Berlin’s chamber music in the 1840s

Table 4, The champions of the late quartets in Berlin from 1828 to 1870, in Mahaim, Beethoven, vol. 1, p. 80.

August Zimmermann’s Quartet

“The great prophet of Beethoven’s last quartets is definitely Zimmermann, 40 years before Joachim!”–Ivan Mahaim1“Le grand prophète des derniers quatuors de Beethoven, c’est décidément Zimmermann, 40 ans avant Joachim!” Mahaim, vol. 1, 40.

As mentioned in the previous post, Ivan Mahaim’s 1964 study of Beethoven: Naissance et Renaissance de Derniers Quatuors argued that the obscure violinist August Zimmermann deserved as much recognition as Joachim for his Berlin ensemble’s performances of the late quartets in the first half of the century. He pointed out:

“August Zimmermann does not even appear in modern dictionaries! Yet he played all the late quartets, from 1828 to 1862. His career, which began in 1828 as Möser’s second violin, spanned 35 years! For an unknown, this is not bad. By way of comparison, Joachim’s career as a quartet player in Berlin runs from 1869 to 1907, so 38 years, three more than Zimmermann! Let us say at once that Joachim played the last Beethoven quartets long before 1869 …but he did not start his regular crusade for the last Beethoven quartets in Berlin until 1870. It is this activity that should be compared with Zimmermann’s.”2“August Zimmermann ne figure même pas dans les dictionnaires modernes! Il a pourtant joué tous les derniers quatuors, de 1828 à 1862. Sa carrière, qui commence en 1828 comme second violon de Möser, couvre 35 années! Pour un inconnu, ce n’est pas mal. A titre de comparison, la carrière de quartettiste de Joachim à Berlin va de 1869 à 1907, donc 38 années, trois de plus que Zimmermann! Disons tout de suite que Joachim a joué les derniers quatuors de Beethoven bien avant 1869 …mais il n’a pas commencé sa croisade régulière pour des derniers de Beethoven à Berlin avant 1870. C’est cette activité-là qu’il convient de comparer avec celle de Zimmermann.” Mahaim, vol. 1, p. 80.

August Zimmermann (1810-91)

The biographical information on Zimmermann is limited. I have located a few solo concert notices: perhaps most notably he performed the Beethoven Violin Concerto in 1848 on one of the soirées of the Königliche Kapelle.3Signale 6 (1848): 21-22; and NBM (1848):13. The only performances before that in Berlin were on 13 February 1812, by Luigi Tomasini, and Henri Vieuxtemps, on 26 March 1846. His pupils included Julius Oertling, Fabian Rehfeld(t), and Rosalie Müller, and he was on the roster of teachers at Stern Conservatory from 1851-53.4Tonkünstler Lexikon Berlins After 34 years in the Königliche Kapelle, he was promoted to Concertmeister, and held that title from 1864-72.5According to the Adress-Kalender für die Königliche Haupt und Residenz-städte Berlin und Potsdam From 1883 to his death in 1891 lived in Steglitz, outside of Berlin. Since he apparently didn’t compose, conduct or write criticism, belong to an illustrious family of musicians or associate with famous people, he hardly left a trace of his existence. Nevertheless, Mahaim was able to fashion a drama out of the meager facts:

