Murl Ali Pascha and the Karlsruhe Musikfest of 1853
The year 1853 was a watershed year in German music. It was also a watershed year in Joseph Joachim’s life — a time when his loyalty to Franz Liszt and the Weimar circle began to be tested by newfound alliances with Johannes Brahms, Robert and Clara Schumann, and Bettina and Gisela von Arnim. The events in Düsseldorf in October 1853, a late echo of the Lower-Rhine Music Festival that took place there the previous May, are among the most famous in music history. Immediately preceding that Autumn reunion, however, on 3-5 October, another equally important music festival took place in Karlsruhe — the first major outing of Liszt’s disciples outside of Weimar. For these “musicians of the Future” — the anti-Philistine “Society of Murls,”as they whimsically called themselves — the Karlsruhe Musikfest was conceived as a practical demonstration of the principles of the new music, both compositional and performative, as they were developing under Liszt’s guidance. As one of the Murls’ leading lights, Joachim, whose nom de guerre was “Murl Ali Pascha,” was featured prominently both as composer and soloist; he also functioned as Liszt’s assistant and sometime concertmaster. Joachim performed his Violin Concerto, op. 3 (not the “Hungarian” as Alan Walker states), and Bach’s Chaconne without the then-customary Mendelssohn piano accompaniment. Joachim’s performances were enthusiastically received. As Katharina Uhde has noted, the one-movement Violin Concerto op. 3 was heard at the time as an example of “modern” tendencies; innovative in form, it also demonstrates Joachim’s musical preoccupation during those years with enlisting extreme virtuosity in the service of greater musical expressivity. In that, as in much of his later performance practice, Joachim reveals the decisive influence of Liszt. At the Karlsruhe Musikfest of 1853, we encounter Joachim, perhaps for the last time, as a fully committed adherent to Liszt’s Weimar circle and the principles they espoused.
Robert Whitehouse Eshbach
Violinist, conductor, and historian Robert Whitehouse Eshbach is an honors graduate of Yale University (BA), where he majored in music history and minored in German literature. He studied violin at the Vienna Conservatory (now the Konservatorium Wien Privatuniversität) with Walter Barylli, concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic and State Opera Orchestras, and earned a Master of Music degree in violin at New England Conservatory, studying with Eric Rosenblith. He studied music history with, among others, Alejandro Planchart, Robert Bailey, Frank D’Accone, William Waite, Claude Palisca and Daniel Pinkham, and German literature with Cyrus Hamlin, Jeffrey Sammons, and Peter Demetz. His recent publications and invited papers have focused on nineteenth-century musicians: Joachim, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Reinecke, Ede Reményi, and Wilhelmine Norman-Neruda (Lady Hallé). His article, “Joachim’s Youth — Joachim’s Jewishness,” was published in the Winter 2011 issue of The Musical Quarterly. His chapter “The Joachim Quartet Concerts at the Sing-Akademie zu Berlin: Mendelssohnian Geselligkeit in Wilhelmine Germany” appeared in the volume Brahms in the Home and the Concert Hall: Between Private and Public Performance, Katy Hamilton and Natasha Loges (eds.), Cambridge University Press, 2014. He has presented papers in London, Oxford, Cardiff, Southampton, Meiningen, Leipzig, Weimar, New York, Boston, New Haven, Nashville and elsewhere. In June 2016, he and Valerie Goertzen of Loyola University New Orleans co-hosted the International Conference Joseph Joachim at 185 at the Goethe Institut Boston.
Eshbach is an associate professor of music at the University of New Hampshire.