Max Bruch

Max Bruch[a] (6 January 1838 – 2 October 1920) was a German Romantic composer, teacher, and conductor who wrote over 200 works, including three violin concertos, the first of which has become a staple of the violin repertory.

Max Bruch
Max bruch
Born6 January 1838
Died2 October 1920 (aged 82)
EraLate Romantic
Notable work
See List of compositions by Max Bruch
Spouse(s)Clara Tuczek
Parent(s)August and Wilhelmine Bruch
Signature Max Bruch

Early life and education

Max Bruch was born in 1838 in Cologne to Wilhelmine (née Almenräder), a singer, and August Carl Friedrich Bruch, a lawyer who became vice president of the Cologne police. Max had a sister, Mathilde ("Till").[1] He received his early musical training under the composer and pianist Ferdinand Hiller, to whom Robert Schumann dedicated his piano concerto in A minor. The Bohemian composer and piano virtuoso Ignaz Moscheles recognized his aptitude.[2]

At the age of nine, Bruch wrote his first composition, a song for his mother's birthday. From then on music was his passion, and his studies were enthusiastically supported by his parents. He wrote many minor early works including motets, psalm settings, piano pieces, violin sonatas, a string quartet, and even orchestral works such as the prelude to a planned opera, Joan of Arc. Few of these early works have survived, and the whereabouts of most of his surviving compositions is unknown.

The first music theory lesson he had was in 1849 in Bonn; it was given by Professor Heinrich Carl Breidenstein, a friend of his father's. At this time, Bruch was staying at an estate in Bergisch Gladbach, where he wrote much of his music. The farm belonged to a lawyer and notary called Neissen, who lived in it with his unmarried sister. The estate was later bought by the Zanders, family who owned a large paper mill. The young Bruch was taught French and English conversation by his father. In later years, Maria Zanders became a friend and patron.[3]


Bruch had a long career as a teacher, conductor and composer, moving among musical posts in Germany: Mannheim (1862–1864), Koblenz (1865–1867), Sondershausen (1867–1870), Berlin (1870–1872), and Bonn, where he spent 1873–78 working privately. 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 included the German pianist, composer, and writer Clara Mathilda Faisst (1872-1948). See: List of music students by teacher: A to B#Max Bruch.

Bruch's grave, at the Old St. Matthäus churchyard at Berlin-Schöneberg

Personal life and final years

Bruch married Clara Tuczek, a singer whom he had met on tour, in Berlin on 3 January 1881. The couple returned to Liverpool and took lodgings in Sefton Park. Their daughter, Margaretha, was born in Liverpool in 1882. Bruch died in his house in Berlin-Friedenau in 1920. He was buried, next to his wife (who had died on 26 August the previous year), at the Old St. Matthäus churchyard at Berlin-Schöneberg. Margaretha later had carved on the gravestone "Music is the language of God".[4]


Rathausturm Köln - Max Bruch
Sculpture on the restored tower of the Cologne City Hall

Bruch's complex and 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, and to his chagrin was often overshadowed by his friend Brahms, who was more popular and widely regarded.

Today, as it was during his life, Bruch's 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, including the linking of movements, as well as omitting the Classical opening orchestral exposition and other conservative formal structural devices of earlier concertos. Despite these modifications to the conventional Romantic style, Bruch was often considered a conservative composer.

The two other works of Bruch which are still widely played were also written for solo string instrument with orchestra: the Scottish Fantasy for violin and orchestra, which includes an arrangement of the tune "Hey Tuttie Tatie", best known for its use in the song "Scots Wha Hae" by Robert Burns; and the Kol Nidrei, Op. 47, for cello and orchestra (subtitled "Adagio on Hebrew Melodies for Violoncello and Orchestra"), which starts and ends with the solo cello's setting of the Kol Nidre ("All Vows ... ") incantation which begins the Jewish (Ashkenazic) Yom Kippur service. This work may well have inspired Ernest Bloch's Schelomo (subtitled "Hebrew Rhapsody") of 1916, an even more passionate and extended one-movement composition, also with a Jewish subject and also for solo cello and orchestra.

