Otto Goldschmidt (1829-1907) was born in Hamburg, Germany, and his parents were Jewish salesman Moritz David Goldschmidt and women’s rights activist Johanna Goldschmidt. He had seven siblings, and his wealthy and well-educated parents belonged to the community of liberal Reform Jews in Germany. Since his mother was musically gifted – an excellent singer, pianist, violinist and harpist – she focused on the musical education of her children. Goldschmidt attended the Conservatory in Leipzig from 1843 to 1846 where he studied under Hans von Bülow, Felix Mendelssohn and Moritz Hauptmann. From Mendelssohn, Goldschmidt received this student certificate: “Mr. Goldschmidt has developed a fine talent for piano playing in gratifying manner and also has shown not insignificant talent in composition for his instrument.” Additionally, he took private piano lessons with Clara Schumann.
On 5 February 1852, Goldschmidt married the world-famous soprano Jenny Lind in Boston, Massachusetts. To please his wife, he converted to become Episcopalian. They had three children. From 1858, they lived in London where Otto became a professor in 1863 and later vocal director at the Royal Academy of Music. There, the pair belonged to the circle of German-English intellectuals including Arthur Sullivan, Rudolf Lehmann and Charles Dickens. In 1863, Goldschmidt and William Sterndale Bennett compiled the Chorale Book of England. In 1876, he founded the Bach Choir, which he led until 1886. He several times conducted the famous Lower Rhine festivals at Düsseldorf.