Joachim Kaiser

Joachim Kaiser (18 December 1928 − 11 May 2017) was a German music, literature and theatre critic. From 1959 he worked as a senior editor in the feuilleton of the Süddeutsche Zeitung; from 1977 to 1996 he was a professor of history of music at the State University of Music and Performing Arts Stuttgart.

Kaiser in 2007


Kaiser was born in Milken, East Prussia (Miłki, Poland) in 1928 as the son of a country doctor. Literature and music began to interest him at an early age, and at age eight he began to play the piano. After the flight and expulsion of Germans from Central and Eastern Europe 1945–1950, he attended the Wilhelm-Gymnasium (Hamburg). He then studied musicology, German studies, philosophy and sociology at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, the Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main and the Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen. Among his fellow students were the musicologists Carl Dahlhaus and Rudolf Stephan.

In June 1951 Kaiser began his journalistic career as a theatre, literature and music critic. His path was paved by a review of a publication by Theodor W. Adorno: Music and Catastrophe. About the "Philosophy of New Music". Adorno recommended to Kaiser Alfred Andersch of the Hessischer Rundfunk, which in turn drew the attention of the Frankfurter Hefte. Mathias Döpfner described him as "the best known and most successful Adorno students ever".[1] At the invitation of Hans Werner Richter, Kaiser was allowed to take part in events of Group 47 from 1953. In 1958 he was awarded a doctorate in German Studies at the University of Tübingen on the subject of Franz Grillparzer's dramatic style. On the initiative of the then SZ journalist Erich Kuby, Kaiser was able to work in the cultural editorial department of the Süddeutsche Zeitung from 1959. He was a member of the writers' association PEN-Zentrum Deutschland.

Kaiser, along with Marcel Reich-Ranicki, was one of the most influential critics of Germany. His book Große Pianisten in unserer Zeit[2] is occasionally referred to as the "Piano Michelin". Besides ground-breaking pianists such as Artur Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz, Glenn Gould, Sviatoslav Richter and Friedrich Gulda he introduced young interpreters and explained developments in the art of piano playing.[3]

Kaiser felt a special connection to the work of Richard Wagner and supported and accompanied the new beginning of the Bayreuth Festival in 1951 under the direction of Wagner's grandchildren, Wieland and Wolfgang.

Kaiser was married to the translator and novelist Susanne Kaiser since December 1958,[4] with whom he had two children: the director Henriette Kaiser[5] and the sports editor Philipp Kaiser. He lived in Munich on the edge of the Englischer Garten.[6]

In 2009 he handed over his extensive private archive to the Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach as a Nachlass. Besides letters from Theodor W. Adorno and Alfred Andersch, it contains correspondence with Ingeborg Bachmann, Ernst Bloch and Heinrich Böll. From May 2009 onward, Kaiser answered readers' questions weekly in his video column Kaiser's Classic Customer on the website of SZ-Magazin. Due to an illness he had to give this up in January 2011. The series has not been continued since.[7]

Kaiser died in Munich, aged 88.


  • Kleines Theatertagebuch.[8] Rowohlt, Reinbek 1965 (with preface: Kritik als Beruf).
  • Große Pianisten in unserer Zeit. Piper Verlag, Munich 1965; New edition 1996, ISBN 3-492-22376-1.
  • Beethovens 32 Klaviersonaten und ihre Interpreten. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1975, ISBN 3-10-038601-9.
  • Erlebte Musik. Von Bach bis Stravinsky.[9] Hoffmann und Campe, Hamburg 1977, ISBN 3-455-08942-9.
  • Erlebte Musik. Teil 2. Von Wagner bis Zimmermann.[10] DTV, Munich 1982, ISBN 3-423-01787-2.
  • Mein Name ist Sarastro. Die Gestalten in Mozart's Meisteropern von Alfonso bis Zerlina.[11] Piper, Munich 1984, ISBN 3-492-02818-7.
  • Wie ich sie sah … und wie sie waren – Zwölf kleine Porträts. List, Munich 1985, ISBN 3-471-77969-8.
  • Erlebte Literatur. Deutsche Schriftsteller in unserer Zeit.[12] Piper, Munich 1988, ISBN 3-492-03048-3.
  • Leben mit Wagner. Knaus, Munich 1990; New edition: Siedler, Munich 2013, ISBN 978-3-8275-0028-1.
  • „Vieles ist auf Erden zu thun.“ Imaginäre Gespräche (…).[13] Piper, Munich 1991, ISBN 3-492-03490-X.
  • Was mir wichtig ist.[14] Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart 1996, ISBN 3-421-05056-2.
  • Kaisers Klassik. 100 Meisterwerke der Musik. Schneekluth, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-7951-1425-X.
  • Kaisers Klassik. Da Capo. Schneekluth, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-7951-1732-1.
  • Von Wagner bis Walser. Neues zu Literatur und Musik.[15] Pendo, Zürich 1999, ISBN 3-85842-358-0.
  • "Ich bin der letzte Mohikaner".[16] (autobiography, with Henriette Kaiser). Ullstein, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-550-08697-7.

