Book review: The Creative Worlds of Joseph Joachim | reconsidering

The Creative Worlds of Joseph Joachim

The Creative Worlds of Joseph Joachim

eds. Valerie Woodring Gortzen, Robert Whitehouse Echbach

353PP ISBN 9781783276547

BOYDELL PRESS £70

This collection of essays forms the published record of an international conference held at the Goethe-Institut in Boston in 2016. Editors Valerie Woodring Gortzen and Robert Whitehouse Eichbach organize the chaos of the conference papers by organizing their book into three sections.

Following Eshbach’s introductory essay, in which he reviews the available literature on Joachim, the first two parts of the volume embrace some of the less common aspects of the talented violinist’s life and creativity. Part One (“Identity”) consists of three media studies that explore aspects of Joachim’s youth: the profound influence of Mendelssohn in his formative years (R. Larry Todd); its Jewish origin and associated concerns, and its early assimilation into the Christian community (Styra Avins); and his Hungarian background and sympathy for Hungarian music, especially Romani music, as well as violinists such as Ferenc Bonko and Gyola Benzi (Minio Uta).

‘Joachim as Performer’ is the subject of Part Two, which includes articles on his performance in Britain, in general, courtesy of his (Ian Maxwell) family’s personal papers recently available, and more specifically at London Saturday parties (Michael Musgrave) and popular Monday parties (Therese Ellsworth), focusing on issues of ammunition and critical reception. Of particular interest to readers of The Strad will be Ruprecht’s entire investigation into the provenance and ownership of some of the violins associated with Joachim, and Sana Pedersen’s survey of Joachim’s most important disciples and their subsequent careers in the profession. Joachim’s penchant for performing the String Quartet is the subject of Robert Riggs’ examination, focusing on the importance of the Berlin Joachim Quartet and its diverse membership, and Karen Listra-Jones considers Joachim’s strong spiritual ties to Beethoven and the reception of his performances as examples of kunstriling or “re-enchanting” sites. Finally, Beatrix Burchard compares the impact of Joachim’s programming on performance history with that of his wife, Amelie and William B. Making interesting connections with Beethoven for the violin, Sonata Ref. 30 No. 2 and Schumann’s String Quartet Ref. 41 No. 3.

The third part is devoted to the writings of Joachim. After studying the music of Joachim (2018, reviewed in The Strad, April 2019), Katharina Uhde reconsidered how to please some of her ‘audiences’ as a young player, particularly the pieces of violinists such as Bériot, Ernst and David. He influenced not only his own fantasies and other early compositions (1841-1853) but also contributed to his eventual rejection of the apparent ingenuity of both his programmatic and compositional approach.

Vasiliki Papadopoulou then provides a greatly enhanced understanding of the genesis of Joachim’s violin concerto No. 1 in the G minor and its essential revisions, and Valerie Wooding Gorzen analyzes Introduction to Henry IV Reference 7 as an extended single-motion symphonic drama that subtly makes use of thematic shift within a design related to the sonata. Joachim’s religious identity and Jewish origin are revisited in Marie Sumner Lott’s poll for Hebräische Melodien Reference 9, along with the contemporary vogue of Medieval Romanticism and anti-Judaism. Robert Riggs’ second contribution uses Tovey’s Analytical Essay on the “Hungarian” Violin Concerto Reference 11 as a starting point for a deeper discussion of the work’s structure, violin writing, historical significance and hongrois style. Riggs disagrees with Tovey on many issues and raises the issue of his working relationship to Beethoven’s piano concertos (No. 3) and Brahms (No. 1).

This compilation includes a comprehensive bibliography and index, 27 illustrations, 18 tables, and 40 musical examples, and comes with all required scholarly trimmings. It will undoubtedly interest a wide and diverse audience and fill in the many blanks in the published information on the famous German violinist, composer and teacher, and his wide circle of musicians, musical aesthetics, culture and styles of their time.

Robin Stoil

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