Berlin as a leader in chamber music in the 1830s, with the help of Ivan Mahaim
This illustration is the first section of a giant handmade chart included in the back pocket of Ivan Mahaim’s treasure-trove of a book on Beethoven’s late quartets, Beethoven: Naissance et Renaissance de Derniers Quatuors. The rows are the places of performances and the columns are the dates, starting in 1825. The numbers making up the chart are opus numbers. As the chart indicates, after their premieres, the late quartets were first heard in Paris and Berlin. Mahaim documents only the late quartets, so I have supplemented his information about the Berlin ensembles who were giving concerts at that time:
1. Carl Möser (concerts 1813-1842), with August Zimmermann, Heinrich Lenss, Joh. Friedrich Kelz1Before Zimmermann, the second violinist was Ganz (presumably Leopold; 1828), and before him it was Hubert Ries (1827). Mahaim claims that Zimmermann was Möser’s second violinist from 1828.
Carl Möser’s concerts were truly path-breaking because they were so early. He was crucial for the Beethoven performances in Berlin during the composer’s lifetime. The documentation for that period is thin, however. Möser as a performer also stands out from the rest here as a proto-Liszt: he came from nowhere with little training, hobnobbed with royalty, traveled restlessly, fell in love repeatedly and caused scandals. A musical awakening upon hearing Viotti led him to overhaul his technique. Eventually he returned to Berlin and settled down to lead the musical establishment along the Haydn-Mozart-Beethoven path. He was named Königliche Musik-Director and head of the the training school for the Königliche Kapelle in 1825.2“Beiträge zur Geschichte der Gegenwart,” Berliner Musikalische Zeitung vol 3 no. 24 (1846): 13; Otto Lange, “Biographische Skizzen aus der Gegenwart,” Neue Berliner Musikzeitung (1848): 364-5; and “Möser, Carl,” Berliner Tonkünstler Lexikon (1861): p? ; and Mahaim. His strikingly asymmetrical face and pronounced chin are perhaps clues to his personality.
Möser’s performance of Op. 132 in a minor in April of 1828 was the first outside of Vienna.3According to Mahaim. The AMZ reported that “despite all the individual beauty of the ideas, [it] did not appeal in its overall effect, for which the tiring length of the movements and the rhapsodic nature of the development were most likely to blame. The Scherzo was understood the most and was received favorably.”4“…Als das sehr schwere, neue Quartett von Beethoven in A moll, Op. 132, das, bey allen einzelnen Schönheiten der Gedanken, doch in der Total-Wirkung nicht ansprechen wollte, woran am meisten wohl die ermüdende Länge der Sätze, und das Rhapsodische der Duchführung Schuld war. Am meisten wurde das Scherzo verstanden und beyfällig aufgenommen.” AMZ 30 (1828): 363.
In 1834, Möser’s pupil and second violinist August Zimmermann took over the performances of three of the late quartets; he led the Berlin premieres of Opus 131 and Opus 127. Möser was 60 years old by then and gout in his left arm was hindering him from performing.5“Zu bedauern ist es, dass der Hr. MD. C. Möser durch Gichtschmerz im linken Arm bis jetzt verhindert ist, uns die älteren Mozart’schen und Beethoven’schen Quartette hören zu lassen.” AMZ 36 No. 51 (1834): 846. In 1842 he retired after he celebrated his 50th anniversary as a performer.
His other quartet members were from the opera orchestra. The violist, Heinrich Lenss (1793-1856), actually played horn in the opera orchestra until he lost his front teeth in 1835. The cellist Joh. Friedrich Kelz was born in Berlin in 1786 and had studied with Duport.
2. August Zimmermann (concerts 1834-1860) with W. Ronnebürger, Eduard Richter and Julius Griebel6Wilhelm Lotze replaced Griebel around 1839-40; Leopold Espenhahn replaced Lotze in 1852.