“Our unsung hero was born on March 28, 1810 in Zinndorf near Straussberg, Prussia. The poor little boy was born to a tragedy: on the day of his father’s funeral – he was 6 years old – a fire broke out in Zinndorf, destroying the entire town. One can imagine the horror of this child, confronted with death, and witnessing, that same day, a terrifying cataclysm. A vision of Hell.
He was taken in by the pastor of his parish, who had no children of his own and introduced him to the violin with the help of a musician from Straussberg, Lupin.6Cf. the insane index, in which every name mentioned in the book is identified: “Lupin, ( ?)-(?). Violoniste et pédagogue non identifiable, maître de Zimmermann.” At the age of 13, he received a scholarship to study with Carl Möser in Berlin (the capital is 30 km away). He entered immediately as Möser’s second violin.7Zimmermann did not play in Möser’s quartet until 1832 at the earliest; Hubert Ries was 2nd violin before that. That means the 35 years mentioned above is at most 31. At the age of 17 he became a soloist, and at 18 he was appointed to the Königliche Kapelle. At the age of 24, he founded his own quartet with Wilhelm Ronneburger (who remained faithful to him until the last year), Ed. Richter and Julius Griebel. Zimmermann made several trips to Paris, where he perfected his skills with Lafont, and where he met Hector Berlioz in 1853.”8“Notre héros méconnu est né le 28 mars 1810 à Zinndorf près de Straussberg, en Prusse. Le pauvre marmot est entré dans l’existence par une tragédie: le jour de l’enterrement de son père – il avait 6 ans – le feu se déclare à Zinndorf, ravageant toute la localité. On imagine l’épouvante de cet enfant, mis en face de la mort, et témoin, ce même jour, d’un cataclysme terrifiant. Une vision de l’Enfer.
Il est recueilli par le pasteur de sa paroisse qui n’avait pas d’enfant et l’initie au violon, avec l’aide d’un musicien de Straussberg, Lupin. Il obtient, à l’âge de 13 ans, ne bourse pour se perfectionner chez Carl Moeser, à Berlin (la capitale toute voisine: 30 km.) Il entre tout de suite comme second violon de Moeser. A 17 ans, il joue en soliste, et à 18 ans, is est nommé à La Chapelle royale. A 24 ans, il fonde son quatuor attitré, avec Wilhelm Ronneburger (qui lui restera fidèle jusqu’à la dernière année), Ed. Richter et Julius Griebel. Zimmermann fait plusieurs voyages à Paris, où il se perfectionne chez Lafont, et où il rencontre Hector Berlioz, en 1853.” Mahaim, vol. 1, p. 80.

What we know about Zimmermann’s Quartet:

The other members were also in the Königliche Kapelle. The only changes in personnel were with the cellist: when Julius Griebel left he was replaced by Wilhelm Lotze, who had health problems that eventually ended his stint, and was replaced by Leopold Espenhahn in 1852.
Over the years critics agreed that they developed into a very cohesive ensemble. After ten years together, they were described as “digging ever more deeply into the spirit of the classical compositions, [and] are increasingly united in ensemble.”9AMZ 46 no. 5 (1844): 76. However, poor attendance was also frequent cause for comment. Even though the group performed in small venues, they never garnered a full house.

A major point supporting Mahaim’s view that Zimmermann’s group deserves more credit as predecessor to the Joachim Quartet has to do with the rhetoric of the reviews. First, the players were described as selfless, focused entirely on the intentions of the composer, in the service of art.10They work in the purest service of art (Neue Berliner Musikzeitung (1846): 57);they are selfless (NBM (1847):334); they do it for the love of it (Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung 48 (1846): 542). On the performance of Beethoven, Op. 74: “And the players know how to reproduce all this excellently; one can hear that they have immersed themselves, not only in this work, but in the whole spirit of the creator. We therefore feel indebted to Mr. Zimmermann, Mr. Ronneburger, Mr. Richter and Mr. Lotze, and with this first evening we welcome their performance in the interest of art and all art lovers.” “Und Alles dies wissen die Spieler vortrefflich wieder zu geben; man hört ihnen an, dass sie sich hineingelebt haben, nicht bloss in dieses Werk, sondern in den ganzen Geist des Schöpfers. Wir fühlen uns deshalb den Herren Zimmermann, Ronneburger, Richter und Lotze zum grössten Danke verpflichtet und heissen mit diesem ersten Abende ihre Leistung willkommen im Interesse der Kunst und aller Kunstfreude.” (NBM (1849) 356, 81.) Given their approximately thirty years of concerts with no great profit or fame to show for it, It seems possible that these really were “four virtuous players, who continue their undertaking without any consideration of material gain, purely for the sake of a good cause.”11Den vier braven Spielern, die ihr Unternehmen ohne jede Rücksicht auf materiellen Gewinn, rein der guten Sache wegen, festhalten, ist jeder wahrhaft gebildete Kunstfreund zu Danke verpflichtet.” AMZ (1846): 428.

