Max Bruch

Biography

Born: 1838   Died: 1920   Country: Germany   Period: Romantic
While the music of Max Bruch generally strikes listeners as beautiful, imaginative, and high-minded, critics have tended to relegate him to the status of a minor master. Bruch started composing as a child, displaying an extraordinary musical talent which was recognized as such by Ignaz Moscheles. In 1852, he wrote a symphony and a string quartet, the latter work bringing him a scholarship from the Frankfurt-based Mozart foundation, which enabled Read more him to study with Ferdinand Breunung, Ferdinand Hiller, and Carl Reinecke. In 1858, having embarked on a teaching career in Cologne, he produced his first opera, Scherz, List und Rache. He visited several important German cultural centers between 1861 and 1862. From 1862 to 1864, Bruch lived in Mannheim, where he wrote his cantata, Frithjof, which audiences received with great enthusiasm. In addition, Bruch's opera Loreley was produced in 1863. After leaving his Mannheim post, Bruch visited Paris and Brussels, eventually accepting the position of music director in Koblenz in 1865. In 1867, Bruch became Court Kapellmeister in Sonderhausen, remaining at that post until 1870. That year, Bruch moved to Berlin, where his third opera, Hermione, was produced in 1872. Between 1873 and 1878, Bruch, enjoying his reputation as an eminent German composer, worked independently in Bonn. In 1881, however, he resumed his career as a conductor, succeeding Julius Benedict as conductor of the Liverpool Philharmonic Society in England, but he did not get along with the players, who had rather lax standards. In 1883 Bruch left Liverpool and became director of the Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland) Orchesterverein, where he stayed through the end of the season in 1890.

That autumn, Bruch took up an appointment as professor of composition at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik, working there until his retirement in 1910 and retaining his rank as a professor there until his death in 1920.

During his lifetime he had a reputation as destined to become one of music's great composers. Bruch's best-known work is without doubt his passionately romantic Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor (1868), a major item in the standard violin repertoire. His next most often played work is the single-movement work for cello and orchestra, Kol Nidrei. This lovely composition is representative of his interest in setting melodic material originating from other ethnic groups; he wrote works on Russian, Swedish, Scottish, and Celtic melodies as well. These other works, and his symphonies, have not worn well and are rarities, sometimes revived in the concert hall and on records and on those occasions usually favorably surprising the audience for their beauty and fine workmanship. Read less
Bruch: Violin Concerto, Scottish Fantasy / Horigome, Simonov
Release Date: 11/09/2010   Label: Royal Philharmonic Masterworks  
Catalog: 28790   Number of Discs: 1
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Bloch: From Jewish Life, Schelomo;  Bruch, Etc / Aasgaard, Schwarz, Et Al
Release Date: 05/27/2008   Label: Avie  
Catalog: 2149   Number of Discs: 1
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Work: Concerto for Violin no 1 in G minor, Op. 26

 

About This Work
Bruch wrote six substantial multi-movement works for violin and orchestra, but only this -- the first of his three official concertos -- and his Scottish Fantasy remain familiar today. Compensating for such neglect is the fact that this is one of the Read more most popular nineteenth century concertos in the repertory, which is all the more remarkable because it was the first big orchestral work Bruch ever published. It didn't come easily to him. Bruch first sketched out the concerto in 1857, but withdrew it after its 1866 premiere. After a thorough revision based on suggestions from a number of violinists and composers, most notably the violin virtuoso Joseph Joachim, Bruch released a final version in 1868. It was premiered by and dedicated to Joachim. Although he cast the work in the traditional fast-slow-fast sequence, Bruch generated each movement in sonata form, connecting them all without pause.

The first movement, Allegro moderato, carries the subtitle Vorspiel (Prelude), a holdover from when Bruch was intending to call this a fantasy rather than concerto. A quiet timpani roll and a few disconsolate woodwind phrases set the stage for the violin's meditative entrance, a melody that rises gradually. This is all repeated a bit more assertively, until the full orchestra takes forceful control of the woodwind motif, and the violin spins out a long, impassioned theme over quivering strings and ominous timpani thuds. The second principal subject is more songful and lies lower in the violin's range, until a series of trills take it into a more ardent high register where it hovers for quite some time. The first theme is presented again, double-stops doubling its intensity. This launches the development section, a stormy sequence for the orchestra during which the violin holds its peace. In the return to the movement's opening bars, the violin's solo phrases now serve as abbreviated cadenzas. A short orchestral recapitulation-coda combo leads to the second movement.

The Adagio is a nostalgic aria for the violin. The solo writing becomes increasingly intricate, drifting into a more ardent, but less clearly defined second subject that culminates in three heaving sighs for the orchestra and then the soloist. Bruch subjects all this to a heart-on-sleeve development, deeply emotional without quite becoming mawkish. The recapitulation eases off and inserts a very brief pause before the final movement.

That's the Allegro energetico, which after a careful orchestral buildup turns out to be a joyful dance in a faintly Hungarian style (a tribute both to Joachim, who was Hungarian, and to the Joachim-influenced finale of the Brahms violin concerto). The dance theme is succeeded by some scurrying virtuosic material for the soloist and then a grand romantic melody that creates a climax of its own near the end of the exposition section. Bruch's idea of development here is largely a matter of repeating everything transposed and played at a slightly higher emotional pitch. It's the Hungarian dance that carries the concerto to an exhilarating conclusion that one could hardly anticipate from the work's gloomy beginning.

-- James Reel, All Music Guide Read less

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