Horniman Museum Project

Posted on June 14th, 2012 by

Horniman Museum Project (reporting back 14th June)

The 13th June saw the beginning of a new collaboration with the Horniman Museum. Peter has been with them for nearly a year on bringing his research/performance into the work of Joseph Joachim into dialogue with their musical instrument collection, and last night’s packed concert/talk, linked to the museum’s Art of Harmony  and Peter’s work on Joachim at the Royal Academy of Music Museum, was a triumphant public beginning.

Kreutzer Quartet rehearsing Brahms Op 67at the Horminam Museum

Wednesday 13th June 2012, Horniman Museum/‘Joachim in London’

Kreutzer Quartet (Peter Sheppard Skærved, Mihailo Trandafilovski-Violins,Morgan Goff-Viola, Neil Heyde-Cello)

With Diana Mathews-Viola*

Johann Sebastian Bach – Chaconne (D minor Partita)

Charles Dickens on Joseph Joachim 1866: “Bach’s unaccompanied violin solos, but for Herr Joachim and the Monday Popular Concerts, would have been sealed treasures to our connoisseurs. ‘

Ludwig van Beethoven-C Major Quintet Op 29*

Joseph Joachim to his wife 1867: “I always enjoy the Pop Concerts very much. They are always packed, and I have to play something extra every time; the London public is very faithful. We have a different kind of programme each time. The day before yesterday it was Beethoven’s C major Quintette.”


Felix Mendelssohn-Etude for Joseph Joachim 1844

Felix Mendelssohn writes about the 13-year-old Joachim: ‘His manner of playing all modern and classical solos, his interpretations, his perfect comprehension of music, and promise in him of a noble service to art, will, I am sure, lead you to think as highly of him as I do.”

Joseph Joachim-Capriccio, Schottische Melodie & Duo

Joachim on London: “People treat me here as though I were an old friend, with sympathy and cordiality, and that is always pleasant.”

Johannes Brahms-B flat Major Quartet Op 67

Brahms to Clara Schumann, 1859: “I don’t like to hear, nor do I like to think, of Joseph’s Anglo-mania. Is it all going to end in marriage? … I don’t think that for moment that I shall ever go to England… in spite of all the Handel Choirs of 3000 voices, and all the wonderful scenes and battle pieces in Shakespeare plays.”


The Quartet rehearsing Beethoven Op29 with Diana Mathews

Joachim responds to an invitation to perform at the new

Joachim to Clara Schumann, [HANOVER , January 15, 1857.]- I have been offered an engagement in London ton commence on July 22 for 3 or 4 weeks, by Surrey Gardens Company. A new hall has been built there which holds 7000 people, and I should have to bind myself to play there every evening- the music to be chosen by me ; for this I should receive £60 a week.

To be quite honest I am very much attracted by it; but there is a drawback-Jullien’s orchestra. ON most evenings, certainly, only good music will be played, but on others, there will be Polkas. In spite of the attraction of £240 in one month I cannot make up my mind to do it, and I hope you will say I am right. I have debated with myself as to whether there were not a certain amount of artistic arrogance in my refusal of such a pecuniarily brilliant offer-but my original felling against such an association with an undisguised charlatan and speculator triumphs over all arguments to the contrary. What relation can remain sacred to me in life if I cheapen my art by active association with a mountebank?

Talking about Joachim and Mendelssohn

Felix Mendelssohn-Etude for a violin to Joseph Joachim in Friendship-Berlin 11th March 1844

Peter Sheppard Skaerved-Violin (Workshop recording 2nd June 2012)

The young Joachim

Joseph Joachim acquired near-legendary status with his debut in London, under the baton of Mendelssohn, in 1844. As was still the practice he arrived armed with letters of introduction to the Hanoverian Embassy, from Mendelssohn:

  “His manner of playing all modern and classical solos, his interpretations, his perfect comprehension of music, and promise in him of a noble service to art, will, I am sure, lead you think as highly of him as I do. But at the same time, he is a capital, healthy, well brought up, and altogether thoroughly good and clever lad, full of intelligence and very straight forward. Therefore be kind to him, look after him in Great London, and introduce him to those of our friends who will appreciate such an exceptional personality, and in whose acquaintance he, for his part, will also find pleasure and stimulation.’

Mendelssohn was effectively an honorary Londoner, so the combination of this letter and the other doors which he could open to his protégé, ensured, at the least, a social success. The rest was up to the musicians.

Joachim and Mendelssohn took a calculated risk, and presented Beethoven’s Concerto at a concert of the Philharmonic Society, on May 27th 1844. In 1920, Pamela Willetts wrote:

 ‘After its first performance by Eliasson at a Philharmonic Society concert on 9th April 1832, the violin concerto [Beethoven] was dismissed by The Harmonicon: ‘It is a fiddling affair, and might have been written by any third or fourth-rate composer.’ It was not until the youthful Joachim aged thirteen, performed it at a Philharmonic concert on the 27th May 1844, with Mendelssohn as conductor, that it was appreciated in London.’

Three years later, on the 3rd February 1847,  Joachim then fifteen years later, celebrated Mendelssohn’s last birthday in Leipzig, in fine style. Ignaz Moscheles remembered:

 ‘The proceedings opened with a capital comic scene between two lady’s-maids, acted in the Frankfurt dialect by Cécile and her sister. Then came a charade on the word Gewandhaus. Joachim, wearing a fantastic wig a la Paganini, played a crazy impromptu on the G-string; the word Wand [wall] was represented by the ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’ wall-scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream; for Haus, Charlotte [Moscheles] acted a scene she had written herself, in which she was discovered knitting a blue stocking and soliloquizing on the foibles of female authoresses, advising the to attend to their domestic duties. By way of enforcing the moral, she summons a cook-that was me, and my appearance in cap and dress was the symbol for general uproar. Mendelssohn was sitting on a large straw armchair which creaked under his weight as he rocked to and fro, and the entire room echoed with his peals of laughter. The whole word Gewandhaus was illustrated by a full orchestra, Mendelssohn’s and my children playing on little drums and trumpets, Joachim leading with a toy violin, and my Felix conducting a la Jullien. It was splendid.

The death of Mendelssohn later that year left the teenage violinist bereft; he did not find a replacement for his great teacher for six years, when he met Johannes Brahms. In a letter to Gisela von Arnim, he would remember:

To Gisela von Arnim, Düsseldorf, August 8, 1856: ‘The wise and gentle expression which rests on the brows of the dead is remarkable; I noticed it in Mendelssohn too, the only person besides Schumann whom I have seen after death.’

Peter & Mihailo playing Joachim VIolin Duos

Joseph Joachim-Duetto Pastorale (SOUNDBOX discussion)

Autumn 2011 SOUNDBOX discussion/workshop-Royal Academy of Music Museum

Peter Sheppard Skaerved & Mihailo Trandafilovski (Violins)

plus Neil Heyde and Morgan Goff in conversation (Kreutzer Quartet)