him that he could do a series of six concerts without dropping a single note under the piano.”2Sachs, 26.

Barth was also described as having complete dedication to Beethoven and Bach in the same way critics wrote about Joachim. An article on Barth in 1909 emphasized that “while playing he seems to lose all thought of self, to subjugate his own personality to that of the composer–especially when he is playing the works of Beethoven and Bach.”3Henry G. Garrot, “Professor Heinrich Barth and his Teaching,” Music: A monthly magazine 17 (1909): 499.

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