Joseph Joachim as editor - Clive Brown
The essay by Andreas Moser ‘Vom Vortrag’ (‘On Style and Artistic Performance’) in volume 3 of the Violinschule, which he edited jointly with Joachim, makes it clear that Joachim saw himself as a direct heir of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century French School of string playing, whose influence had been established by Giovanni Battista Viotti together with his leading pupils and disciples, codified in the 1801 Paris Conservatoire Méthode de violon by Pierre Rode, Rudolf Kreutzer and Pierre Baillot, and disseminated especially through Rode’s Caprices and Kreutzer’s Études [Joseph Joachim and Andreas Moser, Violinschule in 3 Bänden, trans. Alfred Moffat (Berlin, Simrock, 1905), iii, 31-5 (German, English)]. Joachim’s pedagogic activities were informed by his lifelong commitment to the basic tenets of that school, yet his fidelity to these aesthetic and technical ideals was not constrained by dry or scholastic conservatism. He was, like his mentor Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy and his close friend Johannes Brahms, very much a contemporary artist, whose activities, both as composer and performer, resulted from a progressive response to the issues and concerns of his own day. Joachim’s conservatism, like theirs, was of an active kind; he wanted to preserve what was best from the past and to use it creatively in the service of what he regarded as the true path of artistic development.
As a pupil of Joseph Boehm (1795-1876) in Vienna during the early 1840s Joachim absorbed a style of playing that had direct links with Viotti’s celebrated pupil Rode (one of Boehm’s teachers) and with Beethoven, whose String Quartet op. 127 Boehm had performed under the composer’s direction. From Boehm and other Viennese string players of that period, such as Georg Hellmesberger (1800-1873) he will have acquired a sense of the style of playing that was considered appropriate at that time for the performance of music composed by the Viennese Classical masters. After his move to Leipzig in 1843, Joachim also received guidance from Mendelssohn’s close friend and collaborator,Ferdinand David, who had studied with Spohr during the mid 1820s.
The literature on Joachim is ambiguous about the nature of his relationship with David. Moser indicated that he was never a formal pupil of David, but in an interview for The Musical Times, Joachim himself stated that when he went to Leipzig in 1843 Mendelssohn arranged for him “to take private lessons – of Ferdinand David for the violin and Hauptmann for composition – in order that I should be able to give ample time to my general education.” [39 (1898), p. 226]
By the age of sixteen, therefore, Joachim had come under a range of influences that were likely to cultivate a sense of appropriate style for the performance of Classical repertoire. He was, of course, also influenced by more contemporary trends. With Boehm he studied ‘brilliant’ French repertoire and the caprices of Paganini, cultivating a formidable technique that gave him the ability to tackle the most difficult violin music of the day. But he seems to have become acutely conscious of stylistic distinctions and was concerned to use the appropriate techniques in particular contexts. Thus, having apparently been taught, presumably during his studies in Vienna, that it was improper to employ springing bowstrokes in Classical repertoire - a practice that Spohr also regarded as wholly illegitimate except “in some passages in some scherzos by Beethoven, Onslow and Mendelssohn” [Alexandre Malibran, Louis Spohr (Frankfurt-am-Main, 1860), p. 208] - he sought Mendelssohn’s sanction for employing them more widely and received the pragmatic advice: “Always use it, my boy, where it is suitable, or where it sounds well” [Andreas Moser, Joseph Joachim ein Lebensbild (Berlin, 1898); translated by Lilla Durham as Joseph Joachim, A Biography (London, 1902), 46]. In other respects, Joachim seems to have based his aesthetic stance very much on the teaching in Spohr’s Violinschule of 1833. This is particularly the case with the technical and artistic use of vibrato and portamento; in the Joachim and Moser Violinschule of 1905, Spohr’s instructions for vibrato and portamento were quoted verbatim and at length. He also endorsed Spohr’s strictures about steadiness of tempo, insisting on Moser including a quotation about this from Spohr’s Violinschule at the end of the introduction to his posthumously published edition of Bach’s solo Sonatas and Partitas.
Despite his open-mindedness at the beginning of his career Joachim’s approach to violin playing became increasingly at odds with later 19th-century trends, particularly those stemming from the Franco-Belgian School, and, by the end of his life, his technical and aesthetic approach to violin playing must have seemed distinctly old-fashioned to many. During Joachim’s lifetime, however, his tremendous reputation and artistic individuality continued to command respect even though he was undoubtedly out of step with ‘progressive’ public taste and the performing style of most younger violinists at the beginning of the twentieth century.
