Julius Stern (1820–1883)

Julius Stern (Photography, cf. http://sammlungen.ub.uni-frankfurt.de/)

Born in Breslau [now Wrocław], Julius Stern moved with his family to Berlin in 1832, where he became a member of the Singakademie choral society, aged only fourteen, and then studied composition at the Academy of the Arts in Berlin between 1837 and 1841. On the recommendations of Meyerbeer and Mendelssohn, he received a two-year scholarship from King Frederick William IV (reigned 1840-1861) in 1843, after which he studied singing in Dresden and took on the direction of the “[German Choral Society]” in Paris. In 1846, he returned to Berlin and founded the “[Stern Choral Society]” in the following year, directed by him until 1874. In 1849, Stern, in recognition of his services for Berlin’s music life, received the title of Royal Director of Music, and in 1860 the title of Royal Professor. The origins of the foundation of the “[Stern Choral Society]” went back to the music gatherings of the singer Henriette Sontag, married Countess Rossi. In 1846, she entrusted Stern with the direction of the music performances taking place at her house. In 1850, Stern founded, together with Theodor Kullak and Adolf Bernhard Marx, the first Berlin Conservatoire, the “[School of Music for Singing, Piano, and Composition]” (from 1852 “[Conservatoire of Music]”). After the withdrawals of Kullak and Marx in 1855 and 1857, he continued to run the school as “[Stern Conservatoire of Music]” on his own. After his death, the concert singer Jenny Meyer (1834-1894), Stern’s master pupil, became the owner and from 1888 Director of the Stern Conservatoire. Her sister, Elisabeth Meyer (1831-1919), of whom, unfortunately, no details are known, had married Stern in 1852.

Julius Stern exchanged letters with Robert Schumann as the editor of the music magazine Neue Zeitschrift für Musik [New Journal of Music] (NZfM) from 1838 and sent him several songs. Schumann published a few works by Stern in the NZfM and also recommended his works to the Leipzig publisher Breitkopf & Härtel. In 1841, Stern dedicated his Songs, Op. 8 (Six Poems by Reinick, Eichendorff, Burns, and Chamisso) to Schumann. The first personal meeting probably took place in July 1841, when Schumann noted in the Marriage Diary (weeks 18th July to 8th August 1841), in retrospect: “[Julius Stern from Berlin, young, ambitious, full of talents]”, and on 14th July, Schumann noted Stern’s departure in his Housekeeping Book. The meeting in Leipzig possibly came about via Felix Mendelssohn. Stern and Schumann exchanged letters again in 1853/54: Schumann, now Director of Music in Düsseldorf, considered leaving Düsseldorf due to a number of difficulties and problems regarding the direction of the Orchestra and the Choir and also the Committee of the Düsseldorf Music Society. When he wrote to Stern in November and December 1853, he had already handed over the direction and embarked on a concert trip with Clara Schumann to the Netherlands. Schumann suggested to Stern to exchange positions. However, Stern’s reply (due to a misunderstanding) arrived only five weeks later. There was thus no exchange of positions, possibly also, inter alia, because of anti-Jewish resentments on the part of the Church in Düsseldorf, which had a right of co-determination in the appointment of a successor; and Julius Tausch had been in the pipieline as a successor for a long time. Regarding conditions in Düsseldorf “[where there is, of course, no particular harmony either, something like the first accord in the Finale of the Ninth Symphony]” (letter from Schumann to Stern, 12.02.1854, quoted after Schumann-Briefedition [Schumann Letter Edition], p. 687), this was about all Schumann could comment about.

After the fairly unsuccessful Berlin premiere of the oratorio Paradise and the Peri, Op. 50, conducted by Schumann in 1847, Julius Stern performed the entire work again at the concert hall of the Berlin Singakademie music society in 1860, this time successful. The NZfM praised the presentation, both the composition and the performing musicians, and reminded “[not to let another thirteen years go by before being able to hear this most beautiful composition of the unforgettable Robert Schumann here for the third time again.]” (NZfM 52/22, 25th May 1860, p. 198).

During her Berlin concert tours (in December 1854, March and November 1855, and in November 1875), Clara Schumann also appeared in the concerts of or with the assistance of the “[Stern Choral Society]”; venues were the Theatre at Gendarmenmarkt square and the concert hall of the Singakademie music society. The programme included, inter alia, works by Schumann, Mendelssohn, Bach, and Beethoven.

An interesting fact is that Clara Schumann, when she moved from Düsseldorf to Berlin in 1857, went to the same address where Julius Stern had lived before between 1854 and 1855, namely at Dessauerstraße street 2 (https://digital.zlb.de/ and https://digital.zlb.de/). It is unclear whether this was coincidence or whether Stern had actually helped her find this flat.

Cf. Cordula Heymann-Wentzel: Das Stern’sche Konservatorium der Musik in Berlin. Rekonstruktion einer verdrängten Geschichte, Doctoral Thesis at the Berlin University of the Arts, 2014, especially pp. 67–69, 84 f., 92. Online at: https://opus4.kobv.de/ [13.9.2020].

Cf. Marcus Chr. Lippe: Article “Stern, Julius”, in: Ludwig Finscher (ed.), Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Persons, Vol. 15, Kassel et al., 2006, col. 1438.

Cf. Schumann-Briefedition, Series II, Vol. 17: Briefwechsel mit Freunden und Künstlerkollegen (Briefwechsel Clara Schumanns mit Korrespondenten in Berlin 1832 bis 1883), edited by Klaus Martin Kopitz, Eva Katharina Klein, and Thomas Synofzik, Cologne, 2015, pp. 639–640.

(Theresa Schlegel, 2020, translated by Thomas Henninger)

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