Max Karl August Bruch, a.k.a. Max Christian Friedrich Bruch, was a very prominent German romantic composer and conductor who wrote around 200 works, which also consisted of his three masterpieces in the form of violin concertos of which ‘Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor’ become a major success and significant part of the violin repertoire. His status reflected through his concerts and his remarkable oratorios made him a celebrity of his time in Europe and America. Bruch passionately promoted the values of traditional and folk music and strongly opposed the principles of the 'Neudeutsche' composition school. This is the reason why one would find a strong impression of folk songs in his melodies and harmonies. He always refrained from dark and over-serious compositions and popularized lucid forms, harmonious tunes and splendor of sound. His maiden opera, ‘Scherz, List und Rache’ was performed in 1858. Through his promising and satisfying career, Bruch held many conducting positions and even taught for 20 years at the Berlin Academy. His other note-worthy and striking choral pieces include Odysseus (1872) and Das Lied von der Glocke (1879).
Childhood And Early Life
Born in Cologne, Rhine Province, Max Bruch showed early signs of a great composer and conductor. His mother was a soprano and singing teacher and was the primary source of sowing the seeds of Bruch’s musical career. From her, he learnt his first piano lessons. He underwent his first official musical training under composer and pianist, Ferdinand Hiller to whom Robert Schumann devoted his piano concerto. Another person who accredited Bruch’s aptitude for music was Ignaz Moscheles. At the tender age of 9, illustrating an astonishing musical talent, Bruch wrote his first composition. He also wrote a symphony at the age of 14 and won a scholarship that aided him to study at Cologne. His works are inclined towards Mendelssohn and Schumann.
Max Bruch’s Works
Bruch's most popular work is undoubtedly his ardently romantic Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor (1868), a significant piece in the standard violin repertoire. It is inspired from the techniques of Felix Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor. This concerto includes the connecting of movements, while deviating from the routine orchestral exposition and stiff form of former concertos. This singularly melodic composition is also considered as the zenith of romantic music.
Max Bruch’s second most famous work is the mesmerizing ‘Kol Nidrej’, Op. 47, which is the single-movement piece for orchestra and cello. This piece was inspired by an invocation from the Jewish Yom Kippur service which reflects the name of this piece. Other popular and widely played pieces consist of the Scottish Fantasy for violin and orchestra, which comprises of the melody of the tune "Hey Tuttie Tatie", extensively famous for its application in the song ‘Scots Wha Hae’ by ‘Robert Burns’. Other feathers to Bruch’s hat include two more concerti for violin and orchestra, No. 2 in D minor and No. 3 in D minor (which Bruch himself considered as at par with the first one) and a Concerto for Orchestra, Clarinet and Viola. Max Bruch also authored several chamber works, including a set of eight pieces for piano, viola, clarinet and a string octet. In 1912, for the American duo-pianists Rose and Ottilie Sutro, Bruch authored the ‘Concerto in A flat minor’ for two pianos and orchestra but instead as an original version, it was played in two different versions of the pianists. The score was discarded in 1917 and came into light only after Ottilie Sutro's death in 1970. The Sutro sisters were treacherous to Bruch as Bruch had sent the manuscript of the Violin Concerto No. 1 to them to be sold in the United States, but they sold it for their own advantage and retained the profits.
Max met the young Clara Tuczek during a concert tour in the warm season of 1880 and, despite a huge age difference, they married in 1881. Clara Tuczek was born on 15 February 1864 in Berlin to an Austrian musical family. She used to sing occasionally at his concerts and died on 27 august, 1919 in Berlin. They had four children of which, Margarethe, the eldest and the only daughter, became a writer and poet influenced by the turbulent years of WWI. The second child and the eldest son, Max Felix, was the only one who became a musician and worked as a conductor of two amateur choral societies in Hamburg. Hans, the third one, was a great painter and conducted a promising exhibition in the city. The yougest son, Ewald, began his career in forestry but due joined the police force after WWI.
Bruch’s Career Progress Throughout Germany
In 1858, as a music teacher in Cologne, Bruch authored his first opera, ‘Scherz, List und Rache’. During 1861 to 1872, Bruch earned the reputation of a distinguished German composer. He then worked privately in Bonn during 1873 and 1878 and resumed his position as a conductor in 1881, succeeding Julius Benedict as conductor of the Liverpool Philharmonic Society in England. Bruch soon left Liverpool in 1883 and became director of the Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland) Orchesterverein, where he stayed through the end of the season in 1890. That year, he accepted lectureship of composition at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik, working there until his retirement in 1910 and maintaining his position as a professor till he died in 1920. To summarize, Bruch conducted various choral and orchestral societies at Koblenz (1865), Sondershausen (1867), Berlin (1878), Liverpool (1880–83), and Breslau (1883–90). He also worked as a professor at the Berlin Academy of Arts from 1890 to 1911.
Death And Legacy
Bruch expired in his house in Friedenau, Berlin. All through his promising musical career he became famous not only as a composer of choral works but also for a handful of marvelous orchestral compositions. His works, being structural and complex, were categorized under the group of Romantic classicism instead of the group that encouraged “New Music”. The music of this choral composer was diverse in nature, showing a methodical mastery in counterpoint, harmony and instrumentation. Today, he is remembered especially for his first violin concerto (1868); two further outstanding violin concertos, the cello variations Kol Nidrei (1881), and extraordinary operas and symphonies.