I am amazed that I did not know about August Zimmermann’s longtime quartet series until recently. Sixty years earlier, Mahaim was also amazed and hailed him as an unsung hero. From his perspective, the most important point was that “from 1834 to 1855, the Zimmermann Quartet was absolutely alone in defending Beethoven’s last works.”7“De 1834 à 1855 le Quatuor Zimmermann est absolument seul à défendre les derniers de Beethoven.” Mahaim, Beethoven: Naissance et Renaissance, vol. 1, p. 80. He even goes so far as to declare that “the great prophet of Beethoven’s last quartets is definitely Zimmermann, forty years before Joachim!”8Le grand prophète des derniers quatuors de Beethoven, c’est décidément Zimmermann, 40 ans avant Joachim!” Mahaim, vol. 1, p. 81. Knowing almost nothing about Zimmermann, I am not sure about that, but his quartet’s performances of the late Quartets Op. 131, 127, and 132 in 1834 indisputedly mark the beginning of their reception in Berlin. The Berlin correspondent for the AMZ managed noncomittal reports:
- “Beethoven’s last Quartet, Op. 131 in C# minor, very exactly and purely executed by four younger players, Messrs. Zimmermann, Ronnebürger, Richter and J. Griebel, [was heard] with particular interest. The latter composition is admittedly very difficult to comprehend and not entirely understandable after a single hearing.”9“Beethoven’s letztes Quartett, Op. 131 in Cis moll, von vier jüngeren Spielern, den Herren Zimmermann, Ronnebürger, Richter und J. Griebel sehr genau und rein ausgeführt, mit besonders Interesse. Die letztere Composition ist freilich sehr schwer aufzufassen und nach einmaligem Hören nicht durchaus verständlich.” AMZ No. 10 (1834): 157.
- “The great Quartet by Beethoven, Op. 127 was …quite exact in ensemble, but in its details hard to understand.”10“…Möser’schen Versammlungen das grosse Quartett von Beethoven, Op. 127, in Es dur von den Herren Zimmermann, Ronneburger, Richter und J. Griebel recht genau im Ensemble, doch in seinen Einzelheiten schwer verständlich, ausgeführt u.s.w.” AMZ No. 15 (1834): 241.
- “The great Quartet in A minor was played with great unanimity and expression.”11“…grosses Quartett in A moll (von den Herren Zimmermann, Richter, Ronneburger und J. Griebel sehr übereinstimmend und ausdrucksvoll vorgetragen)” AMZ No. 19 (1834): 314.
3. Hubert Ries (concerts 1833-36) with L.W. Maurer, Carl Böhmer, August Just12The Maurer here may have been L.W.’s son Eduard, although he would have been as young as 14 (AMZ 33 (1831): 280, and 35 (1833): 810). L. Maurer was concertmaster in Hanover. Maybe there was a third Maurer.
Hubert Ries (1802-86) was the younger brother of the composer and Beethoven student Ferdinand Ries, and the father of Louis Ries (the second violinist for the Popular Concerts in London). He studied with Spohr for a year before going to Berlin in 1824, and ended up spending his entire career there. One assessment called him an excellent quartet player whose duties as conductor, concertmaster (1836) and head of a preparatory school for the orchestra crowded out his time for chamber music. He became a member of the Königliche Akademie der Künste in 1839. His group performed Op. 132, referred to as “one of the newest quartets”; it was “quite precise and heard with interest” in 1834.13“…Beethoven (A moll, eines der neuesten Quartette) recht präcis im Ensemble ausgeführt, mit Teilnahme hören lassen.” AMZ 36 No. 10 (1834):157.
4. The Ganz brothers (concerts 1832-33): Adolf Ganz (1796-1870), Moritz Ganz (cello, 1806-68), Leopold Ganz (violin, 1810-69), and a fourth player to be named later
(The performance of Op. 130 by the Ganz brothers does not appear on Mahaim’s chart, but he discusses it in the text.) The famous virtuoso cellist and violinist with their older and less famous brother Adolf had a concert series that made a strong start but ceased soon thereafter; overall the Ganz brothers did not play as prominent a role in Berlin’s chamber concerts. Moritz and Leopold joined the Berlin Hofkapelle in 1827, and in 1836 were named principal violin and cello. They were successful in London, beginning with their first visit in 1837. They performed Op. 130 either in late 1831 or the beginning of January of 1832. The AMZ said it “admittedly did not universally appeal, but nevertheless remains a curious tone poem of abundant imagination full of originality.”14Das Beethoven’sche Quartett in B dur, Op. 130 sprach freilich nicht allgemein an, bleibt aber dennoch eine merkwürdige Tondichtung voll Originalität der überreichen Phantasie.” AMZ 34 (1832): 74. On a concert of 12 March 1832 there were unspecified movements of Op. 131, which were noted in passing as “quite incomprehensible.”15“…(ziemlich unbegreiflich)…” AMZ 34 (1832): 332. Mahaim erroneously attributes this performance to Möser’s ensemble (vol. 2, p. 444). Their 1833 performance of Schubert’s a minor Quartet, parenthetically described as “singular, but not free of bizarrerie” should also be noted.16“…(eigenthümlich, doch nicht Frey von Bizarrerie)…” AMZ 35 no. 16 (1833): 259.
