Joseph (1830–1907) and Amalie (1839–1899) Joachim, née Schneeweiß

Joseph Joachim  Etching by Heinrich Reifferscheid, around 1898 (StadtMuseum Bonn)
Joseph Joachim Etching by Heinrich Reifferscheid, around 1898 (StadtMuseum Bonn)

Born in Kittsee, in the Austrian province of Burgenland, in 1831, Joseph Joachim first became very well known as a violin prodigy and then received important impulses from Felix Mendelssohn. The twelve-year-old made his debut in a concert of Pauline Viardot-Garcia with the participation of Clara Schumann in Leipzig in 1843, and in London in 1844, he had a sensational success with the performance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, considered until then almost unplayable.

In 1850, he joined Franz Liszt in Weimar as head violinist and subsequently accepted an appointment as head violinist at the Royal Court in Hanover in 1853. There, he remained until 1868 but continued to go on regular concert tours in Britain, the Netherlands and Belgium; many of the works he composed are from that time.

In 1868, he moved to Berlin where he participated in the foundation of the Royal Conservatoire, which he ran until his death in 1907. He founded the legendary Joachim Quartet with which he gave regular chamber music concerts at home and abroad.

The encounter with the young Joachim in May 1853 was of great importance for Clara and Robert Schumann, as he also introduced Brahms to them. Robert Schumann was so impressed by his playing that he dedicated his Fantasia for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 131, to him, which Joachim performed for the first time, and the Violin Concerto was also intended for him.

There were presumably only few artists with whom Clara Schumann played as often as she did with Joseph Joachim; her programme collection shows more than 200 concert leaflets with joint performances. Their showpiece was undoubtedly Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata, and they were praised again and again, especially for their joint Beethoven interpretations.

But, besides Beethoven, they also played the Violin Sonatas by Schumann, Mozart, and other composers.

Clara Schumann valued Joseph Joachim not only as a musician but also as a friend. The violinist, for his part, also enjoyed performing together with Clara Schumann; after all, they were perfectly attuned to each other on stage.

The difficult time of Schumann’s illness, when Joachim would often stay with Clara and go to see Schumann at the sanatorium, together with Brahms, created a deep bond between them. Similar to Brahms, Clara would also ask Joachim for advice regarding the edition of the works in Schumann’s estate.

Amalie Joachim, reproduction of a photograph (Archive of the Vienna Society of the Friends of Music)
Amalie Joachim, reproduction of a photograph (Archive of the Vienna Society of the Friends of Music)

Amalie Joachim (1839-1899)

In 1863, Joseph Joachim married the singer Amalie Schneeweiss [Snow-white], who called herself “Weiss [White]” on stage. The excellent alto was born in Styria, Austria, and first appeared at the Kärntnertortheater or Carinthian Gate Theatre in Vienna where, however, she was given only small roles.

In April 1862, she was offered an engagement at the Royal Court Opera in Hanover, where she caused a sensation as Orfeo and as Leonore. Soon after, she met Joseph Joachim and married him. Subsequently, at the request of her husband, she only performed as a concert singer and gained an outstanding reputation as an art song and oratorio singer. She promoted, in particular, the song repertoires of Schumann, Schubert and Brahms. It was also her who organised the first pure Schumann recitals, for instance, on 11th January 1888 in Berlin.

Amalie and Joseph Joachim had six children, but divorced in 1884.

The close friendship between Brahms and Joachim suffered a major blow when Brahms took sides with Amalie.

Joachim tried to take the children away from her and to lay the sole blame on her because of his morbid jealousy.

Clara Schumann tried to stay friends with both partners equally.

Until 1878, she went on several concert tours together with Amalie Joachim and interpreted with her, for instance, Schumann’s A Woman’s Love and Life, Op. 42, the cycle Amalie Joachim sang most frequently.

Clara Schumann acknowledged Amalie as an equal concert partner and colleague, which was also reflected in the fact that she had always half of the fee transferred to her, even if she usually had to play much more.

But the three of them, Clara Schumann, Joseph and Amalie Joachim, also often performed together, for instance, in London or Berlin and Braunschweig.

(Julia M. Nauhaus, translated by Thomas Henninger)

Cp. also [ Joseph Joachim ]

On “Clara Schumann and Joseph Joachim”, especially as artists performing together, cf. the contribution by Ute Bär in the classical music magazine “Die Tonkunst”:

On Joseph and Amalie Joachim, in particular, cf.: Beatrix Borchard: Stimme und Geige. Amalie und Joseph Joachim. Biographie und Interpretationsgeschichte (Wiener Veröffentlichungen zur Musikgeschichte), 2007

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