This situation is graphically illustrated by comparisons of early recordings. Joachim’s five 1903 recordings stand apart stylistically from those of almost all other violinists who made recordings around that time. The most striking comparison is with the 1903 recordings of Fritz Kreisler, in which the prominent continuous vibrato contrasts sharply with Joachim’s pure, steady sound, enlivened only occasionally by a delicate finger vibrato. Some violinists older than Kreisler but younger than Joachim can be heard using a vibrato that is less prominent than Kreisler’s, but still fairly continuous, at least on longer notes. Joachim also regarded portamento, like vibrato, as a resource to be employed with discretion. His use of this ornament, too, was sparing by the standards of the day, and his recordings indicate that he was true to his own teaching in avoiding the so-called ‘French’ portamento, designated ‘L portamento’ by Carl Flesch [The Art of Violin Playing, trans. Frederick H. Martens, (New York, 1924), p. 30], which, like Spohr, Joachim regarded as detestable. Many younger violinists of the 1920s and 30s used portamento more frequently and in ways of which Joachim would have disapproved, before it fell out of favour in the middle of the twentieth century.
The editorial markings in Joachim’s editions show us much about his use of these embellishments as well as about his approach to fingering and bowing in general. To evaluate this evidence, however, it is important to understand Joachim’s attitude towards editing other people’s music. It is clear that this attitude changed radically during the course of his life. Unlike Ferdinand David, Joachim does not have appeared to have had a need or desire to indicate bowing and fingering in detail for his own use. It seems that the music he played from in performance contained few added bowing indications or fingerings [Beatrix Borchard, Stimme und Geige - Amalie und Joseph Joachim. Biographie und Interpretationsgeschichte (Wien, 2005), p. 55f].
Joachim’s reticence in providing performance markings may have been connected with his own spontaneity as a player, as well as a conviction that he did not wish to prescribe a single way of performing a particular piece; indeed, he probably regarded such a rigid approach as contrary to the intentions of the composer. But another aspect of his reluctance to commit his ideas to paper is elucidated in his own words, in a letter written to Alfred Dörffel at Breitkopf und Härtel in 1879, explaining why he was unwilling to make an edition of the Chaconne from Bach’s D minor Partita for Solo Violin at that time. He explained that he could not write down his realisation of the arpeggios, because he played them differently on different occasions, according to the quality of his strings, bow hair and other external factors, or simply to the mood of the moment: ‘Thus in my opinion it cannot be written down. If one were to do it in one or the other manner, Bach’s text would be too subjectively coloured.’ (Also aufschreiben lässt sich’s meines erachtens nicht. Täte man’s in einer oder der andere Manier, so würde der Bachsche Text zu subjective gefärbt dastehn. Georg Kinsky, ‘Ein Brief Joseph Joachims zur Bearbeitungsfrage bei Bach’, Bach-Jahrbuch, xviii, (1921), 98ff). In the following sentences he also gently criticised Ferdinand David’s editions as too prescriptive, remarking: ‘And there we are unfortunately at the sore point with regard to the majority of present-day editors (I may confess to you here), for instance even David’s in many respects highly meritorious work suffers to some extent, so that I always strive to play from other versions than his. (Und da sind wir leider an dem wunden Punkt der meisten Herausgeber unserer Zeit angelangt, der mir (ich darf es Ihnen an dieser Stelle gestehen) z. B. schon Davids in vieler Hinsicht höchst verdienstliche Arbeit bis zu einem Grade verleidet, dass ich immer trachte von anderen Exemplaren als der seinen zu spielen.). He went on to say that he felt people should not be dependent on such editions, and continued, rather idealistically, to say that if a violinist could not determine his own technical means of performing particular pieces of music ‘he should absolutely not play them in front of other people.’ ('der bleibe überhaup davon, sie vor anderen Menschen zu spielen.’) He admitted, however, that since it was the teacher’s duty to lead pupils to the point at which they could make independent decisions for themselves, David’s editions could nevertheless serve a useful purpose, observing because: ‘much of what David did can also be useful in stimulating people in this process, since he was an intelligent man and an excellent artist.’ ('gewiss manches von David Gebrachte auch noch seinen anregenden Nutzen haben kann, der ja ein feiner Kopf und tüchtiger Kunstler war.’) In these comments, Joachim showed that at that stage in his life, his artistic idealism blinded him to the commercial exigencies of music publishing in the second half of the nineteenth century, which was aimed as much at a cultivated amateur market as at professionals, and that he failed to recognise that David’s editions, published at a time when a broad-based understanding of appropriate performing styles for Classical chamber repertoire was relatively undeveloped, represented a conscientious attempt to make this repertoire more accessible to a wide range of performers whose acquirements were less exalted than those envisaged by Joachim.
