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The Remarkable Joachim Family : A Consideration of Joseph Joachim’s Influence on Music in Britain from the mid-1840s to the 1960s




During the 1960s in the town of Wigton in north-west England, a lady called Bernice Joachim gave piano lessons to many local children. She was the wife of Joe Joachim, who was an English teacher at a local school. The Joachims had lived in Wigton since the early 1950s, and Bernice had established a reputation as an inspirational music and piano teacher. I regularly walked to the bungalow on the Brookfield School estate for my weekly piano lesson with Mrs Djoachim. The living room contained a splendid grand piano, and on the mantelpiece was an old photograph of two gentlemen. Visitors to the bungalow would be informed that they were violinist Joseph Joachim and composer Johannes Brahms, and that Bernice’s husband Joe was the grandson of Joachim. It was only in later life that I realised that there was an exceptional historical musical significance in such early association with the remarkable Joachim family. Thus, this paper is written from the perspective bestowed by my connection with the family, and with the benefit of having had access to family archives that have only recently been made available for academic examination. Although Joachim’s numerous visits to Britain during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have been well-researched and documented, there has been less consideration of the wider consequences of these visits and their circumstances. The paper chronicles a remarkable sequence of events that began with the 12-year-old prodigy Joachim’s first recitals in London in 1844, and which led directly to his grand-daughter-in-law passing on musical enthusiasm to children in a small town in northern England some 120 years later. The paper presents portraits of other musician members of the extended British Joachim family, whose achievements may be partly attributed to Joachim’s almost lifelong commitment to the musical culture of the United Kingdom.





Dr Ian Maxwell is an Affiliated Researcher in the Faculty of Music at the University of Cambridge. He holds a BMus degree from the University of Aberdeen, and a PhD from the University of Durham. His research interests focus primarily on the composers and music of the so-called English Musical Renaissance. In addition to writing a biography of E. J. Moeran, Dr Maxwell is contributing chapters to books on Music in Twentieth-Century Oxford and on the life and career of violinist Joseph Joachim. Dr Maxwell also has a book in preparation on music making in the British universities during the nineteenth century. From 2011 to 2014, Dr Maxwell was editor of the British Music Society.

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