During two separate periods in the history of German chamber music, a family named Muller came into prominence as one of the leading string quartet ensembles of their day. Patriarch of the family was one Aegidius Christoph Muller (born in Gorsbach, July 2nd, 1765-died in Brunswick, August 14th, 1841), whose four sons, under his personal guidance and training, established their own family string quartet. This group --- the Original Muller Brothers Quartet --- consisted of: Karl Friedrich Muller (born in Brunswick, November 11th, 1791-died in Brunswick, April 4th, 1873), first violin; Franz Ferdinand Georg Muller (born in Brunswick, July 30th, 1801-died in Brunswick, May 22nd, 1855), second violin; Theodor Heinrich Muller (born in Brunswick, December 3rd, 1799-died in Brunswick, September 7th, 1855), viola; and August Theodor Muller (Born in Brunswick, August 27th, 1802-died in Brunswick, October 20th, 1875), cello.

When Karl, George, Gustav and Theodor were all approximately in their early teens to mid-20s, they joined the Court Orchestra of the then-reigning Duke of Brunswick, with Karl serving as Konzertmeister and Georg as Kapellmeister. Gustav and Theodor, meanwhile, became what we would today call 'first-chair musicians' in the viola and cello sections, respectively.

Alas, their musical lives were not entirely comfortable --- because the Duke of Brunswick had expressly forbidden the musicians of his Court from public performance. To Aegidius Muller, this amounted to a personal slap in the face, for it had been his lifelong dream to see his four sons performing together as a working string quartet. And so, in a bid to avenge himself upon the Duke and his foul contract, Aegidius took it upon himself to train his boys in the fine art of string quartet performance. Meeting secretly on certain nights, Karl, George, Gustav and Theodor studied long and hard under their father's watchful eye. Finally, in 1830, the brothers resigned from their posts in the Duke's Orchestra, having emassed enough confidence to make their mark upon the world.

Thus, in 1831, in Hamburg, the Muller Brothers String Quartet presented its very first recital! It was so successful that the following year, a second recital was held, this time in Berlin, with an unprecedented encore there the following year. Suddenly, the Mullers were in demand across Germany. And that could only mean one thing: A TOUR! And that's how the Muller Brothers became Germany's first string quartet to tour extensively on a regular basis. Their travels took them through some of Germany's finest cities: Frankfurt, Dresden, Leipzig, Halle, Dusseldorf, Stuttgart, Cologne, Halberstadt, Mainz, Wiesbaden, Heidelberg --- and before long, they'd expanded their tour schedule to include the best cities in France, Denmark, Holland --- and even Russia!

The Mullers had long been disciples of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven; so it was no surprise that a typical program by the quartet would center on works by these three masters. One reason behind this loyalty might be connected to the fact that they did more than just perform on tour, they also played recitals in their hometown of Brunswick, as well as at their own family homestead, located along the outskirts of the village. It was a time, after all, when quartet members still respected the ritual of playing for their own sake, whenever such occasions presented themselves.

That's not to say that the Mullers did not make much music in the off-season. Theodor, for example, eventually established, over a four-decade period, a discerning reputation as a demanding, wise Professor of Cello Studies at das Hochshcule fur Musik in Brunswick. Indeed, some of Theodor's pupils would become virtuoso cellists in their own right: Bernhard Cossmann, Wilhelm Fitzenhagen, Robert Hausmann (who would later join Joseph Joachim's own inimitable Quartet) and Hausmann's own nephew, Wilhelm Muller (no relation?).

By 1850, the Muller Brothers Quartet had existed for some 20 years. Aegidius Christoph, the boys' father, was now dead; but the lads did take comfort in the fact that they had fulfilled their dear old Dad's dream. So onward they went, Karl, Georg, Gustav and Theodor --- touring all across Europe, playing the works of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven --- and then coming home to Brunswick, where, if they so chose, they retreated to their Music Room, where they liked to play just for themselves!

But it all ended with Georg's death on May 22nd, 1855. 14 years before, as their father lay on his own deathbed, the brothers had solemnly sworn that if anything should happen to any of them at any time, the Quartet would immediately --- and irrevocably --- disband. Georg's death fulfilled that sad promise. Four months later, on September 7th, 1855, Gustav passed away as well.