Joachim’s earliest published edition of music was a volume of Corelli, which appeared in 1869 as part of a series entitled Denkmäler der Tonkunst: Corelli’s Werke. Herausgegeben von Joseph Joachim. Erster Theil. Sonaten für 2 Violinen, Violoncell und Bass. Op.I und II. (Bergedorf: H. Weissenborn, 1869) This, however, was a clean Urtext-style edition in score, with no added bowing or fingering instructions. Carl Flesch mentioned this publication in criticism of Joachim for providing insufficient guidance for the player, writing: ‘At times he left far too many fingerings and bowings to discretion, as in the case of the Corelli and Beethoven Sonatas, which are hardly distinguishable from the original text.’ (Carl Flesch, Memoires (London, 1957), p. 36) In fact, Joachim’s Corelli edition has no added bowings or fingerings at all, while his Beethoven edition has a considerable number!
A few years later, Joachim contributed three volumes to Simrock’s collection of Mendelssohn’s Werke (Kammermusik für Pianoforte mit Begleitung. I Trios für Pianoforte, Violine und Violoncell. No. 1. Op. 49. D moll. No. 2. Op. 66. C moll. revidiert und bezeichnet von / Joseph Joachim und Ernst Rudorff. (Berlin: N. Simrock 1874), plate numbers: 7473 (op. 49) and 7474 (op. 66); Kammermusik für Streichinstrumente revidirte mit Stricharten, Fingersatz und Vortragsbezeichnungen versehen von Joseph Joachim. Partitur. i. Quintette für 2 Violinen, 2 Bratschen u. Violoncell ... ii. Quartette für 2 Violinen, Bratsche und Violoncell, etc. (Berlin: N. Simrock, 1876); Concert für Violine mit Begleitung des Orchesters revidirt und bezeichnet von J. Joachim. Ausgabe für Violine mit Pianoforte (Berlin: N. Simrock ) plate number: 7960) These were intended to be practical editions; but Joachim’s reluctance to specify bowing and fingering is evident in his very sparing markings. In the violin part of the piano trios for instance, fingerings are rare: there are none in the first movement of op. 49, and in other movements they have mostly a technical rather than aesthetic purpose. Rare examples of fingerings that imply an expressive intention occur in the Finale of op. 49.
The quartets and quintets for strings were issued both in score and parts. The scores, despite the announcement on the title page, ‘revidirte mit Stricharten, Fingersatz und Vortragsbezeichnungen versehen von Joseph Joachim’, contains no such editorial additions, and the separate parts of the String Quintet in B flat op. 87 also contain no fingering or additional bowings at all in the upper string parts, though the cello part, presumably entrusted to someone else, has a few rather uninformative fingerings. Copies of the editions in parts appear to be very rare, suggesting perhaps that they were not widely used.
Joachim’s edition of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto op. 64 in the same series contains many fewer fingerings than his later edition of the Violin Concerto in the 1905 Violinschule (with Andreas Moser), although those that are present are largely retained in the later edition, which reused the original plates. For instance, in the Andante in the 1876 edition there are no fingerings until bar 23 where Joachim’s fingering is identical with that in David’s 1865 Breitkopf und Härtel edition, and he also reproduced the distinctive fingering from David’s edition in bar 29, with its repeated first and fourth fingers, although he retains Mendelssohn’s bowing where David indicated a change of bow on the b3. Joachim’s different conception of the initial theme of the Andante is not documented until his 1905 edition (see below).
