Bruch, Max (Christian Friedrich)
Bruch, Max (Christian Friedrich)
Bruch, Max (Christian Friedrich), distinguished German composer, conductor, and pedagogue; b. Cologne, Jan. 6, 1838; d. Friedenau, near Berlin, Oct. 2, 1920. His mother was a soprano and singing teacher, and it was from her that he first studied piano. He was only 9 when he wrote his first composition. He soon began taking theory lessons with Heinrich Breidenstein in Bonn. After winning the Mozart Foundation prize of Frankfurt am Main in 1852, he went there to study composition with Hiller and piano with Reinecke and Ferdinand Breunung (1853–57). He then composed his first opera, Scherz, List und Radie, after Goethe, which was premiered in Colgne on Jan. 14, 1858. After studying philosophy, art, and architecture at the Univ. of Bonn (1859), he devoted himself fully to a musical career. He then composed the opera Die Loreley (Mannheim, June 14, 1863). While staying in Mannheim, he received instruction in conducting and orchestration from Franz Lachner. With his choral work Frithjof, which he conducted at its premiere in Aachen on Nov. 20, 1864, Bruch established himself as a composer of effective choral works. Frithjof was subsequently given in other German cities, as well as in Vienna with much success. From 1865 to 1867 Bruch was director of the Royal Inst. for Music and of the subscription concerts in Koblenz. While in Koblenz, Bruch wrote his most celebrated score, his First Violin Concerto (Koblenz, April 24, 1866). It subsequently was played by all the leading violin virtuosos of the day and became a standard repertory piece. From 1867 to 1870 he served as first court conductor in Sondershausen. He then went to Berlin, where his opera Hermione was premiered on March 21, 1872. While it proved a failure, Bruch found success with his secular oratorio Odysseus (Barmen, Feb. 8, 1873). In 1878 he became conductor of the Stern’schen Gesangverein in Berlin. In 1880 he was named musical director of the Liverpool Phil. Soc, which position he held until 1883. During this period, Bruch brought out 2 of his finest works, the so-called Scottish Fantasy for Violin and Orch. and Kol Nidrei for Cello and Orch. The latter, based on a traditional Jewish melody, led to the erroneous assumption that Bruch was Jewish. In fact, he was descended from a long-standing Protestant family.
In 1883 Bruch toured the U.S. as a conductor of various choral organizations. From 1883 to 1890 he was conductor of the Breslau Concert Soc. He then completed work on his Third Violin Concerto, which was a great success at its premiere in Dusseldorf on May 31, 1891. In 1892 Bruch became a prof, and director of the master class in composition at the Berlin Royal Academy of Arts, remaining there until his retirement in 1911. In 1893 he received an honorary D.Mus. degree from the Univ. of Cambridge and in 1918 honorary doctorates in philosophy and theology from the Univ. of Berlin. In 1881 he married the young contralto Clara Tuczek (b. Berlin, Feb. 15, 1864; d. there, Aug. 27, 1919), who occasionally sang at his concerts. Bruch’s music, although imitative in its essence, retains a great eclectic charm. He was a thorough master of harmony, counterpoint, and instrumentation. His choral output was highly regarded in his homeland, particularly his secular works. While most of his music is now forgotten, his violin concertos, the Scottish Fantasy, and Kol Nidrei remain as notable examples of his gifts and continue to find their way occasionally into the concert hall.
