Joachim’s importance for orchestras

Joachim's students as orchestral players

Joachim was a critical force in the first decades of the Berlin Philharmonic. He contributed important administrative and organizational assistance and served as one of the main conductors of the orchestra from 1882-1887.

Perhaps just as importantly, his fame attracted string players to Berlin at a time when there was little other incentive. Violinists who studied at the Hochschule with him went on to play in orchestras all over, but above all in Berlin’s fledgling Philharmonic Orchestra. One of Joachim’s favorite students, Johann Kruse, was his concert master when he conducted from 1885-85. Kruse and Karl Klingler, another student who served as concert master from 1901-02, also played in the Joachim Quartet. I’ve found nine other violinists in the Philharmonic who were Joachim students, four of whom were also concert masters. 

Berlin’s other main orchestra, the Königliche Kapelle, had Carl Halir as its concert master, who was another Joachim student and Joachim Quartet member. He was succeeded by Bernhard Dessau, yet another Joachim student.

(For the following I compared lists of Joachim’s students to rosters of the Philharmonic and other orchestras. The Berlin Philharmonic does not yet have a digital archive similar to the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. However, these sites were of limited use for this search because only the Chicago website documents the personnel history. The others focus on conductors and guest soloists. I found the names of the orchestra musicians in Boston and New York in concert programs.)

Concertmasters in the Philharmonic who were students of Joachim

  • Johann Kruse (b.1859-d.1927) orchestra member from 1883-85
  • Ludwig Bleuer (1863-1897) 1883-1893
  • Max Salzwedel (1862-1920) 1886-1890
  • Hugo Olk (d. 1934) 1891-95
  • Max Freund  (1872-?) 1892-1906
  • Karl Klingler (1879-1971) 1901-1902

Violinists in the Philharmonic who were students of Joachim

  • Adalbert Gülzow (1862-1933) 1883-1890
  • Enrique Fernández Arbós (1863-1939) 1886-87
  • Hendrik Doesburg (1863-1921) 1888-1921
  • Bram Eldering (1865-1943) 1891-94
  • Oskar Gerhardt (1856-1929) 1884-1925
  • Georg Diburtz
  • Nicholas Lambinon

When some critics disputed the primacy of Joachim as a violinist, they pointed to the lack of students who became great soloists. Instead, his students populated orchestras all over. In 1902 the Musical Courier asked:

Who are the successful violin virtuoso among the younger generation? Kriesler, Thibaud, Marteau, Geloso–all of the French School…as for Joachim’s pupils, the orchestras of Germany, and, in fact, the world, are full of them. They make excellent concert-masters, but as for solo playing, they are not in it.

This evidence of Joachim’s purported lack of success as a teacher inadvertently makes a compelling case for the huge influence Joachim had on musical life, at home and abroad.

The young Berlin Philharmonic had a strong influence in turn on other orchestras, especially in the U.S. The concert master in Berlin from 1894-1910, Anton Witek, went on to become concert master at the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1912-1918. Hugo Olk went on to serve as concertmaster in the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1903-04 and the Chicago Symphony in 1908. Two of the Cleveland Orchestra’s concertmasters, Hugo Kolberg and Tossy Spiakovsky, had also been concertmasters in Berlin. Joseph Malkin, principal cellist in Berlin from 1902-1907, also played in Boston from 1917-18, and was principal in Chicago from 1919-1922. Another of the Berlin Philharmonic’s cellists, Bruno Steindel (of the notorious Steindel family), was recruited by Theodore Thomas to be his principal cellist from the opening season of the Chicago Symphony in 1891 to 1918. A third cellist from the Berlin orchestra, Otto Urack, played cello with the Boston Symphony from 1912-14 and also occasionally conducted.

Many of Joachim’s students who were not in the Berlin orchestra became concert masters for American orchestras, especially in Boston:

  • Bernhard Listemann (1841-1917) studied with Joachim from 1871-74 and was concertmaster for the Theodore Thomas Orchestra and the Boston SO in 1881-85.
  • Enrique Fernández Arbós also did a year with the Boston Symphony (1903-04).
  • Willy Hess (1859-1939) was concert master at the Boston Symphony from 1909-10. He returned to Berlin to fill Carl Halir’s position at the Hochschule.
  • Richard Czerwonky (1886-) went from assistant Concertmaster at Boston in 1907 to Concertmaster for the Minneapolis Symphony from 1909-1918.
  • Richard Burgin (1892-1981) who studied with Joachim in 1906, was concertmaster for the Boston SO from 1920-1967.
  • Theodore Spiering (1871-1925) was in the Chicago Symphony from 1892-96 before becoming concertmaster for Gustav Mahler and the New York Philharmonic.
  • Maximilian Pilzer (1890-1958) was another concertmaster for the New York Philharmonic.
  • Ernest Wedel (1876-1938) was concertmaster at Chicago in 1896. 
  • Sol Marcosson (1869-1940) went from being concertmaster at the Chicago SO to the new Cleveland Orchestra in 1918-19.
  • Hans Letz (1887-1969) was concertmaster at the Chicago SO and the Theodore Thomas Orchestra.
  • Siegmund Beel (1863-1953) was concertmaster of the Los Angeles SO.
The number of Joachim students who became concertmaster at orchestras in Germany and Great Britain is another post altogether.

Finally, if orchestras had admitted women players at that time, they would have benefited even more from Joachim’s tutelage. As it was, the women were only (!!) allowed to play with the orchestra as soloists.

Joachim’s female violin students and the date of their debut with the Berlin Philharmonic as soloists:

  • Dora Valeska Becker; performed 7.5.1890
  • Erika Besserer 15.4.1905
  • Amalie Birnbaum 7.3.1903
  • Otie Chew 17.10.1903
  • Corrine Coryn 18.1.1902
  • Martha Drews 20.10.1904
  • Palma von Pásthory 3.11.1910
  • Josephine Gerwing  10.2.1893
  • Leonora Jackson 13.2.1897
  • Melanie Michaelis 9.2.1906
  • Geraldine Morgan 3.1.1887
  • Bianca Panteo 24.11.1906
  • Maud Powell 4.9.1901
  • Minna Rode 1.2.1901
  • Rosa Schindler 17.12.1901
  • Erna Schulz 30.10.1903
  • Betty Schwabe 18.2.1892
  • Marie Soldat 29.12.1882
  • Madge Wickham 19.3.1887
  • Gabriele Wietrowetz 9.12.1885

An article on “Women in Orchestras” in the Musical Courier from 1895, “explains” that women do not have the endurance to play in an orchestra: “The most capable and intelligent of women can never become factors in an orchestra of any serious aims for this reason. ….her physical incapacity to endure the strain of four or five hours a day rehearsal, followed by the prolonged tax of public performances, will bar her against possible competition with male performers.”

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  1. wow! this is super interesting! I wonder if any of his students ever made it to the Tokyo Conservatory that was founded around the turn of the century!

    1. I would be willing to bet money on it. WWI and the aftermath had a big effect on where German soloists were welcome. Willy Burmester went to tour Japan in the early 1920s, but he broke his leg on the boat over and couldn’t do any concerts. Alfred Wittenberg emigrated to Shanghai before WWII.

  2. Wonderful posts, Sanna. Thank you for your valuable, interesting work! I’d like to meet you some day and have a long talk… Bob Eshbach

  3. ok, so am I the only one, or did you leave us hanging with “the notorious Steindel family”… can you tell us more?

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