Max Bruch (6 January 1838 – 2 October 1920) was a German Romantic composer, teacher, and conductor who composed over 200 pieces, including three violin concertos, the first of which is considered a standard in the violin repertoire. Bruch had a long career as a teacher, conductor, and composer, working in a variety of musical positions throughout Germany, including Mannheim (1862–1864), Koblenz (1865–1867), Sondershausen (1867–1870), Berlin (1870–1872), and Bonn (1873–1878). He was the Liverpool Philharmonic Society conductor for three seasons during the height of his career (1880–83). From 1890 to 1910, he was a professor of composition at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik. Clara Mathilda Faisst (1872–1948), a German pianist, composer, and writer, was one of his prominent students. Bruch's works in the German Romantic musical tradition were complicated and well-structured, putting him in the camp of Romantic classicism epitomized by Johannes Brahms rather than the opposing "New Music" of Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner. However, he was primarily known as a choral composer at the time, frequently overshadowing his friend Brahms, who was more popular and generally valued. Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26 (1866), is one of the most famous Romantic violin concertos today, as it was during his lifetime. It borrows methods from Felix Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor, such as linking sections, skipping the Classical opening orchestral exposition, and other conservative formal structure devices found in older concertos. Despite these changes to the traditional Romantic style, Bruch was frequently considered a conservative composer.
The Scottish Fantasy for violin and orchestra, which includes an arrangement of the tune "Hey Tuttie Tatie," best known for its use in Robert Burns' song "Scots Wha Hae," and the Kol Nidrei, Op. 47, for cello and orchestra (subtitled "Adagio on Hebrew Melodies for Violoncel") are the two other works by Bruch that are still widely performed. In addition, this work may have influenced Ernest Bloch's Schelomo (subtitled "Hebrew Rhapsody"), a more vigorous and prolonged one-movement composition, also for solo cello and orchestra, written in 1916. Because of the success of Kol Nidrei, many people assumed Bruch was Jewish, even though he denied it, and there is no evidence that he was. As far as can be determined, none of his ancestors were Jews. Bruch was raised as a Protestant and given the middle name Christian. Despite his surviving family's repeated denials, the performance of his music was limited as long as the National Socialist Party was in power (1933–1945) because he was labeled a "potential Jew" for writing music with an explicitly Jewish subject. As a result, in German-speaking countries, his music was virtually forgotten. Bruch is not well-known in the world of chamber music, yet his "Eight Pieces for Clarinet, Viola, and Piano" are occasionally revived due to the scarcity of work for this unusual combination of instruments. Bruch wrote these trios for a specific clarinetist, his son Max, in the same way Brahms composed his clarinet pieces with a particular clarinetist. These works, however, do not stand alone in Bruch's oeuvre. Despite this, he wrote several chambers works, the most notable being his septet. Two string quartets, composed early in his career and similar in tone and intensity to Schumann's string quartets, are his first vital works (Op. 41). His second piano quintet is noteworthy because he began it while conducting the Liverpool Philharmonic Society. Although written for amateurs, it is a respectable composition and was only completed when Bruch, who had left Liverpool, was gently encouraged to finish the last movement.
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