The other crucial element present in the reviews has to do with this small audience. Those attending were characterized as an elegant, musically discerning group who were reverent (“andachtsvoll”) about great classical music.12The audience is elegant and musically educated (AMZ 48 (1846): 542);Listeners hear the sounds of the players with true reverence (NBM (1850): 15.) These two aspects–the selfless players and the reverent audience–are recognizable from reviews of the Joachim Quartet thirty years later.

The growth in music journals and reporters in the 1840s makes for much richer documentation than the previous decade. For instance, two of the new journals, the Neue Berliner Musikzeitung and the Signale für die musikalische Welt, gave contrasting reports on a performance of the C# minor Quartet Op. 131 in 1846. One pronounced the work “a musical apocalypse” (which was singled out by Mahaim with a delighted exclamation mark). This was part of a review by Flodoard Geyer in the Neue Berliner Musikzeitung. Geyer (1811-1872) was a theorist and composer trained by A. B. Marx. For this review he focused on the new work on the program, a quartet by the Polish composer Dobrzynski. In order to write a true quartet of four voices he recommended the study of Bach four-part counterpoint, and not something like the other quartet on the program. “Beethoven, of course, is not the standard for today with the Quartet in C-sharp minor. This quartet seems to me like a musical apocalypse….Who looks without fear and horror into the crater of a mountain of fire? I do not therefore care that any one shall imitate this, or should imitate it; yet may every one hear and learn it with success for himself!13“Beethoven freilich sei für heute mit dem Quartette in Cis-moll nicht Maßstab. Dies Quartett kommt mir vor wie eine musikalische Apokalypse….wer sieht aber ohne Furcht und Grauen in den Krater eines Feuerberges? Ich sorge darum nicht, dass dies Einer nachahmen werde oder solle – doch mag es Jeder mit Erfolg für sich hören und lernen!” NBM 1 no. 1 (1846): 6-7, dated 16. Dec. 1846, “Probenummer”

The correspondent for the Signale took a different approach to the concert by observing the audience and casting a more skeptical light on their reverent attitude. This more whimsical and gossipy writer who signed himself “Nanté” lamented that “if Beethoven had been present at Zimmermann’s quartet soirée this evening, he would have been quite ashamed for Dobryzinski, who was applauded immensely, while during Beethoven’s quartet one saw mostly bored faces; oh, and we would rather not speak of applause, because it was audibly obligatory, because Beethoven was listed on the program. It is a good thing that the great master died long ago and spared himself the embarrassment.”14Wenn Beethoven an diesem Abende hätte in der Zimmermann’schen Quartettsoirée zugegen sein können, so hätte er sich von Dobryzinski recht schämen müssen, der ungemein applaudiert wurde, indeß man während Beethovens Quartett meistenteils gelangweilte Gesichter sah; ach, und von Applaus wollen wir lieber nicht sprechen, denn dem hörte man an, daß er offiziell war, weil Beethoven auf dem Zettel stand. Gut, daß der große Meister sich die Beschämung erspart hat und längst gestorben ist.” Signale 4 (1846): 411.

List of chamber music performances in Berlin, 1840-49

Notes on the data:

Some of the documentation of the concerts from the years 1847-48 comes from the 136-page “Table 1” in Christoph-Helmut Mahling, “Zum ‘Musikbetrieb’ Berlins und seinen Institutionen in der ersten Hälfte des 19. Jahrhunderts,” in Studien zur Musikgeschichte Berlins in frühen 19. Jahrhundert (1980), 27-284. This is indicated by “Mahling” in the last column.

Local ensembles and composers

On 24 January 1842 Carl Möser was given a grand retirement party on the occasion of his 68th birthday and 50th anniversary as a professional violinist. After so many years under such a dominant figure, this must have signified the dawning of a new era.151842 was also the year Spontini left and Meyerbeer arrived as General Music DIrector.The Steiffensand and Stahlknecht Piano Trio (1844-47) was continued with pianist Albert Löschhorn after Wilhelm Steiffensand (1820-82) left. The Löschhorn-Stahlknecht Trio was a major presence for a decade, from 1847-57. Julius Stahlknecht (1817-92), the group’s cellist, was in the Königliche Kapelle, as was his brother, Adolph Stahlknecht (1813-87), who was also was a prolific composer and at times a noticeably weak violinist. His pieces were featured on Berlin chamber concerts, as were those of other locals, such as Flodoard Geyer and Wilhelm Taubert.
Clara Schumann’s Piano Trio was performed by the Löschhorn Trio in 1848 and Zimmermann did a piece by Emilie Mayer on a concert dedicated to works by younger composers.