Finally, when Berlioz came to Berlin in 1843 his report about the Königliche Kapelle included the observation: “The strings are nearly all first-rate, but one should particularly single out the brothers Ganz (the admirable first violin and first cello) and the able violinist Ries.”17The Memoirs of Hector Berlioz, trans. David Cairns (New York and Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002), 327.
Berlin’s Chamber Concerts in the 1830s
This table incorporates Mahaim’s information on the late Beethoven quartets into my list of the chamber concerts in Berlin from 1830-39. Some preliminary observations:
- The genre is often referred to such as the “violin quartet” (as opposed to piano quartets, or other instruments with string accompaniment). In 1833 Hubert Ries was praised as an excellent violinist, with the other three players called “capable ripienists and good musicians.”18AMZ 35 (1833): 820-21.
- Möser favored the three-string-quartet Haydn-Mozart-Beethoven concert format, but the others usually mixed other genres and instruments.
- There is SO much ONSLOW. His countless quintets and quartets are the most ubiquitous works outside of the Haydn-Mozart-Beethoven core repertoire.
- Local composers are represented, especially Mendelssohn and Wilhelm Taubert.
|Quartet leader||Other info||Work||Work||Work||Source||Other music on concert||In Mahaim|
|1832||Gebrüder Ganz||January||Op. 130||AMZ 34 no. 5 (1832): 74||Mahaim|
|1832||Gebrüder Ganz||Mendelssohn||Taubert Piano Trio and Lieder||Henning Sextet||AMZ 332|
|1832||Gebrüder Ganz||Beethoven, Scottish Lieder||Beethoven, Op. 131 (part)||Mendelssohn Piano Quartet||AMZ 332|
|1833||Gebrüder Ganz||Onslow, Quintet in D||Schubert a minor||Beethoven Op. 95||AMZ 259|
|1833||Gebrüder Ganz||3 Soirées||Rode SQ||Beethoven Piano Trio Op. 1 no. 1||Dussek Piano Quartet||AMZ 197||C. Arnold G minor SQ|
|1833||Gebrüder Ganz||Spohr E major SQ||Onslow||Mendelssohn E-flat SQ||AMZ 197||Schubert lied “Der Wanderer”|
|1833||Gebrüder Ganz||Schubert a minor Quartet||Beethoven Op. 95||Onslow D minor Quintet||AMZ 259||piano work by C. Arnold|
|1833||Hubert Ries||Eduard Maurer, Carl Böhmer, August Just||Mozart “no. 6”||Spohr a minor SQ||Beethoven op. 18 no. 1||AMZ 820-21|
|1833||Hubert Ries||Onslow||Haydn||Ferdinand Ries||AMZ 820-21|
|1833||Carl Möser||Zimmermann, Lenss, Kelz||Haydn Op. 55 A major SQ||Mozart C major SQ||Beethoven Pf Trio Op. 97||AMZ 867|
|1834||Hubert Ries||Mozart||Spohr||Op. 59 no. 3||AMZ 381|
|1834||Hubert Ries||In February||Spohr a minor SQ||Onslow C major SQ||Op. 132||AMZ 36 no. 10 (1834): 157||Mahaim|
|1834||Hubert Ries||Ferdinand Ries E major SQ||Mozart B-flat SQ||Beethoven Op. 74||AMZ 157|
