Robert Hausmann was the youngest of five children, born on August 13, 1852. His grandfather Johann Friedrich Ludwig Hausmann (1782-1859) was a famous mineralogist and Professor at the University of Göttingen for 48 years, and his father, Friedrich Ludolf (1810-80), also studied mineralogy. In 1843 Friedrich married Luise Bennighauß (1822-1901). An accomplished pianist, she cultivated music the most in the already musical Hausmann family. According to reminiscences, Friedrich and Luise’s children would fall asleep to the sounds coming from the music room, where their mother would play Beethoven sonatas and sing Schubert and Schumann Lieder. Luise was especially close to Robert, and made music with him to the end of her life.
Robert Hausmann as Joseph Joachim’s cellist
When he was 13, Robert played with Joachim for the first time: with his mother at the piano, they played the second movement of the Schubert E-flat Piano Trio. Joachim knew the Hausmann family from his years as Music Director at Hannover; he also knew Robert’s first cello teacher, Theodor Müller (1802-75), who had been the cellist of the Müller Quartet, made up of four brothers from Braunschweig. When Joachim was setting up the new Berlin Königliche Hochschule für Musik in 1869, he recruited Robert to be part of the first class. He turned out to be the only student of the cello teacher, Wilhelm Müller (1834-97), who was a cousin of Theodor and had played in a later incarnation of the Müller Quartet. Since almost all the first students were violinists wanting to study with Joachim, Hausmann made up the bass line in the school orchestra all by himself. Joachim also facilitated Robert’s subsequent study in 1871 in London with the famous Italian cellist Alfredo Piatti, who was and continued to be Joachim’s long-time chamber music collaborator there. Like his teachers Müller and Piatti, Hausmann did not use an end-pin.
Finally, Joachim provided the final stage of the training of his protegé by putting together a quartet for him to play in. It was led by Joachim’s student Ernst Schiever (1844-1915), who had graduated to teach at the Musikhochschule and was already playing second violin in Joachim’s own quartet. The others were Hermann Franke, another of Joachim’s violin students, and Leonhard Wolff (1848-1934) on viola. A review of one of their first concerts remarked on the unmistakeable influence of Joachim on the musical style of this group. Their concert programs were remarkably similar to the Joachim Quartet’s, which meant they played the standard repertoire of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert.
The quartet additionally had the rare support of a patron. Count Bolko von Hochberg (1843-1926) was a nobleman with a passion for music; he composed under the pen name “H. Franz” and eventually took over the powerful role of General Intendant of the Königlichen Preussischer Hoftheater from 1886-1903. From 1871 to 1876 his “Hochberg Quartet” gave performances throughout northern Germany and, for a couple months each year, exclusively for the Count at his Schloss Rohnstock bei Striegau in Silesia. But even before gaining this experience in making chamber music, Hausmann made his debut in Berlin at age 18, playing second cello in the Brahms B-flat Sextet along with Joachim’s quartet in 1870. This was an important event, as it was the first Brahms piece chosen by Joachim to perform in Berlin. Brahms had made his first visit in 1868 and was just starting to become known in the city.
Early reviews of his performances in the 1870s spoke of talent and promise. He first played on a concert at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig in 1875, and on a Popular Concert in London in 1876.
In 1876 Joachim judged him ready at age 23 to begin his teaching career at the Musikhochschule alongside his former teacher Wilhelm Müller. Müller was the cellist of the Joachim Quartet, so when Müller retired at the end of 1879, Hausmann took over both in the quartet and as the sole cello instructor at the school. He was made “Ordentlicher Lehrer” that year and named Professor in 1884. In all, he served on the faculty for a total of 33 years (also at times as orchestra conductor), and in the Quartet for 29 years.
Hausmann’s career as a cello soloist
Besides playing in the Quartet, Hausmann played concertos and chamber music for cello and piano. He played on concerts in other cities, mostly in northern Germany, especially Hamburg, Leipzig, Dresden, and Frankfurt. He was featured on programs in Great Britain almost every year from 1876 until just weeks before he died.
His early concerts in the 1870s reflect the world that his uncle Georg lived in; in fact he even played music by people Georg knew and played with, such as Bernard Molique, whose cello concerto he first performed in 1873. He also played the even more obscure cello concerto of August Lindner, a cellist in the Hannover Court Orchestra when Joachim was there. (Robert’s first concert in London, in January of 1876, had him playing in a quartet with Joachim, Louis Ries and Ludwig Straus, all whom had also performed chamber music in London with Georg in the 1850s.)
As Hausmann established himself on the concert scene, he mostly performed as an assisting artist on other peoples’ concerts, and conversely had guests on his own concerts (this was usually his sister Marie, who had been an opera singer before her marriage). For orchestra concerts, the custom of playing several shorter numbers in addition to a couple movements of the main concerto prevailed during the first half of the century, and only gradually turned into the custom of an obligatory encore number. Robert had two kinds of short pieces: show pieces (he favored David Popper’s “Mazurka” and “Elfentanz” and Fitzenhagen’s “Perpetuum Mobile”); and early music pieces (Boccherini, Locatelli, Corelli, and J.S. Bach).
But as Hausmann became better known, his repertoire grew to include a number of pieces written for him or dedicated to him. The first was Max Bruch’s “Kol Nidrei,” a one-movement work for cello and orchestra, which Hausmann premiered in London of February 1881 and played with the composer conducting in Liverpool in February of 1882. Bruch later dedicated two other cello pieces to him, the Canzone, op. 55, and the Vier Stücke, op. 70.
Charles Villiers Stanford, who was the same age as Hausmann, wrote both a Cello Sonata, which he premiered in 1878 in Cambridge, and a Cello Concerto for Hausmann, which was only first performed in its entirety in 2002. There is evidence that Stanford intended Hausmann to collaborate with him on the solo part of the concerto. For the draft score of the first movement, Stanford included an extra line below the solo cello part with the designation: ”Line for Lieber Robert Hausmann’s improvements and suggestions,” and when he got to the cadenza at the end of the movement, he wrote: “Here Mr. R. Hausmann will kindly write a cadenza as charming as himself.” For various reasons, Stanford was not able to finish the work on schedule and Hausmann did not have the opportunity to work with him on the concerto’s solo part. Years later Stanford wrote a Piano Trio in G minor for the Barth Wirth Hausmann Trio. Both Bruch and Stanford were also friends of Joachim and also dedicated multiple works to him.
Composers who taught at the Hochschule also dedicated pieces to Hausmann. Heinrich von Herzogenberg, who was also a good friend, dedicated his first Cello Sonata to him, and his third Cello Sonata to him and his wife Helene. Robert Kahn, who wrote “Drei Stücke” for cello and piano op. 25 for him in 1896, was from the next generation. Fürst Heinrich XXIV Reuß-Köstritz, who had studied composition with Herzogenberg, dedicated his Cello Sonata in C major, Op. 7 (1895), to Hausmann.
In Hausmann’s final years he played the Cello Concerto of Dvorák in London, Glasgow, Cologne, Meiningen, Breslau, Berlin and other smaller cities. He also played the Cello
Concerto of his Hochschule colleague Ernst von Dohnányi; the two of them performed all the Beethoven Cello music on multiple occasions. By the turn of the twentieth century, Hausmann was playing almost exclusively Beethoven and Brahms Sonatas for his performances outside of the Quartet.