Visits from touring artists

Clara Wieck played two concerts with Zimmermann and Wilhelm Lotze in 1839 and 1840. She thought they were dry performers but was delighted to play the Archduke Trio and the Schubert E-flat Trio. Ole Bull gave two chamber music concerts, which included the G minor Mozart Quintet. Other visiting instrumentalists (not on the table) included the Müller Brothers Quartet, who made another visit in 1843, as did Franz Liszt. Also that year, Ferdinand Laub, 9 years old, performed in two concerts. And in 1846 there were visits from two of the great violinists, Henri Vieuxtemps and Heinrich Ernst.

YearQuartet leaderDateWorkWorkWorkSourceOther Info
1840ZimmermannJanuaryFesca e minorQuintet by Graf Cesare di CastelbaccoC. W. Henning Sextet b minorAMZ 178
1840ZimmermannBeethoven Op. 18 no. 2HaydnBeethoven Op. 74
1840ZimmermannMarchMozart F majorPrinz Louis Ferdinand Piano Quartet f minorBeethoven Op. 59 no. 2AMZ 2456th concert
1840ZimmermannMarchMozart K. 516Onslow Quintet No. 22, op. 57Beethoven Op. 29
1840ZimmermannAprilSchubert D. 810Cherubini E-flatBeethoven Op. 130AMZ 355, Mahaim
1840ZimmermannHaydnOnslowBeethoven Op. 95AMZ 1841 83
1840Zimmermann25 NovMozart Clarinet QuintetHaydn Op. 74 no. 3Beethoven Op. 74AMZ 1071
1840MöserHaydn 55, 53, 51Mozart K. 421, “nos. 1 and 3”Beethoven Op. 18 no. 6, op. 59 no. 1, no. 2AMZ 1841 823 concerts: August Möser alternating 1st v.
1840Clara Wieck25 JanBeethoven Op. 97SchumannChopin, LisztAMZ 177with Zimmermann, Lotze
1840Clara Wieck1 FebSchubert Pf Trio E-flatAMZ 243with Zimmermann, Lotze
1840Ole BullMozart K. 516BeethovenMaysederAMZ 10702 concerts
1841ZimmermannHaydnFescaBeethoven Op. 59 no. 1AMZ 173
1841ZimmermannHaydn FSchubert D. 810Beethoven E-flat QuintetAMZ 362
1841ZimmermannMozart D majorOnslow Quintet f minorBeethoven Pf Trio C minorIrisTaubert on piano
1841MöserMozart K. 593Mozart K. 516Beethoven Op. 29AMZ 361
1841MöserMozart E-flatHaydn No. 50Beethoven Op. 59 no. 1AMZ 173August Möser alternating 1st v.
1842ZimmermannJanuaryHaydn Op. 76 no. 3Mendelssohn Op. 44 no. 1Beethoven Op. 742nd
1842ZimmermannHaydn DMozart K. 387Beethoven Op. 74AMZ 1843 137Or early 1843
1842Zimmermann19 JanHaydnSpohrBeethoven Op. 59 no. 2AMZ 237
1842ZimmermannHaydn GSchubert D. 810Op. 18 no. 6AMZ 137
1843ZimmermannSpohr NonetMozart F majorBeethoven SeptetAMZ 248
1843ZimmermannFebruaryHaydn Op. 76 no. 2Mozart K. 516Beethoven Op. 131Mahaim; AMZ 1843 248Op. 131 is “Überschwengliches”
1843Zimmermann11 DecHaydn B-flatOnslow A majorBeethoven Op. 18 no. 2
1843Zimmermann18 DecHaydn, “Trompeten-Q”Mozart K. 421Beethoven Op. 59 no. 3Signale (1844): 3Audience small but “ausgesucht”
1844ZimmermannMayFescaMozart K. 516Beethoven Op. 29AMZ 319
1844ZimmermannJanuaryHaydn F majorOnslow A majorBeethoven Op. 18 no. 2AMZ 76
1844ZimmermannHaydn B-flatMozart K. 421Beethoven Op. 59 no. 3AMZ 76