In all, the Muller Brothers Quartet had played for 25 years. By 1856, the two surviving Brothers, Karl and Theodor, had married into other families, and were soon raising their own children. In a strange and rare twist of fate, Karl found himself raising four sons; and when these four learned about the death of their uncle Gustav, they secretly met and swore to continue the traditions of quartet performance that had been established by their father and his three brothers.

And so, like the Phoenix arisen anew from the ashes, the New Muller Brothers Quartet emerged upon the German music scene, achieving the same distinguished level of ensemble playing and discipline that had shaped the previous Muller Brothers Quartet. In this new roster were: Karl Friedrich Muller the Younger (born in Brunswick, April 14th, 1829-died in Stuttgart, November 11th, 1907), first violin; Hugo Muller (born in Brunswick, September 21st, 1832-died in Brunswick, June 26th, 1886) second violin; Bernhard Muller (born in Brunswick, September 21st, 1832-died in Rostock, September 4th, 1895), viola; and Wilhelm Muller (born in Brunswick, June 1st, 1834-died in New York City, September 1897), cello.

Karl Jr., Bernhard, Hugo and Wilhelm began their quartet career when the Duke of Meiningen appointed them to serve as the Court's Quartet-in-Residence. The decade they spent there was probably the happiest of their lives --- doubly so in that, unlike the earlier Muller Brothers Quartet, they were not only given the chance to perform for the nobility of Meiningen, but were also granted the freedom to perform publicly. This resulted in a long-running series of tours across Germany and all the rest of Europe!

Then, beginning in 1866, the boys spent several years performing and teaching at Wiesbaden, before finally settling down in the nearby village of Rostock. During this point in their lives, the Quartet became a respected ensemble, as well as members of the town Orchestra, with Karl Jr. as Konzertmeister, and the other three taking first-chair positions in that Orchestra's string section. And yet, some scholars of the Muller dynasty's history have written that when Karl Jr. could not be with his brothers on tour, Leopold Auer would often fill in as first violinist. But, by and large, all four brothers would be there, present and accounted for.

In 1873, Karl Jr. took the name Karl Muller-Berghaus, as a way to adhere to the wishes of his wife, the soprano Elvira Berghaus, whom he had married. Meanwhile, the second Muller Brothers Quartet had been performing together for approximately 16 years. While the boys' attention to proper ensemble playing was undeniable, most scholars of this era's chamber music period often dismissed their performing style as being "unsuitable." As a result, many quartet historians often believe that the second Muller Brothers Quartet never really achieved the popularity that had been bestowed upon the original Mullers.

That same year, 1873, Wilhelm accepted the invitation of the keepers of the Royal Chapel of Berlin to succeed the recently-deceased Julius de Sweerts as solo cellist of the Chapel Orchestra. By then, Wilhelm had also already accepted the post of Professor of Cello Studies at the Hochschule fur Musik in Berlin. It was there that Wilhelm first met up with the aforementioned Joseph Joachim, who soon recruited him as founding violinist of the Joachim Quartet.

Wilhelm's duties in Berlin, along with Karl Jr.'s increasing devotion to Elvira --- and various other factors --- led to the dissolution of the second Muller Brothers Quartet. After the four brothers went their separate ways, Karl Jr. and Elvira lived at both Hamburg and Stuttgart. In the intervening years, Karl Jr. would become a noted composer of some refute, with an output that ranged from operettas to cantatas, from overtures to symphonies, plus a short library of chamber works for various ensembles --- and even an entire concerto for violin and orchestra!

But time had begun to run out for the Muller dynasty. By 1901, Karl Friedrich Muller the Younger, also known as Karl Muller-Berghaus, had completely outlived his three brothers. While he continued to play the violin on occasion, he had ostensibly retired from the world community of classical music. He died at Stuttgart, on November 11th, 1907 --- what would have been his father's 110th birthday --- and with that death, the Muller family's contribution to chamber music history had drawn to its close.

Or had it?

If you are a survivor of the bloodline of Karl Friedrich Muller the Elder, and you were inspired by the Story of the Muller Brothers Quartets, we would appreciate hearing from you. Please e-mail us at blackbeardpirate81@yahoo.com.

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