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A Remarkable Christmas Present


On December 18th, 1867, violinist Joseph Joachim was in Vienna and eager to get home to Hanover. He wrote to his wife Amalie about Christmas plans and a remarkable present for the thirteen-year-old son of Robert and Clara Schumann:

I’m getting an early start on the twenty-third, and God willing, I shall have lunch with you all on the twenty-fourth. But maybe it would be better to postpone the presents until the twenty-fifth and then we can decorate the tree together on the twenty-fourth. How I am looking forward to it! Do what you prefer about this. It’s really unfortunate that the twenty-second was the only possible day left!

They’re doing their best here to reorganize the management of the Conservatory and to make arrangements so that they can offer me a decent salary as Director. The appointment would give me enough authority to have considerable influence. I do not think it will amount to anything and I’ve said so to people who have asked me, but at the same time I said that I would consider it my duty to accept a permanent position that would give me a good handle on musical matters….

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Something could be done with the talents and the public here. But then again I have become so very North German that I can’t stand these polite, fawning people, hardly any of whom has the courage to follow through on his convictions. The North Germans are simpler and more likely to follow through, although they are less impressionable and don’t have the same joie de vivre. They are faster to get to the root of things. Well, we’ll soon be able to talk about this and many other things….

I don’t know what to send to Frau Schumann, but take the Guarneri from my violins, have it carefully packed and insured with expert assistance and send it by way of the Grimms to Felix Schumann. It was always my intention to give it to my ideal godchild.