Brahms’ Violin Concerto op. 77, published in 1879, presents a somewhat different case. In an Abschrift of the solo part, which had been copied from the solo part used by Joachim for the early performances and was later used as the Stichvorlage for the solo part in the first edition, there are a few fingerings and bowing indications, but in the published solo part there are many more. These additional markings were clearly added directly into the proofs during a meeting between Brahms and Joachim at Aigen, near Salzburg, on 14 August 1879, when they also played the concerto through for Clara Schumann and the Herzogenbergs. [See Johannes Brahms, Violin Concerto, ed. Clive Brown, (Kassel, Bärenreiter, 2006), preface p. ix]
The fingerings in the first edition of the Brahms Violin Concerto are primarily intended to facilitate the performance of awkward passages, although one or two, that are retained in the 1905 revision of the original plates) appear to have been included for expressive purposes, such as the harmonic ( played with the same finger as the preceding note and therefore also implying portamento) in bar 216of the first movementand the harmonic on the first note of the solo violin’s first entry in the Adagio, which emphasises the delicate purity of the melody (an approach alien to later violinists who play this theme with continuous vibrato). The edition in the 1905 Violinschule contains many additional expressive fingerings, not included in the original edition, that are evidently designed to elicit portamento, for instance in the passage frombar 204 of the first movement, where Joachim also added the instruction ‘amabile’, or to ensure that the tone colour of a single string is maintained, as at bars 60-61 of the Adagio, or a combination of both, as at bar 100 of the Adagio.
For some twenty years after the publication of Brahms’s Violin Concerto Joachim seems not to have edited any music at all. It was only in the second half of the 1890s that he again became active as an editor and, during the last ten years of his life accomplished the bulk of his editorial work. His late editions are different from the earlier ones not only in quantity, but also in kind; they contain many more performance instructions in the manner of Ferdinand David’s editions. This change in approach may well have resulted from the influence of Joachim’s former pupil at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik. In 1868 Joachim had been appointed founding director of a school of instrumental music within the Königliche Akademie der Künste in Berlin, which gained independent status as the Königliche Hochschule für Musik in 1872; Moser was appointed a teacher at the Hochschule in 1888 and became a professor there in 1900; over time, he increasingly became Joachim’s intimate friend as well as collaborator. Carl Flesch made a particularly damning assessment of Moser’s influence on Joachim, commenting:
in the Violinschule bearing his name and in the Bach Sonatas he succumbed all too easily to the influence of his collaborator Andreas Moser; many of the fingerings and bowings bear the stamp of a personality theoretically well-versed, but practically inexperienced and reactionary; for Moser was really one of the weakest violinists who emerged from the Joachim school, and he hardly got a chance to acquaint himself personally with the pitfalls of playing in public.
The suggestion that Joachim allowed himself to be unduly influenced by Moser in the choice of fingering and bowing must, however, be treated with caution. As discussed below, the markings in Joachim’s late editions, even the posthumously published Bach Solo Sonatas and Partitas, seem entirely consistent with the predominant characteristics of Joachim’s technical approach, even if they are largely incapable of conveying the spirit of his performances. Another reason for Joachim’s willingness, during his later years, to issue editions of the type pioneered by Ferdinand David may have been, as Borchard [Stimme und Geige, p. 506] has suggested, that as his career drew to a close, he became increasingly concerned to leave a tangible memorial of his work. The late editions served this purpose, albeit imperfectly, but it is also clear that he saw his 1903 acoustic recordings in a similar light, for he wrote:
It was my privilege for a number of years to carry out experiments with the phonograph at Werner von Siemens, in the presence of Mr Helmholz, Since then I have retained an interest in such records, and am very glad to hear of the progress made by your Gramophone. I was very pleased to accede to your request to have a few selections from my violin repertoire registered, and was highly satisfied that be assiduous attention they came out better on every occasion. I anticipate with pleasure a far reaching diffusion of the results. [The text of this letter to an unidentified recipient (evidently at the Gramophone and Typewriter company), written from Gmunden, Upper Austria on 27 August 1903, is given in English translation on the record sleeve of the LP transcription in the series Masters of the Bow (MB 1019), complied by James Creighton. I have not been able to trace the original source of this letter. I have corrected Creighton’s obvious mistranscription of ‘Helmholz’ as ‘Hehnholz’.]
Joachim's edition of the Beethoven String Quartets, the first volume of which appeared at the end of the 1890s, edited jointly by Joachim and Moser, was undoubtedly seen as a means of preserving something of Joachim’s approach to a corpus of masterworks with the interpretation of which he had become inextricably identified. The bulk of the work in preparing the text of the edition was undoubtedly undertaken by Moser, but there is no reason to doubt that the fingerings and bowings reflect Joachim’s practice and were supplied or approved by him. In many respects the Joachim and Moser edition remains close to David’s, but there are some significant differences that seem to document a newer phase in the German violin playing tradition.
