Max Bruch (1838–1920)
Life and Music
Bruch demonstrated an exceptional childhood precocity. He was composing by the age of ten and continued to produce remarkably assured pieces in a wide range of genres throughout his early teens.
The budding composer was subjected to a rigorous and somewhat stifling musical training under Ferdinand Hiller - which stood him in good stead but also left him with a cripplingly conservative outlook.
Breitkopf and Hartel published some of Bruch's early music, and with the resulting funds he was able to spend the 1860s mainly travelling, teaching, and establishing a solid reputation as a composer.
His first large-scale opera, Die Loreley, won glowing praise from the distinguished pianist-composer Clara Schumann (widow of the composer Robert).
1868 saw the premiere of Bruch's masterpiece the First Violin Concerto. It's impassioned melodies and high-wire virtuosity thrilled the first night audience, creating something of a sensation.
Bruch gave master classes at the Berlin Hochschule which continued for almost a decade, and Respighi and Vaughan Williams were among his most distinguished pupils. At this time Oxford University awarded him an honorary doctorate.
Bruch died a sadly disillusioned man. A conservative figure even by mid-19th century standards, by the time of his death his musical style was way behind the times.
Did you know?
Unfortunately Bruch became the most unenvied of creative artists - the one-hit wonder. The success of the First Violin Concerto haunted him for the rest of his life and as if to rub salt into the wound, he unwisely accepted a one-off payment for the work and so missed out on a fortune in royalties.
Bruch: the man
Top Bruch pieces
Kol Nidrei Opus 47 Max Bruch (1838-1920 : Germany) Conductor: Paavo Jarvi Ensemble: Philharmonic Orchestra of Radio France Soloists: Truls Mork Record label: EMI Catalogue ID: 7243
Scottish Fantasy Opus 46 (4) Max Bruch Conductor: Zubin Mehta Ensemble: Israel Philharmonic Orchestra Soloists: Midori Record label: SONY Catalogue ID: SK 58967