This Day In Music History: 1838 – Max Bruch is Born

Bruch was born in Cologne, the son of Wilhelmine, a singer, and August Carl Friedrich Bruch, a lawyer who became vice president of the Cologne police. He received his early musical training under the composer and pianist Ferdinand Hiller, to whom Robert Schumann dedicated his piano concerto in A minor. Bohemian composer and piano virtuoso Ignaz Moscheles recognized his aptitude. At the age of nine he wrote his first composition, a song for his mother’s birthday. From then on music was his passion, his studies having been enthusiastically supported by his parents. Many small early creative works included motets, psalm settings, piano pieces, violin sonatas, a string quartet and even orchestral works like the prelude to a planned opera Joan of Arc.

Bruch had a long career as a teacher, conductor and composer in Germany. At the height of his career he spent three seasons as conductor of the Liverpool Philharmonic Society (1880–83). He taught composition at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik from 1890 until his retirement in 1910. Notable students include German pianist, composer and writer Clara Mathilda Faisst (1872-1948).

His complex and unfailingly well-structured works, in the German Romantic musical tradition, placed him in the camp of Romantic classicism exemplified by Johannes Brahms, rather than the opposing “New Music” of Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner. In his time he was known primarily as a choral composer.

His Violin Concerto No. 1, in G minor, Op. 26 (1866) is one of the most popular Romantic violin concertos. It uses several techniques from Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor. These include the linking of movements, as well as omitting the Classical opening orchestral exposition and other conservative formal structural devices of earlier concertos.

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