Text Box: COMPOSER autographs


Phone: 212-860-5541


Price: $600.00



Autographed letter on a correspondence postcard whilst composer was Director of the Rotterdam Conservatory and Conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Society.  He writes to Carl Georg Alsbach, Director of the publishing house, G. Alsbach & Co., the most important music publisher in Holland and the agent of Schott in the Country, Baden-Baden, July 28, 1888.


Dear Mr. Alsbach! Could my wife, if she became a member for the current year, still get a subscription slip for Bayreuth, or are all censored or, respectively, are all being used? And now one more question; could I possibly, instead for Parsifal (uneven number), get a voucher for Meistersinger (even number), or respectively, have the one that was sent to me exchanged? Looking forward to a kind response, I greet you very much as your devoted


Fr. Gernsheim



b[ei] Baden-Baden

28/7 88


Julius Friedrich Gernsheim (1839-1916) was a composer who rightfully deserves to be as well known as any of his major German contemporaries.  He is not well known as the Nazi’s purposefully buried his memory.  He was an extraordinarily prolific composer, his musical works are outstanding in their period and were well performed in his lifetime. 


Gernsheim was born into a Jewish assimilated medical family in Worms.  They were not a particularly musical family, though his mother who was a salon pianist and gave him his first music lessons.  Precocious and showing a budding talent, at the age of seven, he was brought to Louis Liebe who was the Generalmusikdirektor of Worms and a former pupil of Louis Spohr.  Liebe taught the young boy piano, violin and theory and became a friend and mentor for life.  The young boy was sent to Mainz during the German Revolution to study with the Austrian pianist Ernst Pauer in Mainz.  After the War in 1849, when Gernsheim was nine, his Father moved the family to Frankfurt where he studied with Eduard Rosenhain at the Hoschschule.  In 1850 at the age of eleven, Gernsheim made his public debut as a pianist and violinist with orchestra and composer; one of his early overtures was performed.  He then toured Europe for two years as a wunderkind, where he was known as “Der kleine Mozart”. At seventeen, in 1852, The Gernsheim family moved to Leipzig, so the young pianist could study at the Conservatory with the Director, Ignaz Moscheles.  He also studied violin with Ferdinand Dsavid, theory with Thomaskantor Moritz Haptmann, composition and conducting with Julius Rietz and harmony with Ernst Richter. In 1855, he left for Paris, where he enrolled at the Paris Conservatoire to study with Antoine Marmontel.  Whilst in Paris, he performed as a recitalist and concert artist to the delight of the critics and the public.  He was also taken to the 65 year old Rossini who told him, Observe my friend, the essence of the music lies in the melody.  He also befriended and or met in Paris, Saint-Saëns, Lalo, Liszt and Anton Rubinstein.  He returned to Germany five years later. He was appointed Generalmusikdirektor of Saarbrücken in 1861 following Hermann Levi in the position.  In 1865 he was hired by Ferdinard Hiller as a Professor of Piano and Composition at the Cologne Conservatory.  Composer Engelbert Humperdinck, pianist Carl Lachmund, later Liszt’s pupil and Adelina Patti’s pianist nephew Alfredo Barili, were among his pupils there.  In December, 1870 it appears Brahms and Gernsheim began their friendship with Brahms meeting him at the train station in Vienna and helping to arrange for his accommodations there after Gernsheim wrote for his advice on hotels.  Brahms at that time was referring to his as “Herr Gernsheim”.   While it is interesting to note that the composers were quite friendly and discussed music frequently at this time, Gernsheim’s 1st Symphony premiered in Rotterdam in February 1876, whilst Brahms 1st Symphony premiered in Karlsruhe in November, 1876.  The two composers symphonic moods were similar, however, Gernsheim’s works are truly rooted in the Beethoven tradition with elements of Mendelssohn and Spohr in the structure and synthesis of the works. While the comparisons of similarities of the two composers of the same period have some validity, Gernsheims’ works were not of borrowed themes and stand unto themselves.  The comparisons in our estimation have anti-Semitic overtones from the Nazi era and have not been corrected to this day.  Gernsheim also added motivations in several instances from Old Testament themes in his symphonic works, though not outrightly religious, they were inspired.


Which bring us to the period of Gernsheim’s life when the letter was written.  The composer was appointed Music Director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic, Director of the local Opera House and Conservatory from 1874 to 1890.  He instantly became one of the most powerful musicians in The Netherlands.  In 1884, one of Gernsheim’s pupils in Cologne, the Dutch conductor Henri Viotta and several associates founded the Wagner Vereeniging, or Wagner Society in Amsterdam which became the official Wagner organization in Holland.  Carl George Alsbach (1830-1906) was the most important Dutch music publisher in Holland with his company based in Rotterdam.  He was also the official representative/distributor for Schott music publishers in Mainz, who were Richard Wagner’s publisher, so he held away over all things Wagner, including the workings of the Wagner Vereeniging, though he was not an officer of the organization.  The tickets for the Bayreuth Festspiele were handled generally by lottery by each Wagner Society in their own countries unless one had sway.  By joining the Society, one generally had a better chance of getting tickets.  It is also interesting to note that Gernsheim wished to trade his “Parsifal” tickets for “Meistersinger” tickets.


Gernsheim left Rotterdam in 1890 to return to German with an appointment as Professor of Piano and Composition at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin.  He remained as Professor there until 1897 when he was elected “Senator” of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts.  He however, retained the title of Chorusmaster of the Stern Choral Society until 1904.  Also after 1900, he began to tour as a piano recitalist and concert artist. He also frequently conducted the Meinigen Court Orchestra (Hofkapelle) when Wilhelm Burger and Max Reger were Musikdirektors. In his last year, 1915-1916, he was the Director of the Akademische Meisterschulke für Komposition in Berlin.


Gernsheim, had it not been for the Nazi’s would have been one of the most recognized names in the realm of the German romantic composers of the 2nd half of the 20th Century.  His works are outstanding, symphonic, concertos (piano, violin and cello), chamber music including multiple trios, quartets and quintets, solo violin, piano and cello music music, as well as choral music, both secular and non-secular and lieder.  There is a complete set of his symphonies on CD on the Arte Nova label and his chamber works are available on a variety of labels, as well as on YouTube.  It is a tragedy his works and not widely performed today.


A scarce Romantic period composer autograph!