Joseph Joachim’s role in nineteenth-century English concert life is long celebrated. As yet unexamined, however, is how his performances and reception informed critical debates on sentimentalism. Joachim was a prominent celebrity in the domestic salons of mid-century, for example the Holland Park Circle, where his performances were described as perfect echoes of beautiful interior designs and his status confirmed by G. F. Watts’s famous portrait. This article builds on the relationship between “sublime sentimentality” and “domestic aestheticism” in the writings of John Ruskin, a prominent member of these salons. It explores how Ruskin’s idea of moving from domestic “sites,” through “patterns” to “states” in which the heartfelt is expressed in coded, synecdochal or allusive evocation, even in abstract design, can offer insight into the sentimental dimensions of Joachim’s salon performances. Crucially, Ruskin considered both domesticity and sentimentalism as designs and expressions of feeling which are capable of expansion into large forms and contexts, of moving from the intimate to the public. The second part of this article explores sentimentalism in works composed for the concert hall, provoking critical debate at the turn of the century. Tovey’s Victorian tastes were strongly influenced by both Joachim and Ruskin, but Tovey’s assessments of Joachim as the violinist reached the end of his career exemplify the wide critical turn against mid-century sentimentalism. In 1902 Tovey praised Joachim for making no concession to public sentimentalism, in particular through demonstrating a “Classical” grasp of form, by contrast with those who seek sentimental effect through slowing down the performance of “beautiful” passages. In a late echo of Ruskin, Tovey desired that one must be susceptible to the beauty of “design.” The article ends by comparing Sargent’s late portrait of Joachim, presented at the Jubilee celebrations of 1904, with that of Watts.
In De l'Amour (1822) Stendhal elaborated his idea of the "crystallization" process in which the distant beloved assumes qualities of ideal beauty in the imagination of the male lover. He also states that "the habit of listening to music and the state of reverie connected with it prepare one for falling in love" and, furthermore, that "perfect music has the same effect on the heart as the presence of the beloved. It gives, in fact, apparently more intense pleasure than anything else on earth." These erotic pleasures he identified most consistently and enthusiastically with the music of Rossini. This article takes Stendhal's related notions of love and the sensual immediacy of musical pleasures as models to develop an analytical and hermeneutic approach to musical examples of amour passion . This allows a new reassessment of Rossini's supposed predicament on the "Other" side of Dahlhaus's "unbridgeable rift" from the music of Beethoven and provides a critique of the relationship between the "heroic" male subject with his inspirational beloved. Examples are drawn from Rossini's Tancredi (1813) and William Tell (1829), and Beethoven's An die ferne Geliebte (1810), Fidelio , and "Les Adieux," Piano Sonata, op. 81a (1807).