1844ZimmermannMarchHaydnMendelssohn Op. 12Beethoven Op. 18 no. 3AMZ 173
1844ZimmermannDecemberHaydnMendelssohn E-flatBeethoven Op. 132AMZ (1845):13, Mahaim
1845ZimmermannNovemberHaydn D majorMozart K. 465Beethoven Op. 74Signale 379
1845ZimmermannOnslow Quintet a minorMozartBeethoven Op. 29AMZ no. 13 (March)
1845ZimmermannHaydnOnslow B-flat QuartetBeethoven Op. 18 no. 1AMZ (1845):12
1845ZimmermannHaydnFescaBeethovenAMZ March no. 13
1845Steiffensand, StahlknechtNovemberSchubert B-flat Pf TrioMendelssohn Cello Sonata in DBeethoven Pf Trio in C minor op. 61 (?)2nd
1845Steiffensand, StahlknechtBeethoven Pf Trio Op. 1 no. 1 (or 2)Mendelssohn Pf Trio D minorOnslow Pf Trio D minorAMZ 11
1845Steiffensand, StahlknechtMozart G major TrioBeethoven Op. 70 no. 1Beethoven Violin Sonata op. 30AMZ 11
1845Steiffensand, StahlknechtBeethoven Op. 97Schubert Pf Trio E-flatBeethoven Clarinet Trio6th soirée
1846Zimmermann11 JanMendelssohn Op. 44 no. 2StahlknechtBeethoven Op. 18 no. 6NBM 22-234th
1846Zimmermann28 FebOnslow E minorMozart D majorBeethoven Op. 132“A minor” BMZ (7 March, 3rd page) NBM 57 Not in MahaimNBM: Beethoven Pf Trio, Mozart Quintet
1846Zimmermann16 NovSignale 378
1846Zimmermann7 DecDobrynzski Quartet d minorHaydn C majorBeethoven Op. 131Mahaim; NBM 1846: 6-7; BMZ 1846 3“A musical apocalypse”
1846Steiffensand, StahlknechtMozart G minor Pf QSchubert A major QuintetWeber, SQ B-flatSignale 99Beethoven Scottish lieder
1846Steiffensand, StahlknechtOctoberSignale 378
1846Steiffensand, StahlknechtNovemberStahlknecht Pf TrioBeethoven VS a minorTaubert Pf TrioSignale 385
1847Zimmermann25 JanMozart B-flatTaubert E minor SQBeethoven Op. 29Signale 515th, the Taubert seemed endless
1847Zimmermann8 FebBeethoven String Trio in G majorMozart K. 515Beethoven Op. 127Mahaim; BMZ, NBM 57, Signale 75Group needs to be more expressive
1847Zimmermann25 OctHaydn G major “no. 81”Beethoven Op. 97Beethoven Op. 74Signale 356, NBM 358Now in the Hotel de Russie
1847ZimmermannA. Stahlknecht SQMendelssohn Op. 44 no. 2Beethoven Op. 18 no. 6Signale 364th; Violist criticized
1847ZimmermannNovemberHubert Ries QBeethoven Op. 18 no. 5Schubert A major QuintetSignale 373
1847Steiffensand, Stahlknecht18 JanPrince Louis Ferdinand Op. 3 Trio in E-flatDobrzynski a minor op. 17 TrioBeethoven Op. 70 no. 2Signale 43
1847Löschhorn, Stahlknechts22 NovBeethoven D major Trio (Adagio)Mendelssohn Cello Sonata D majorLieder ohne Worte, Mendelssohn C minor Pf TrioSignaleMendelssohn memorial concert
1847Steiffensand, StahlknechtW. Eckardt TrioSchubert B-flat Pf TrioBeethoven Op. 70 no. 2Signale 65-65th; the Schubert “wenig bekannt”
1847Steiffensand, StahlknechtOnslow Trio in D majorChopin Trio in G minorBeethoven D major Trio Op. 61 (?)Signale 90Last
1848ZimmermannFescaSchumann Piano QuintetBeethoven Op. 95NBM 91, Mahling
