The London Joachim Quartet

Pictured above: Print of the Joachim Quartet from 1888 ( source: British Museum)

In the book Das Streichquartett in Wort und Bild (1898), the Joachim Quartet appears twice: as a quartet located in Berlin, and as another in London. The London quartet group was not usually called that for several reasons. It came into being at the same time as London’s Monday and Saturday Popular Concerts, in 1859. The players were not fixed. However, Joachim and the cellist Alfredo Piatti were participants that first year and they were the most frequent players in the performances.

The Italian cellist Alfredo Piatti (1822-1901) had his London debut in the same year as Joachim’s, in 1844.

Ludwig Straus had a background similar to Joachim’s. He was born in Pressburg, Hungary, in 1833 and studied with Böhm and Mayseder—two of the violinists who had been part of premieres in Vienna of Beethoven’s late quartets. 
He settled in England in 1861. Besides serving as violist in the Quartet, he played in Hallé’s orchestra. In the later part of his life lived in Cambridge.

Louis Ries (1830-1913) was the nephew of Beethoven’s student Ferdinand Ries. His father Hubert was his teacher, and his brothers Adolph and Franz were also violinists.

Lady Hallé’s Quartet

Joachim settled in to the routine of playing in London in the early part of the year, from about February to May. For the other Popular Concerts, his place as leader of the Quartet was filled by Wilma Norman-Neruda, who married the pianist and conductor Charles Hallé, pictured with the quartet, presumably because he often collaborated with them.

Das Londoner Quartett: L. Ries, Lady Hallé, Sir Ch. Hallé, L. Strauss, A. Piatti.

The Berlin members first played a series of concerts in London in 1897.1The 1905 edition of Grove’s Dictionary acknowledges they came in 1897 “but the identical personnel of the existing quartet did not visit until 1900.” This qualification is presumably because Johann Kruse played second violin instead of Carl Halir. However, at the time Kruse was still the second violinist. Halir did not take over until several months after the London concerts. Therefore they did visit London with the identical personnel in 1897. They also came to England in 1898 and 1899. Joachim’s longtime English collaborators were mostly retired by then: Ludwig Straus in 1893, Louis Ries in 1897, and Alfredo Piatti in 1898.2Hausmann had substituted for Piatti in London occasionally over the years since 1886, when Piatti missed part of the season due to illness. By the 1890s the English violinists Alfred Hobday, Paul Ludwig, and Alfred Gibson were frequent participants.

An all-Stradivarius Ensemble

It is interesting to know that the string quartets at the Monday Popular Concerts are now played upon instruments all of which were made by Antonius Stradivarius, Mr Alfred Gibson having lately purchased of Messrs Hart and Son a Stradivarius viola of great beauty. This instrument was formerly in the possession of the late Charles Reade, the novelist, and was purchased from him by the late Mr George Hart in whose private collection it remained upwards of fifteen years. It then passed into the hands of an eminent collector in Paris and was subsequently repurchased by Messrs Hart and Son. The four instruments now composing the quartet are all of the grand period of Stradivarius’s work and are dated as follows: Lady Hallé’s 1709, Mr Ries’s 1710, Mr Gibson’s 1728, and Signor Piatti’s 1720. 

Musical Times, 1893
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