The Repertoire of the Joachim Quartet

Quartet members

A view of Carl Halir

The accounts of Carl Halir’s playing that I’ve read are varied, and haven’t come together yet to form a clear picture. I was therefore interested to read Theodore Spiering’s column in The Musician on the occasion of Halir’s death in 1909. Spiering (1871-1925) studied with Joachim at the Hochschule around 1890, and took part in a few Joachim Quartet performances. He returned to the US and began his illustrious career by joining the newly formed…

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An American student’s view: Heinrich de Ahna

Edward N. Bilbie studied violin in Berlin for three years starting in 1888. He wrote a memoir of his career in 1921, which includes descriptions of some of the virtuosos of the time. I heard De Ahna play the Beethoven Concerto with his own cadenzas. He was a clear, full-toned artistic player with flawless technique and delightful style. He gave the concerto a flavor I have never heard duplicated. It was perfect, yet a little…

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An American student’s view of violinists in Berlin: Emanuel Wirth

I recently came across a privately printed volume of memoirs by Edward N. Bilbie, entitled Experiences of a Violinist at Home and Abroad. It includes descriptions of some of the violin virtuosos of the day and life in Berlin in the 1880s and ’90s. The author was born in 1865, studied violin for seven years at the School of Music at Ann Arbor, and continued his training in Berlin for three years. He started by…

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Repertoire

New works played by the Joachim Quartet

Eugen D’Albert, Quartets Op. 7 (1887) and 11 (1903) Woldemar Bargiel, Quartets Op. 15b (1877), op. 47 (1887, 1891, 1898), Octet op. 15a (1880) Richard Barth, Op. 15 (MS = manuscript), 1900) Wilhelm Berger, Quintet in e minor, op. 75 (1899) Ernst von Dohnányi, Quartet in a major, op. 7 (MS, 1902) Antonin Dvorák, Quartets Op. 51 (1880, 1888, 1895, 1904), op. 61 (1882, 1895, 1902), and op. 80 (1890); Sextet op. 48 (1879, 1901)…

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Repertoire string quartet concerts

The “Conservative” Joachim Quartet

1870s Reviews of the quartet’s performances in its first decade were almost always completely positive. The only complaints were about the conservative programming, with the prevalence of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, some Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn–and almost always Beethoven. In 1878 a program of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven’s Op. 131 had a reviewer commenting that since the Joachim Quartet concerts were “the caviar of  musical delicacies,” the Singakademie was filled to the last place. Still, it “would…

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string quartet concerts

The Joachim Quartet Series in Berlin

Joseph Joachim (1831-1907) was the most important force in establishing the prominence and prestige of the Classical string quartet concert in modern concert life. When Joachim formed a quartet in 1869 in Berlin, it was part of the plan for the new “Königlichen Akademie der Künste zu Berlin verbundene Lehr-Anstalten für Musik.” The main idea was to provide an opportunity for students to hear professional performances of the repertoire they were studying by giving them…

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