Continuity is apparent in fingerings that frequently imply portamento and in the use of open strings and harmonics where later violinists, employing continuous vibrato, would mostly have avoided them. Such differences between the editions seem less likely to represent a general stylistic change than a matter of individual preference. Although it is clear that by this date many violinists were using vibrato more frequently than in the middle of the century, Joachim still adhered to and advocated the older aesthetic in this respect. Despite Joachim’s warning in the 1905 Violinschule about the over-use of portamento, his fingerings here seem to indicate a greater frequency of audible shifting that those in David’s edition; this arises partly from Joachim’s obvious preference for retaining the tone colour of a single string where David more frequently remains in the same position and crosses from one string to another. In this respect their approach parallels that of Viotti and Rode as described by Baillot, the former preferring to remain in position and cross strings, while the latter liked to stay on a single string, with concomitant portamento. A typical example of this difference in the Beethoven quartets occurs near the opening of op. 18 no. 1. David’s fingering implies an open A string in bar 7 with a change to the D string in bar 8, while Joachim’s fingering answers the A string tone in bars 5-6 with D string tone in bars 7-8 .
Although this passage features a harmonic that does not occur in David’s edition, explicitly indicated open strings and harmonics are rather less frequent in Joachim’s edition than in David’s. This seems less likely to be related to a greater use of vibrato by Joachim, however, than to his tonal sensitivity. Nevertheless, Joachim retained many distinctive instances of this kind from David, for instance the prominent harmonic in the opening melody of the Menuetto from op. 18 no. 5. Interestingly, this harmonic is retained in the Capet Quartet’s 1928 recording, despite the fact that they used vibrato on all the other longer notes in the melody.
With respect to bowing, however, Joachim’s edition indicates a distinct shift in practice. Although David’s Violinschule of 1864 includes instructions for various springing bowings, it is evident that Joachim employed these types of bow stroke much more frequently, as the Joachim and Moser Violinschule makes clear. [For further detail see Clive Brown, ‘Joseph Joachim and the performance of Brahms’s string music’, in Performing Brahms ed. Michael Musgrave and Bernard Sherman, (Cambridge, 2003), pp. 48-98.] In many passages that David would have played in the upper half of the bow with a détaché or martelé stroke, Joachim employed a springing bowstroke in the middle or a percussive one in the lower half of the bow. This difference is nicely demonstrated by David’s and Joachim’s different bowing of a passage just before rehearsal letter K in the first movement of the String Quartet op. 18 no. 3. Joachim’s bowing 4 bars before K suggests that he is further towards the heel of the bow than David and the difference in the bowing 9 after K shows this even more clearly, for the sf whole-note 12 after K thus comes on a down-bow in David, taking him towards the point of the bow for the ascending scale in the next bar, while Joachim has an up-bow after which another short up-bow is tucked in, resulting in the scale being played near the heel of the bow.
In reality of course, such an edition could only preserve certain technical aspects of the performance, and to players not schooled in the traditions within which the bowing and fingering was conceived many of the editors intentions are difficult if not impossible to understand. Joachim remarked in connection with his editions in the third volume of the 1905 Violinschule that, although he supplied editorial markings:
I am well aware that I am not thereby offering the one sanctified means of performing these works; indeed the individual passages can be effectively played with entirely different fingering and bowing, and every master will choose the means of performing that suits him best. But even the most conscientious observance of my markings would not offer the means to make the piece as a whole sound as I imagine it. The individuality of interpretation cannot be captured in technical markings. (so bin ich mir wohl bewusst, damit nicht etwa die allein seligmachenden Mittel zur Wiedergabe zu bieten; können ja die einzelnen Passgen mit den vershiednesten Fingersätzen und Bogenstrichen wirksam wiedegegeben warden, und jeder Meister wird die ihm am bequemsten liegenden Mittel der Ausführung wählen. Aber selbst die gewissenhafteste Befolgung meiner Vorschriften würde keine Gewähr bieten, dass sas Ganze nach meinem Sinn klingt. Das Individuelle ser Auffassung lässt sich nicht in technische Vorschriften bannen. (op. cit. vol. 1, p. 4)
Nevertheless, Joachim’s markings, read in conjunction with the Violinschule and his own recordings can reveal much about the manner in which he would have performed this music; and comparison with David’s and other editions of the same music reveal important information about changing approaches to violin playing.
