Joachim Kaiser

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Joachim Kaiser, 2007

Joachim Kaiser (born December 18, 1928 in Milken , Lötzen district , East Prussia ; † May 11, 2017 in Munich ) was one of the most influential German-speaking music, literary and theater critics of his time. From 1959 he worked as a senior editor in the features section of the Süddeutsche Zeitung ; from 1977 to 1996 he was professor for music history at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Stuttgart .


Joachim Kaiser was born in 1928 as the son of a country doctor . He began playing the piano at the age of eight. He later counted making music with his family among the happiest moments of his life. Literature and music began to interest him early on. After fleeing from East Prussia at the end of the war , he attended the Wilhelm Gymnasium in Hamburg . He then studied musicology , German , philosophy and sociology in Göttingen , Frankfurt am Main and Tübingen . His fellow students included the musicologists Carl Dahlhaus and Rudolf Stephan .

In June 1951 he began his journalistic career as a theater, literary and music critic. A review of a publication by Theodor W. Adorno : Music and Catastrophe paved the way for him . About the "Philosophy of New Music" . Adorno recommended Kaiser Alfred Andersch from the Hessischer Rundfunk , which in turn drew the attention of the Frankfurter Hefte . Mathias Döpfner described him as "one of the best known and most successful Adorno students at all". At the invitation of Hans Werner Richter , Kaiser was allowed to take part in Group 47 events from 1953 . In 1958 he was in German on the subject at the University of Tuebingen Franz Grillparzer dramatic style doctorate . On the initiative of the then SZ journalist Erich Kuby , Kaiser was able to work in the culture department of the Süddeutsche Zeitung from 1959 . He was a member of the writers' association PEN Center Germany .

Along with Marcel Reich-Ranicki, Kaiser was one of the most influential critics in Germany. His book Great Pianists in Our Time is sometimes referred to as “ Michelin Piano ”. In addition to pioneering pianists such as Artur Rubinstein , Vladimir Horowitz , Glenn Gould , Swjatoslaw Richter and Friedrich Gulda , he introduced young performers and explained developments in piano art. Kaiser felt a special bond with Richard Wagner's work and supported and accompanied the new beginning of the Bayreuth Festival in 1951 under the direction of Wagner grandsons Wieland and Wolfgang Wagner.

Joachim Kaiser was married to the translator and novelist Susanne Kaiser († 2007) since December 1958, with whom he had two children: the director Henriette Kaiser (born December 30, 1961) and the sports editor Philipp Kaiser (born August 29, 1963). His domicile was in Munich on the edge of the English Garden .

In 2009, he handed over his extensive private archive to the German Literature Archive in Marbach am Neckar as a preliminary legacy . In addition to letters from Theodor W. Adorno and Alfred Andersch, it contains correspondence with Ingeborg Bachmann , Ernst Bloch and Heinrich Böll . From May 2009 on, Kaiser answered questions from readers on a weekly basis in his video column Kaisers Klassik-Kunde on the SZ-Magazin website . Due to an illness, he had to give up in January 2011. The series has not continued since then.

Works (selection)

  • Small theater diary. Rowohlt, Reinbek 1965 (with foreword: criticism as a profession ).
  • Great pianists in our time. Piper, Munich 1965; New edition 1996, ISBN 3-492-22376-1 .
  • Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas and their interpreters. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1975, ISBN 3-10-038601-9 .
  • Experienced music. From Bach to Stravinsky . Hoffmann and Campe, Hamburg 1977, ISBN 3-455-08942-9 .
  • Experienced music. Part 2. From Wagner to Zimmermann. DTV, Munich 1982, ISBN 3-423-01787-2 .
  • My name is sarastro. The characters in Mozart's master operas from Alfonso to Zerlina. Piper, Munich 1984, ISBN 3-492-02818-7 .
  • How I saw them ... and how they were - Twelve little portraits. List, Munich 1985, ISBN 3-471-77969-8 .
  • Experienced literature. German writers in our time. Piper, Munich 1988, ISBN 3-492-03048-3 .
  • Life with Wagner. Knaus, Munich 1990; New edition: Siedler, Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-8275-0028-1 .
  • “Much has to be done on earth.” Imaginary conversations (...). Piper, Munich 1991, ISBN 3-492-03490-X .
  • What is important to me. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart 1996, ISBN 3-421-05056-2 .
  • Kaiser's classic. 100 masterpieces of music. Schneekluth, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-7951-1425-X .
  • Kaiser's classic. Da Capo. Schneekluth, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-7951-1732-1 .
  • From Wagner to Walser. News about literature and music. Pendo, Zurich 1999, ISBN 3-85842-358-0 .
  • "I am the last of the Mohicans". (Autobiography, with Henriette Kaiser). Ullstein, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-550-08697-7 .

Catalog raisonné

Lecture series

Kaiser's many years of lecturing at the Gasteig in Munich include his extensive series of lectures on certain artists and art forms, especially on the subject of music:

From October 11, 1994 to July 17, 2007 Kaiser gave 206 lectures, a total of 322. With an audience of 170,000, Kaiser's lectures are the most successful event at the Munich Adult Education Center to date .

Broadcast series

In weekly radio broadcasts (one hour, for example “Kaisers Corner” in Bayern4-Klassik), he dealt with Chopin for six months and with “Beethoven - Work and Effect” for a whole year. There were also regular word broadcasts, such as “Kaisers Zeitschriftenschau”.


  • The last emperor. TV feature , 2008, 5:25 min., Book: Peter Gerhardt, production: hr , ttt - titel, thesen, temperamente , first broadcast: November 16, 2008.
  • Music in the wind. Documentary, 2006, 87 min., Written and directed: Henriette Kaiser , production: Lemuel Film, first broadcast: November 5, 2006, BR
  • The classical emperor. Documentary, 1997, script and direction: Eckhart Schmidt, production: Raphaela Film GmbH
  • In Jan Schmidt-Garre's feature film Bruckner's Decision (1995) , Kaiser took on the role of Richard Wagner .


Web links

Commons : Joachim Kaiser  - Collection of images, videos and audio files



Individual evidence

  1. ^ Mathias Döpfner: How Joachim Kaiser became anti-Adorno. In: . December 18, 2008, accessed December 4, 2015 .
  2. Joachim Kaiser about Arthur Rubinstein: “Wonderful, astonishing, incomprehensible, but not just the technical clarity of his playing, the touching, heart-moving enlightenment of his phrasing, the stormy temperament of his outbursts. All of this weighs a lot, wants to conquer, preserve and be kept alive ... “In: Great pianists in our time. 5th edition, 1996, p. 60.
  3. ^ Authors - Susanne Kaiser. Website of the dtv .
  4. ^ Süddeutsche Zeitung: Joachim Kaiser: Life between books and notes. Retrieved March 6, 2020 .
  5. I have nothing against dachshunds. In: . October 24, 2005, accessed December 4, 2015 .
  6. Press release PM 019 ( Memento from July 28, 2012 in the web archive ), German Literature Archive , March 2009.
  7. Episode 87: A Trick in E Flat Major. (No longer available online.) In: Archived from the original on October 25, 2015 ; Retrieved December 4, 2015 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Declaration by the SZ editorial team from January 2011 on Kaiser's illness (following one of the usual comments on “Kaiser's classic customer”). @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  8. See 1966 in: Theodor Wolff Prize - Prize Winners from 1962 to 1997 ( Memento of the original from December 8, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  9. See Theodor Wolff Prize - Prize Winners 2010
  10. See [1]