Violin Concerto No. 1
In part, Max Bruch lived in the wrong era.
When the composer died in 1920 at the age of 82, Donald Tovey even remarked that “the news came to many as a surprise that he had lived so long.” And yet Bruch’s career had started out so well. He was only 14 years old when one of his symphonies was per- formed in Cologne, and the Rheinische Musik Zeitung devoted an entire article to him. After that Bruch quickly gained a reputation at home and abroad with his operas, orato- rios, and cantatas. In 1882, Hugo Riemann even ranked him above Johannes Brahms in the first edition of his authoritative music lexicon. However, it is significant that only five years later, Riemann – despite describ- ing Bruch as “one of our most important composers in the field of choral composi- tion” – no longer allotted him a place among the “immortals”. In a rapidly changing music scene, in which Liszt, Wagner, Strauss, Mahler, and later Schoenberg provided new impulses, Bruch continued to write in a “traditional” style, characterized by a rich melody with clear, classical structuring. Recalcitrant and proud as he was, Bruch had already taken a stand back in the 1860s against the “Zukünftler” (= composers of the future), to whom he was wont to refer playfully as “Kuhzünftler ”. Among others, he spoke of the great “Kunstschweinestall” (= art pig-sty) of Hugo Wolf and Richard Strauss, and the “gruesome products of Herr R. Strauss, Herr Reger and associates”. And if we are to believe a statement in a letter to his publisher Simrock, Bruch considered himself one of the few “who, together with Brahms, now still perpetuate music in accor- dance with its true, organic nature.”