Joachim’s edition of the Beethoven Violin Sonatas that was published in 1901 is the only one of his late editions in which Moser is not identified as a collaborator. Textually, the edition is very similar to David’s although Joachim revised a few passages in which David’s text diverged from that of the Gesamtausgabe (1862-5). The stylistic character of Joachim’s additions in the sonatas is broadly similar to his editing of the first violin part of the quartets. Here too Joachim’s approach has many parallels with David’s and some important differences. An instance of the former occurs 12 bars before the end of the exposition in the first movement of op. 12 no. 2, with the same expressive slide to a harmonic in both David and Joachim
Characteristic fingerings that differ sharply from later twentieth-century practice are often retained, but in many places where David seems to have preferred the use of first, third and fifth position with sometimes awkward shifts and string changes, Joachim employed second or fourth positions, as illustrated by David’s and Joachim’s](http://mhm.hud.ac.uk/chase/view/pdf/260/1/) different fingerings 5 bars after C in the first movement of op. 95.
This type of fingering accords with Joachim’s insistence in his Violinschule that the odd and even numbered positions should both be taught to the pupil at an early stage. In other places, Joachim again shows his preference for retaining the colour of a single string, with its concomitant invitation to use portamento. In a passage beginning at Letter A in the Andante, più tosto Allegretto from op. 12 no. 2, Joachim’s fingering retained David’s portamento effects in the 2nd and 4th bars, but avoided the string crossing in the 1st and 3rd bars.
In the case of the edited works that appeared in Volume III of the Violinschule, we have Joachim’s own statement about his approach to editing them, which undoubtedly owed much to his association with Philipp Spitta and other musicologically-minded editors:
I have made use of the autographs whenever such were available; where these could not be obtained, I have referred to the oldest printed editions.
All performance directions added by me are given in brackets.
When two different bowings occur at the same place, the one above the stave is the composer’s, while the one marked below the line originates from me.
The sign ||, which occasionally occurs, means a minute break caused by raising the bow; even the shortest notated rest would generally result in ‘too much’ in such cases.
The metronome marks correspond with my own feelings in the matter, and are therefore not obligatory. [My translation; Moffat incorrectly translated the last clause ‘also nicht von bindende Geltung’ as ‘they are therefore not arbitrary’.] From experience, even the most conscientious of us are influenced to make small deviations in tempo by the mood of the moment.
In practice, however, Joachim’s apparently scrupulous editing is not what it seems. In many places where a single bowing is given above the stave, it is the editor’s, not the composer’s. In the Bach concertos, for instance, there are many slurred staccato bowings that have no connection with the original in the edition in the Violinschule. In the edition of the D minor Double Concerto published separately by Simrock in 1905 (pl. nos 12731 and 12061), however, a footnote states ‘die “staccati” sind von der Herausgebern hinzugefügt’ (the staccati have been added by the editor).
These bowings indicate much about the bowing style Joachim applied in performance. The use of slurred staccato bowing in Bach is a clear indication that most of the separately bowed notes were played in the upper half of the bow, a tradition of Baroque performance that lasted into the second half of the twentieth century. A similar style of bowing seems to be indicated by Joachim’s editions of Mozart concertos. In the case of the A major Violin Concerto K. 219, we can also call upon the evidence of Marie Soldat’s recording of the first movement (with Joachim’s cadenza), which is evidently derived from Joachim’s teaching and closely (though not slavishly) parallels the edition in theViolinschule. This indicates a broad détaché style of bowing for the semiquavers. Soldat’s recording, however, also demonstrates the limitations of editions for conveying performance style: her rubato in particular, quite in the style exhibited by Joachim’s recordings, has no connection with anything marked in the edition.
Joachim’s edition of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto op. 61 is of special interest because of his long association with the work. There are grounds for believing, however, that the edition in the 1905 Violinschule may have been, to an extent, deliberately purged of some of the distinctive aspects of Joachim’s performing practice, for the sake of a more ‘objective’. Comparison with Heinrich Dessauer’s edition published eight years earlier, is revealing; according to the title page, the edition is ‘Mit Bezeichnung und Winken unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Auffassung v. Josef Joachim für den Vortrag versehen’ (‘provided with numerous explanatory remarks for concert performance with special reference to the artistic conception of Joseph Joachim’). [For further discussion, see my [case study on editions of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto]( on this website.]