|1834||August Zimmermann||Ronneberger, Richter, Griebel||Op. 131||AMZ 36 no. 10 (1834): 157||Mahaim|
|1834||Möser||In March||Op. 127||AMZ 36 no. 15 (1834): 241||Mahaim||Op. 127 played by Zimmermann….|
|1834||Möser||3 Soirées||Mozart C major Quintet||Beethoven C major Quintet||Op. 132||AMZ 36 no. 19 (1834): 314||Mahaim||Op. 132 played by Zimmermann, Richter, Ronneburger, Griebel|
|1835||Zimmermann||In December||Fesca SQ f minor||Onslow SQ e minor||Op. 131||AMZ 38 no. 3 (1836): 43.||Haydn Op. 76 no. 3|
|1835||Hubert Ries||Mendelssohn, Op. 12 SQ||Onslow C major Quintet||Spohr Double Quartet||AMZ 844|
|1836||Hubert Ries||2 concerts||Fesca SQ e minor||Mozart F major SQ||Haydn SQ B-flat|
|1836||Hubert Ries||Beethoven VS||Moscheles Septet D major||Beethoven Op. 59 no. 2|
|1836||Zimmermann||Beethoven Septet||Beethoven a minor VS||Haydn||AMZ|
|1836||Zimmermann||Op. 127||AMZ 38 no. 17 (1836): 279||Mahaim|
|1837||Zimmermann||3 concerts||C. Decker SQ||Onslow E minor SQ||Beethoven Op. 59 no. 3||AMZ 832-3|
|1837||Zimmermann||Beethoven Op. 18 no. 2||Haydn Op. 76 no. 2||Onslow E-flat major Quintet|
|1837||Zimmermann||Beethoven Op. 18 no. 6||Mendelssohn f minor Pf Quartet||Schubert|
|1838||Zimmermann||Onslow||Haydn||Beethoven Op. 59 no. 1||AMZ 1030|
|1838||Zimmermann||Onslow Quintet in E major||Mendelssohn SQ a minor||Beethoven Pf Trio|
|1838||Zimmermann||2 concerts||Cherubini E-flat SQ||Onslow A major Quintet||Haydn D major SQ||AMZ 132|
|1838||Zimmermann||Mozart g minor Quintet||Beethoven Op. 59 no. 3||?||AMZ 132|
|1838||Zimmermann||2 concerts||Mozart SQ D major||Fesca SQ F major||Beethoven Op. 95||AMZ 211|
|1838||Zimmermann||in March||Haydn D major SQ||Onslow B-flat||Beethoven Op. 130||AMZ 40 no. 13 (1838): 211.||Mahaim|
|1838||Zimmermann||Haydn F minor SQ||Onslow A major SQ||Beethoven Op. 59 no. 1|
|1838||Möser||3 concerts||Mozart SQ G major||Haydn Op. 76 no. 2||Beethoven Op. 59 no. 1|
|1838||Möser||Mozart SQ A major||Haydn G major no. 55||Beethoven Op. 59 no. 2|
|1838||Möser||Mozart SQ d minor||Beethoven Op. 18 no. 6|
|1838||Möser||Haydn “no. 56”||Mozart A major SQ||Beethoven Op. 18 no. 6||AMZ 1839 p. 68-9|
|1838||Möser||Haydn "no. 30”||Mozart C major SQ||Beethoven Op. 18 no. 3|
|1839||Möser||Mozart||Beethoven Op. 59 no. 3|
|1839||Möser||Haydn||Mozart G major SQ||Beethoven op. 18 no. 1|
|1839||Zimmermann||Mozart F major Pf Quartet||Gährlich Pf Quartet c minor||Beethoven Op. 59 no. 2||AMZ 857|
|1839||Zimmermann||Stahlknecht SQ||Onslow Quintet||Haydn||AMZ 144|
|1839||Zimmermann||Taubert Pf Trio||Onslow SQ no. 24||Beethoven Op. 59 no. 3||AMZ 144|
|1839||Zimmermann||Fesca SQ g minor||Spohr d minor double Quartet||Beethoven Op. 29||AMZ 217|
|1839||Zimmermann||Mendelssohn e minor SQ||Onslow C major Quintet no. 19||Beethoven Op. 18 no. 5|