Catalogue of works

Lecture seriesEdit

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

From 11 October 1994 to 17 July 2007 Kaiser gave 206 lectures, a total of 322. With 170,000 listeners, Kaiser's lectures are the most successful event to date of the Münchner Volkshochschule [de].

Radio seriesEdit

During weekly radio broadcasts (one hour long, for example "Kaisers Corner" in Bayern4-Klassik), he dealt with Chopin for half a year and with "Beethoven – Werk und Wirkung" for a whole year. In addition to this, there were regular word broadcasts, such as "Kaiser's Magazine Show".




  1. ^ Mathias Döpfner (18 December 2008). "Wie Joachim Kaiser zum Anti-Adorno wurde". Retrieved 16 June 2020.
  2. ^ Große Pianisten in unserer Zeit on WorldCat
  3. ^ Joachim Kaiser about Arthur Rubinstein: "Wonderful, astonishing, incomprehensible, but it is not only the technical clarity of his playing, the touching, in slow movements heart-moving lucidity of his phrasing, the stormy temperament of his outbursts. All of this weighs a lot, wants to conquer, preserve and be kept alive..." In Große Pianisten in unserer Zeit. 5th edition, 1996, p. 60.
  4. ^ Autoren – Susanne Kaiser. Website of the Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag.
  5. ^ Süddeutsche Zeitung (6 March 2020). "Joachim Kaiser: Leben zwischen Büchern und Noten" (in German).
  6. ^ "Ich habe nichts gegen Dackel". 24 October 2005. Retrieved 16 June 2020.
  7. ^ "Folge 87: Ein Trick in Es-Dur". Archived from the original on 25 October 2015. Retrieved 16 June 2020. Erklärung der SZ-Redaktion vom Januar 2011 zu Kaisers Erkrankung (im Anschluss an einen der üblichen Kommentare zu "Kaisers Klassik-Kunde").
  8. ^ Kleines Theatertagebuch. on WorldCat
  9. ^ Erlebte Musik. Von Bach bis Stravinsky. on WorldCat
  10. ^ Erlebte Musik. Teil 2. Von Wagner bis Zimmermann. on WorldCat
  11. ^ Mein Name ist Sarastro. Die Gestalten in Mozart's Meisteropern von Alfonso bis Zerlina. on WorldCat
  12. ^ Erlebte Literatur : Vom 'Doktor Faustus' zum 'Fettfleck'. Deutsche Schriftsteller in unserer Zeit. on WorldCat
  13. ^ Vieles ist auf Erden zu thun : Imaginäre Gespräche mit Ingeborg Bachmann, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Kafka, Johann Nestroy, Friedrich Nietzsche, Clara Schumann, Kurt Tucholsky u. a on WorldCat
  14. ^ Was mir wichtig ist. on WorldCat
  15. ^ Von Wagner bis Walser. Neues zu Literatur und Musik. on WorldCat
  16. ^ "Ich bin der letzte Mohikaner". on WorldCat
  17. ^ Siehe Theodor-Wolff-Preis – Preisträger 2010
  18. ^ See

External linksEdit