The success of Kol Nidrei led to the assumption by many that Bruch was of Jewish ancestry, although the composer himself refuted this. Indeed, as long as the National Socialist Party was in power (1933-1945), performance of his music was restricted because he was considered a possible Jew for having written music with an openly Jewish theme, despite repeated denials by his surviving family. As a result, his music was largely forgotten in German-speaking countries. There is no evidence, however, that Bruch was Jewish. As far as can be ascertained, none of his ancestors were Jews. Bruch himself was given the middle name Christian,[1] and was raised Protestant.[5]

In the realm of chamber music, Bruch is not well known, although his "Eight Pieces for Clarinet, Viola and Piano" are occasionally revived, there being very little other music written for this rare combination of instruments. As with Brahms, who had produced his clarinet compositions with a particular clarinetist in mind, so did Bruch write these trios for his own son Max. These pieces do not stand alone, however, in Bruch's output. Nevertheless, he wrote many pieces in the chamber music tradition, of which his septet is noteworthy. His first major pieces, composed at the start of his career, are two string quartets that are similar in tone and intensity to Schumann's string quartets (Op. 41). The composition of his second piano quintet is intriguing, as he began while conductor of the Liverpool Philharmonic Society. Although written for amateurs, it is a fair composition and was completed only after Bruch was gently persuaded, after leaving Liverpool, to finish the last movement.

Bruch und Zanders
Memorial for Bruch and Maria Zanders in the pedestrian zone of Bergisch Gladbach city centre

In 1918, towards the end of his life, Bruch once more considered smaller ensembles with the composition of two string quintets, of which one served as the basis for a string octet, written in 1920 for four violins, two violas, cello and a double bass. This octet is somewhat at odds with the innovative style of the decade. While composers such as Schönberg and Stravinsky were part of the forward-looking modern trend, Bruch and others tried to keep composing within the Romantic tradition, effectively glorifying a form of Late Romanticism and avoiding the revolutionary spirit that was engulfing the then-defeated Germany. All three of these late chamber works exhibit a 'concertante' style in which the first violin part is predominant and contains much of the musical interest. By the time they came to be performed professionally for the first time, in the 1930s, Bruch's reputation had deteriorated and he was known only for the famous Concerto.[6]

Bruch's other works include two concerti for violin and orchestra, No. 2 in D minor (1878) and No. 3 in D minor (1891) (which Bruch himself regarded as at least as fine as the famous first); as well as a lovely and melodic Concerto for Clarinet, Viola and Orchestra, and many more pieces for violin, viola or cello and orchestra. His three symphonies contain distinctive German Romantic melodic writing effectively orchestrated.

To this triple output he added three orchestral suites in later life, of which the third has a remarkable history. The origin can be found in Capri, where Bruch had witnessed a procession in which a tuba played a tune that "could very well be the basis of a funeral march", and would be the basis of this suite, finished in 1909. The American Sutro sisters piano duo, Rose and Ottilie Sutro, however, had asked Bruch for a concerto specifically for them, which he produced by arranging this suite into a double piano concerto, but only to be played within the Americas and not beyond. The Concerto in A-flat minor for Two Pianos and Orchestra, Op. 88a, was finished in 1912 for the Sutros, but was never played in the original version. They performed the work only twice, in two different versions of their own. The score was withdrawn in 1917 and rediscovered only after Ottilie Sutro's death in 1970. The sisters also played a major part in the fate of the manuscript of the Violin Concerto No. 1: Bruch had sent it to them to be sold in the United States, but they kept it and sold it for profit themselves.

Violinists Joseph Joachim and Willy Hess advised Bruch on his writing for that instrument, and Hess premiered some of his works including the Concert Piece for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 84, which was composed for him.


  1. ^ In the literature his full name appears either as Max Christian Friedrich Bruch or Max Karl August Bruch


  1. ^ a b Fifield 2005, p. 15.
  2. ^ Fifield 2005, p. 25.
  3. ^ Fifield 2005, p. 98.
  4. ^ Fifield 2005, p. 287.
  5. ^ Fifield 2005, p. 109.
  6. ^ Tully Potter, notes to Hyperion Records CD CDA68168 (2017).


  • Fifield, Christopher (2005). Max Bruch: His Life and Works. Woodbridge: Boydell Press. ISBN 1-8438-3136-8.

Further reading

External links

Arminius (Bruch)

Arminius (op. 43) is an oratorio by the German composer Max Bruch. Bruch wrote the work between 1875 and 1877 during the consolidation of the newly founded German Empire. He picked the story revolving around Arminius and the Cherusci-led defeat of three Roman legions in the Teutoburg Forest in 9 A.D., which served as a German national myth from the 16th to the early 20th century.

Clarinet-viola-piano trio

A clarinet-viola-piano trio, often titled "Trio for Clarinet, Viola and Piano" is a work of chamber music that is scored for three musicians: one clarinet, one viola, and one piano; or is the designation for a musical ensemble of such a group.

This combination of instruments differs from the traditional piano trio instrumentation, i.e. piano, violin and violoncello, and from the clarinet-violin-piano trio and the clarinet-cello-piano trio by the fact that the viola and the clarinet share roughly the same range. The combination of viola and clarinet is thus distinguished by the timbre (tone quality or colour) of the instruments rather than register (high versus low ranges, like violin compared with cello).

Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) was the first to write for this combination of instruments with his "Kegelstatt" Trio, K.498 (1786). The Trio, along with his subsequent Clarinet Quintet, K.581 (1789) and Clarinet Concerto, K.622 (1791) were written at a time when the clarinet was a relatively newly invented instrument. These three compositions, which feature the clarinet, were largely responsible for popularizing the instrument's use in chamber and orchestral works. German composers Robert Schumann (1810–1856) and Max Bruch (1838–1920) also wrote notable works for this trio combination.

Concerto for Clarinet, Viola, and Orchestra

The Concerto for Clarinet, Viola, and Orchestra in E minor, Op. 88, by Max Bruch was composed in 1911 for his son, Max Felix Bruch, and received its first performance in 1912, with Willy Hess (viola) and Max Felix Bruch (clarinet) as the soloists. It consists of three movements:

Andante con moto

Allegro moderato

Allegro moltoA typical performance lasts approximately 20 minutes.

The work is sometimes arranged and performed as a concerto for violin and viola.

Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra (Bruch)

The Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra, Op. 88a, was written by Max Bruch in 1912. It is in 4 movements, written in the rarely seen key of A-flat minor, and takes about 25 minutes to perform.

It is sometimes referred to as Bruch's Double Concerto, although this could also refer to his Concerto for Clarinet, Viola, and Orchestra, Op. 88 (1911). There are claims that the two-piano concerto is based on the earlier concerto, but thematically these two works seem to have little or nothing in common, and this supposed relationship seems to be an erroneous assumption based purely on the works having similar opus numbers.

Die Loreley (Bruch)

Die Loreley is a German-language opera by Max Bruch on a libretto by Emanuel Geibel originally intended for Mendelssohn.

Hermione (opera)

Hermione is an opera in 4 acts, Op.40, by Max Bruch to a libretto by Emil Hopffer based on Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale. The opera premiered March 21, 1872, in Berlin.

Kol Nidrei (Bruch)

Kol Nidrei, Op. 47 (also known as All Vows, the meaning of the phrase in Aramaic), is a composition for cello and orchestra written by Max Bruch.Bruch completed the composition in Liverpool, England, in 1880 and published it in Berlin in 1881. It was dedicated to and premiered by Robert Hausmann, who later co-premiered Johannes Brahms's Double Concerto with Joseph Joachim, the dedicatee of Bruch's most famous work, the Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor. Hausmann had requested such a cello work from Bruch.It is styled as an Adagio on 2 Hebrew Melodies for Cello and Orchestra with Harp and consists of a series of variations on two main themes of Jewish origin. The first theme, which also lends the piece its title, comes from the Kol Nidre declaration, which is recited during the evening service on Yom Kippur. In Bruch's setting of the melody, the cello imitates the rhapsodic voice of the cantor who chants the liturgy in the synagogue. The second subject of the piece is quoted from the middle section of Isaac Nathan's arrangement of "O Weep for Those that Wept on Babel's Stream", a lyric which was penned by Lord Byron in his collection Hebrew Melodies (which also includes the famous poem "She Walks in Beauty").

Bruch was a Protestant and first became acquainted with the Kol Nidre melody when his teacher Ferdinand Hiller introduced him to the Lichtenstein family, the head of which served as the cantor-in-chief of Berlin. Cantor Abraham Jacob Lichtenstein was known to have cordial relations with many Christian musicians and supported Bruch's interest in Jewish folk music. While some commentators, including Abraham Zevi Idelsohn, have criticized the lack of Jewish sentiment in Bruch's concert-hall Kol Nidrei, Bruch never presumed to write Jewish music. He only wished to incorporate Jewish inspirations into his own compositions.

The work is scored for solo cello, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, harp and strings.

List of compositions by Max Bruch

This list of compositions by Max Bruch is sorted by genre.

Moses (Bruch)

Moses: ein biblisches Oratorium, Op. 67 is an 1895 oratorio by Max Bruch, on a text by Ludwig Spitta for soprano, tenor, and bass.

Oscar Straus (composer)

Oscar Nathan Straus (6 March 1870 – 11 January 1954) was a Viennese composer of operettas and film scores and songs. He also wrote about 500 cabaret songs, chamber music, and orchestral and choral works. His original name was actually Strauss, but for professional purposes he deliberately omitted the final 's', since he wished not to be associated with the musical Strauss family of Vienna. However, he did follow the advice of Johann Strauss II in 1898 about abandoning the prospective lure of writing waltzes for the more lucrative business of writing for the theatre.