The two concertos in the Violinschule with the origins of which Joachim had the closest direct relationship, of course, are Mendelssohn’s and Brahms’s. He played Mendelssohn’s concerto with the composer as soon as it was written and was involved with Brahms’s Violin Concerto almost from its inception. The similarities and differences between Joachim’s and David’s editions of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto are instructive; although they can tell us little about the spirit and character of the two violinists’ interpretations, they reveal much about their technical approaches and provide valuable insights into the ways in which their attitudes to vibrato, portamento and bowing differed from later practices. Where differences between David and Joachim occur, they are essentially inflections within a fundamentally similar aesthetic. [See also my [case study of editions of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto]( on this website, and my chapter ‘The performance of Mendelssohn’s chamber and solo music for violin’ in Mendelssohn Performance Studies ed. Siegwart Reichwald (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2008), pp. 59-84]
Joachim’s final editorial undertaking was Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for Violin Solo, of which he had long been recognised as the pre-eminent interpreter, but he died before it could be completed. When it appeared in print, the year after his death, Moser asserted in the preface that Joachim was involved in the work right to the end, remarking: ‘The departed master not only devoted every free hour of his last year of life to its preparation – also on his sick bed I had to make repeated reports to him on its course and progress.’ ('Ihrer Fertigstellung hat der heimgegangene Meister nicht nur alle freien Stunden seines letzten Lebensjahres gewidmet - auch an seinem Krankenbette musste ich ihm über deren Verlauf und Fortschritte wiederholt Bericht erstatten.’) There is no good reason to doubt that the bowing and fingering in the published edition stemmed either directly from Joachim, or indirectly as a result of Moser noting down bowing and fingering employed by Joachim, and that they faithfully represented these aspects of his technical approach at the time, as far as these could be expressed in print. In two movements we can compare Joachim’s edition with his own recorded performance. This provides valuable insights into the relationship between his notation and practice. The comparison confirms not only the closeness of the editorial markings in the text to the manner in which Joachim performed certain passages in these two movements, but also the inspirational nature of his playing, which meant that he did not always do what his markings indicated. The portamento fingering in bar 18 (line 4, b. 1, n. 19-20) of the Adagio from the G minor Sonata can be clearly heard, but where a harmonic a2 is indicated on the 3rd note of bar 6 (line 3, b. 1, n. 3) he evidently played a stopped note. In the Bourée from the B minor Partita his slurred bowings across the beat in bars 48 to 51 (p. 18, l. 3, b. 3ff) can be distinctly heard (in Bach’s original all these notes have neither slurs nor staccato marks); but in other places Joachim appears to play slurs where none are indicated in the edition. Some of these differences may, of course, reveal a deliberate change of mind between 1903 and 1907, although it seems more likely that they are a symptom of his well documented tendency to play things quite differently on different occasions. (For further discussion of editions see Duncan Druce's 'Bach - Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin BWV 1001-6'.)
Moser’s preface to the Bach Sonatas and Partitas, in explaining why it had taken Joachim so long to decide to make an edition of these works, also throws light on Joachim’s attitude towards editing in general. Moser remarked:
On the one hand the lack of time for such a protracted task, on the other an aversion to philological researches, perfectly understandable in an artist like Joachim, led him to put off execution of the long agreed plan from year to year.(Einerseits der Mangel an Zeit für so langwierige Arbeit, andererseits die gerade bei einem Kunstler wie Joachim begreifliche Scheu vor philologischen Untersuchungen liessen ihn die Ausführung des lange bescholossenen Planes von Jahr zu Jahr verschieben.)
Moser does not acknowledge Joachim’s ingrained reluctance to commit his ideas about performance to paper, which were elucidated in the 1879 letter to Alfred Dörffel (quoted above), and the scanty markings supplied for the Simrock editions of Mendelssohn around that time. It seems likely, however, that Moser played a large part in persuading him to revise his views on this, so that, by the time Joachim undertook his later editions, his views about the value of annotated editions had changed. Their scope and, to a large extent, content are remarkably similar to that of David’s, which he had criticised twenty years earlier.
As Joachim became increasingly aware that the style of performance he had championed throughout his life was being challenged by approaches to his cherished repertoire with which he was profoundly unsympathetic, he seems to have felt an increasing compulsion, through these editions and the Violinschule, to preserve something of his artistic legacy, and perhaps the broad tradition of the German School as a whole, for the future.