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Anja Bunzel (Musicology Department, Institute of Art History, Czech Academy of Sciences)

‘It was very original and funny there, and they had excellent food and drink’: Joseph Joachim’s Network in Prague





On 31 January 1873, Joseph Joachim arrived in Prague with the prospect of performing publicly for the first time there. In a letter to his wife dated 2 February, he writes: ‘After the concert, I ate at the – Capuchin monastery with Pater Barnabas. It was very original and funny there, and they had excellent food and drink […]. Among others, a cousin of Julie von Asten’s attended, a chemist. We sent a telegraph to Ambros in Vienna’.1  A hand-written note on Pater Barnabas Weiss’s score of Beethoven’s op. 20 reveals that Joachim returned three days later; in the note, dated 5 February 1873, Joachim thanks the monk for ‘anregende Stunden’ (‘inspiring hours’).2  Little is known about Joachim’s private circles in Prague and his possible earlier visits to the Bohemian capital. The Prague paper Ost und West was aware of Joachim as early as 1839, when a short note from Peßt states that ‘a musical child prodigy, an eight-year old violinist, Joseph Joachim, a student of Serwaczyński’s, causes much furore. (We hear of so many miracles that soon we will no longer wonder)’.3  Prague’s amazement with Joachim seemingly continued as can be seen in Jan Branberger’s early accounts of the Prague Conservatory. Here, Branberger deduces that the conservatory’s Director, Johann Friedrich Kittl, had planned to invite Joachim to Prague as early as 1858 and again in 1862 and 1864. It is known that Joachim did not get involved with the conservatory until later, but Andreas Moser suggests that Joachim stayed in Prague as early as 1846, en route from Leipzig to Budapest.5 This paper is devoted to Joseph Joachim’s network in and around Prague. Taking into consideration autobiographical and private sources surrounding Joachim’s circle, I hope to explore Joachim’s earlier encounters with Prague’s semi-private musical scene, thus illuminating lesser-known facets of Joachim’s musical activities in Prague.


‘Nach dem Concert speiste ich im Kapuziner-Kloster beim Pater Barnabas. Da war’s sehr originell, lustig und gab treffliche Küche und Keller [...]. Unter anderem war ein Vetter von Julie v. Asten da, ein Chemiker. Wir telegraphierten einen Gruß an Ambros nach Wien’. Andreas Moser, ed., Briefe von und an Joseph Joachim, 3 vols (Berlin: Bard, 1911), iii, 101.

2 The score is archived at the National Library of the Czech Republic (Národní knihovna ČR, Klementinum), signature 59 A 342. I am grateful to my colleague Jana Vozková for sharing this source with me.

3 ‚Hier macht ein musikalischer Wunderknabe, ein achtjähriger Violinspieler, Joseph Joachim, Schüler Serwaczynskis, großes Aufsehen. (Wir bekommen so viele Wunder zu hören, daß wir uns bald nicht mehr wundern werden)‘. Ost und West: Blätter für Kunst, Literatur und geselliges Leben 3/26 (30 March 1839), 108.

4 Jan Branberger, Konservatoř hudby v Praze: Pamětní spis k stoletému jubileu založení ústavu (Prague: Nakladem konservatoře, 1911), 67, 74 and 76.

5 Andreas Moser, Joseph Joachim: Ein Lebensbild (Berlin: Behr/Bock, 1898), 63.



Anja Bunzel holds a research position at the Musicology Department of the Institute of Art History, Czech Academy of Sciences, where she pursues a project on music in the private domain in Prague during the first half of the nineteenth century within the European context. She is also visiting lecturer at Kunstuniversität Graz, Austria, where she lectures on different aspects of women in nineteenth-century musical culture. Anja graduated from Freie Universität, Berlin, in 2012 with a Master’s Degree in musicology with a thesis titled ‘The Paradise and the Peri by Robert Schumann: An Examination of the Reception History of the Peri in Dublin and Leipzig between 1843 and 1854’. From 2012 to 2017, she pursued PhD studies at Maynooth University, where she researched the Lieder of Johanna Kinkel (1810-1858) within their own socio-cultural context. She undertook post-doctoral studies at Maynooth University from 2017-2018. Both her PhD and post-doctoral studies were mentored by Professor Lorraine Byrne Bodley and were funded by the Irish Research Council. Her publications include peer-reviewed articles in Canadian, US-American and European volumes and journals, and, with Natasha Loges, she is co-editor of Musical Salon Culture in the Long Nineteenth Century (Boydell Press, 2019). Her monograph, The Music of Johanna Kinkel: Genesis, Reception, Context is forthcoming in 2020 (also with Boydell Press). As a Council member of the Society for Musicology in Ireland, she represents the interests of early-career researchers in Ireland and abroad (2018-). Anja is passionate about traveling and has given papers and invited lectures in Austria, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Russia, Serbia, Turkey, and the UK. Besides the academic realm, Anja has freelanced for the German-French public broadcasting company ARTE and the Contemporary Music Centre Dublin, has volunteered with the National Chamber Choir of Ireland, Kilkenny Arts Festival, and Open House Festival Belfast, and has worked in Irish tourism. 

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