DRAMATIC: Opera: Scherz, List und Rache (Cologne, Jan. 14, 1858); Die Loreley (Mannheim, June 14, 1863); Hermione (Berlin, March 21, 1872). orch.: 3 syms.: No. 1, in E-flat major (Sondershausen, July 26, 1868, composer conducting), No. 2, in F minor (Sondershausen, Sept. 4, 1870, composer conducting), and No. 3, in E major (N.Y., Dec. 17, 1882, Damrosch conducting); 3 violin concertos: No. 1, in G minor (1864-66; Koblenz, April 24, 1866, Königslöw soloist, composer conducting; definitive version, Bremen, Jan. 7, 1868, Joachim soloist, Reinthaler conducting), No. 2, in D minor (London, Nov. 4, 1877, Sarasate soloist, composer conducting), and No. 3, in D minor (1890-91; Düsseldorf, May 31, 1891, Joachim soloist, composer conducting); Romanze for Violin and Orch. (1874); Fantasia for the Violin and Orch. with Harp, freely using Scottish Folk Melodies (1879-80; Liverpool, Feb. 22, 1881, Joachim soloist, composer conducting); Kol Nidrei for Cello and Orch. (Liverpool, Nov. 2, 1880); Adagio appassionata for Violin and Orch. (1891); Canzone for Cello and Orch. (1891); Adagio on Celtic Themes for Cello and Orch. (1891); Ave Maria for Cello and Orch. (1892); In Memoriam for Violin and Orch. (1893); Serenade for Violin and Orch. (1899; Paris, May 15, 1901, Débroux soloist, Chevillard conducting); Suite[No. 1] fur grosses Orchester nach russischen Volksmelodien (1903), No. 2 (1906; rewritten as Serenade for String Orch., on Swedish melodies, 1916), and No. 3 for Organ and Orch. (1904-15; rewritten as Concerto for 2 Pianos and Orch.; unauthorized version, drastically altered by the performers, Philadelphia, Dec. 29, 1916, O. and R. Sutro soloists, Stokowski conducting; authorized version, Berlin, May 6, 1974, Nathan Twining and Martin Berkofsky soloists, Dorati conducting); Konzertstück for Violin and Orch. (Norfolk, Conn., June 8, 1911, Maud Powell soloist); Romanze for Viola and Orch. (1911); Double Concerto for Clarinet, Viola, and Orch. (1911; Wilhelshaven, March 5, 1912). chamber: Septet for Clarinet, Horn, Bassoon, 2 Violins, Cello, and Double Bass (1849); Piano Trio (1858); 2 string quartets (1859, 1860); Piano Quintet (1886); Swedish Dances for Violin and Piano (1892); 4 Pieces for Cello and Piano (1896); 8 Trio Pieces for Clarinet, Viola, and Piano (1910); String Quintet (1919); String Octet (1920); piano pieces. vocal: accompanied sacred choral:Jubilate (1858); Die Flucht der heiligen Familie (1863); Ge-sang der heiligen drei Könige (1863); Rorate coeli (Krefeld, Feb. 22, 1869); Die Flucht nach Aegypten (1869); Morgenstunde (1869); Messensätze: Kyrie, Sanctus, und Agnus Dei (1870); Gruss an die heilige Nacht (1892); Hymne (1893); Moses: Ein biblisches Oratorium (1894; Barmen, Jan. 19, 1895); Sei getreu bis an den Tod (1896); Osterkantate (Cologne, Nov. 17, 1908); Das Wessobrunner Gebet (1909). unaccompanied sacred choral:Christkindlieder (1918). accompanied secular choral:Die Birken und die erlen (1857); Frithjof (Aachen, Nov. 20, 1864); Schön Ellen (Koblenz, Feb. 22, 1867); Salamis (1868); Normannenzug (1869); Römische Leichenfeier (1869); Das Lied vom deutschen Kaiser (1871); Dithyrambe (1871); Odysseus (1871-72; Barmen, Feb. 8, 1873); Arminius (Zürich, Jan. 21, 1877); Das Lied von der Glocke (Cologne, May 12, 1878); Achilleus (Bonn, June 28, 1885); Drei Hebraische Gesange (1888); Das Feuerkreuz (1888); Leonidas (Vienna, Oct. 8, 1893); (3) Neue Männerchöre (1896); Gustav Adolf (1897-98; Barmen, May 22, 1898); Der letzte Abschied des Volkes (1900); Damajanti (1902; Cologne, Oct. 20, 1903); Die Macht des Gesanges (1911); Helden-feier (1914–15); Der Stimme der Mutter Erde (1916); Trauerfeier für Mignon (Berlin, April 5, 1919). other voca1:Die Priesterin der Isis in Rom for Solo Voice and Orch. (1870); Szene der Marfa for Mezzo-soprano and Orch. (1906); various lieder.
F. Gysi, M. B.: 110 Neuhjahrsblatt der allgemeinen Musikgesellschaft in Zürich (Zürich, 1922); H. Pfitzner, Meine Beziehungen zu M. B.: Persönliche Erinnerungen (Munich, 1938); W. Lauth, M. B.s Instrumentalmusik (diss., Univ. of Cologne, 1967); D. Kämper, ed., M. B. Studien, zum 50 Todestag des Komponisten (Cologne, 1970); K. Fellerer, M. B.(Cologne, 1974); S. Luyken, M.B..(Cologne, 1984); C. Fifield, M. B.: His Life and Works (London, 1988); M. Schwarzer, Die Oratorien von M. B.: Line Quellenstudie (Kassel, 1988); U. Baur, M. B. und Koblenz (1865–1867): Eine Dokumentation (Mainz, 1996).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire