A prominent composer in his own
time and a major exponent of the German Romantic tradition epitomized by
Johannes Brahms, Max Bruch today is considered only a minor master of the 19th
century. Born in Cologne on January 6th, 1838, Bruch displayed an
early and natural talent for music which drew the attention of Ignaz Moscheles.
A youthful symphony which Bruch composed in 1852 helped him secure a
scholarship, giving him the opportunity to study with Ferdinand Hiller and Carl
During his career as a teacher,
composer and conductor, Bruch held a number of posts throughout Germany, taking
him to the cities of Mannheim, Koblenz, Sondershausen, Berlin and Bonn. It was
in this latter city, between 1873 and 1878 that enjoyed a reputation as one of
Germany's leading composers. He returned to conducting in 1881 taking over the
Liverpool Philharmonic Society in England. Frustrated with the low standards of
the orchestra, Bruch's tenure as conductor was short-lived and he returned to
Germany in 1883. In the autumn of 1890, he accepted the appointment as
professor of composition at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik where he remained
until his retirement in 1910. A decade later, on October 2nd, 1920,
he passed away in his home in Berlin.
Bruch is known primarily for his
intensely and beautifully melodic music and his fine control of structure
marked him as a follower of the ideals of Johannes Brahms. During his lifetime,
he was known primarily as a choral composer but it is his instrumental
compositions that enjoy the favor of audiences and performers alike today. His
most popular and well-known piece is his Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor
composed in 1868. Owing much to Mendelssohn, it is a staple of the repertoire
and beloved for its passionate Romanticism.
Also popular is his single movement piece for cello and orchestra, Kol Nidrei. Based on a
Jewish melody, it shows Bruch's interest in the music of other cultures.
However, it also gave the Nazi Party reason enough to suspect Bruch of Jewish
origins and ban the entirety of his oeuvre.
Also popular is his Scottish Fantasy
for violin and orchestra based on Scottish melodies.
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