1848ZimmermannJanuaryHaydn Op. 76 no. 3 (by request)Herrmann Wichmann E minor SQBeethoven, piano quintet in E-flat with Oboe, Clarinet, basson and hornMahling
1848Zimmermann7 FebMozart G minor Pf QOnslow A majorBeethoven Op. 59 no. 3NBM 52, MahlingSteiffensand piano
1848Zimmermann29 MarDobrynzski QuintetSchumann Piano QuintetBeethoven Op. 29Mahlingextra benefit concert
1848Zimmermann13 NovOnslow E minorKuhlau/Kuhnau Pf QuartetBeethoven Op. 18 no. 3Mahling
1848ZimmermannHummel B flat minor Pf QuintetTaubert e minor QMozart K. 516
1848Zimmermann4 DecSteiffensand Cello SonataHaydn C majorBeethoven Op. 59 no. 2Mahling
1848Löschhorn, Stahlknechts17 JanMendelssohn C minor Pf TrioFlodoard Geyer E-flat Pf TrioBeethoven Cello Sonata in GMahling
1848Löschhorn, Stahlknechts31 JanR. Würst g minor Pf TrioFlodoard Geyer E-flat Pf TrioBeethoven Op. 70 no. 2Mahling
1848Löschhorn, Stahlknechts14 FebStahlknecht g minor Pf TrioBeethoven VS Op. 30 no. 1Beethoven Pf Trio op. 1Mahling
1848Löschhorn, Stahlknechts28 FebFerdinand Ries C minor Pf Trio op. 143Louis Spohr e minor Pf Trio, op. 119Beethoven Op. 70 no. 1MahlingLast of 6 concerts
1848Löschhorn, Stahlknechts11 NovHaydn C majorMozart E major Trio Op. 15Beethoven Op. 70 no. 1Mahling
1848Löschhorn, Stahlknechts25 NovClara Schumann Pf Trio op. 17Schubert Pf Trio in E-flatBeethoven Pf Trio C minorMahling
1848Löschhorn, Stahlknechts11 DecHummel Trio E major op. 83Flodoard Geyer a minor Pf TrioBeethoven Cello Sonata in AMahling
1849Zimmermann26 JanOnslow g minor SQSchumann Pf QuintetBeethoven Op. 59 no. 1NBM 36, Mahling
1849Zimmermann5 FebStahlknecht SQ b minorOnslow Sextet in E-flatBeethoven Op. 18 no. 2Mahling4th
1849Zimmermann5 MarMozart E-flatBeethoven Op. 18 no. 6Onslow a minor QuintetNBM 76, Mahling
1849Zimmermann3 NovMozart F majorHaydn G majorBeethoven Op. 74NBM 356
1849ZimmermannNovemberHaydn C major Cah. 10 nr. 1Onslow 24th in e minorBeethoven Op. 127NBM 389, Mahaim
1849ZimmermannDecemberWürstEmilie MayerNBM 396matinee for younger composers
1849Löschhorn, Stahlknechts3 FebLewy Pf Trio E-flatWürst Violin SonataBeethoven Op. 70 Pf TrioNBM 46; Mahling4th concert
1849Löschhorn, Stahlknechts12 FebOnslow Pf Trio G major op. 27Spohr Pf Trio a minor Op. 124Beethoven Pf Trio G majorMahling
1849Birnbach28 JanBeethoven Pf Trio Op. 1 no. 1Haydn Op. 76 No. 1C.W. Henning SQ A majorNBM 37, Mahling
1849BirnbachFebruaryMozart D major no. 10Flodoard Geyer SQHummel Septet d minorMahling21st matinée; G. Schumann, pf
"Berlin’s chamber music in the 1840s." MUSIC IN BERLIN, 1870-1910 - Accessed October 5, 2022.
MUSIC IN BERLIN, 1870-1910 (October 5, 2022) Berlin’s chamber music in the 1840s. Retrieved from
"Berlin’s chamber music in the 1840s." MUSIC IN BERLIN, 1870-1910 - October 5, 2022,
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