On 31 May 1852, at the Philharmonic society of London, Joseph Joachim gave the first performance of his Fantasia on Scottish Airs. That concert also included Mendelssohn’s violin concerto, but the reviewer wasn’t impressed, “Herr Joachim’s playing of Mendelssohn’s concerto, no less that of his own composition, much disappointed us… He is still young enough to improve, and we trust his visit to England will be the means of inducing him to observe the manner of such violinist, whose talent and finish are equal to their execution.” The London Evening Standard was more complimentary, “… His fantasia in the second act, founded on well-known Scottish airs, was of a more popular complexion; but equally favourable for the display of those fine qualities of style, mechanism, and expression, which every violinist acknowledges him to possess.” Joachim performed the Fantasia again on 2 June at “Mrs. Anderson’s Concert Annual Grand Morning Concert,” at the Royal Italian Opera, Covent Garden. The Examiner wrote, “In his Fantasia he introduced two Scottish airs, and played them with true feeling…He exhibited a command of the resources and delicacies, as well as the more popular trickeries, practices on that most marvelous of instruments.” One further performance of the Scottish Fantasia followed, and then the work disappeared.
When Joseph Joachim died in 1907, the Berlin Hochschule für Musik established the “Joseph Joachim Nachlaß,” containing his musical manuscripts, letters and memorabilia. Among them was the Scottish Fantasia, now catalogued as “Fantasie über Irische Motive,” for violin and orchestra. However, things got complicated during the tumultuous days of World War II. Unlike paintings now in Russia that were taken by the Soviet Army, a whole host of musical manuscripts were not looted. Rather, German authorities attempted to find save haven for some of their most magnificent treasures, packed manuscripts and books into crates and shipped them to Poland. Following the war, the Polish Communists declared these collections to be state property, and ordered librarians and libraries to keep quiet. The existence of some of these manuscripts was finally confirmed in 1977 when the Polish Government presented the autograph scores of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Mozart’s Magic Flute to Erich Honecker of East Germany. The Joachim Scottish (Irish) Fantasia had to wait a bit longer. The violinist and musicologist Katharina Uhde rediscovered the score only in 2017. Quite possibly, it is the first time this particular work has been heard since Joachim first performed it in 1852.
Joseph Joachim: Scottish (Irish) Fantasy
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