The son of a Jewish family, he studied music in Berlin under Max Bruch, and became an orchestral conductor, working at the Überbrettl cabaret. He went back to Vienna and began writing operettas, becoming a serious rival to Franz Lehár. When Lehár's popular The Merry Widow premiered in 1905, Straus was said to have remarked "Das kann ich auch!" (I can also do that!). In 1939, following the Nazi Anschluss, he fled to Paris, where he received the honour of a Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur, and then to Hollywood. After the war, he returned to Europe, and settled at Bad Ischl, where he died.

Straus' best-known works are Ein Walzertraum (A Waltz Dream), and The Chocolate Soldier (Der tapfere Soldat). The waltz arrangement from the former is probably his most enduring orchestral work. Among his most famous works is the theme from the 1950 film La Ronde.

Romance in A minor (Bruch)

Max Bruch's Romance for Violin and Orchestra in A minor, Op. 42, was composed in 1874. Bruch had intended the piece to form the first movement of a projected second violin concerto. However the composer found himself unable to progress beyond the first movement and chose to publish the work as a standalone concert piece dedicated to violinist Robert Heckmann who along with Joseph Joachim had assisted Bruch with the violin part.

Rose and Ottilie Sutro

Rose Sutro (15 September 1870 – 11 January 1957) and Ottilie Sutro (4 January 1872 – 12 September 1970) were American sisters who were notable as one of the first recognised duo-piano teams. It has been claimed they were the first such team, but Willi and Louis Thern preceded them by almost 30 years. They had a significant association with the German composer Max Bruch.

Scottish Fantasy

The Scottish Fantasy in E-flat major, Op. 46, is a composition for violin and orchestra by Max Bruch. Completed in 1880, it was dedicated to the virtuoso violinist Pablo de Sarasate.

It is a four-movement fantasy on Scottish folk melodies. The first movement is built on "Through the Wood Laddie". This tune, with its prominent Scots snap, also appears at the end of the second and fourth movements. The second movement is built around "The Dusty Miller", the third on "I'm A' Doun for Lack O' Johnnie", and the fourth movement includes a sprightly arrangement of "Hey Tuttie Tatie", the tune in the patriotic anthem "Scots Wha Hae" (with lyrics by Robert Burns).

Although Bruch visited Scotland for the first time only a year after the premiere of the work, he had access to a collection of Scottish music at Munich library in 1868. In paying homage to Scottish tradition, the work gives a prominent place to the harp in the instrumental accompaniment to the violin. The Scottish Fantasy is one of several signature pieces by Bruch that is still widely heard today, along with his first violin concerto and Kol Nidrei for cello and orchestra.


A septet is a formation containing exactly seven members. It is commonly associated with musical groups, but can be applied to any situation where seven similar or related objects are considered a single unit, such as a seven-line stanza of poetry.

In jazz music a septet is any group of seven players, usually containing a drum set, string bass or electric bass, and groups of one or two of the following instruments, guitar, piano, trumpet, saxophone, clarinet, or trombone.

One of the most famous classical septets is the Septet in E-flat major, Op. 20, by Ludwig van Beethoven, composed around 1799–1800, for clarinet, bassoon, horn, violin, viola, cello, and double bass. The popularity of Beethoven's septet made its combination of instruments a standard for subsequent composers, including Conradin Kreutzer (Op. 62, 1822), Franz Berwald, and Adolphe Blanc (Op. 40, ca. 1864), and, with small changes in the instrumentation, Franz Lachner (1824), and Max Bruch (1849). When Franz Schubert added a second violin in 1824 for his Octet, he created a standard octet that influenced many other subsequent composers (Kube 2001). The Septet in E-flat major, Op. 65, for trumpet, piano, string quartet, and double bass by Camille Saint-Saëns from 1881 is one of that composer's works. The modern composer Bohuslav Martinů wrote three septets: a group of six dances called Les Rondes for oboe, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, two violins, and piano (1930); a piece called Serenade No. 3 for oboe, clarinet, four violins, and cello (1932); and a Fantasie for theremin, oboe, piano, and string quartet (1944). Darius Milhaud composed a String Septet in 1964 for string sextet and double bass. Paul Hindemith composed a wind septet in 1948 for flute, oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon, horn, and trumpet. Hanns Eisler composed two septets, both scored for flute, clarinet, bassoon, and string quartet: Septet No. 1 Op. 92a ("Variations on American Children's Songs") (1941), and Septet No. 2 ("Circus") (1947), after Chaplin’s 1928 movie The Circus. Two component works in the series of Chôros by the Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos are scored for seven instruments: No. 3 (1925), subtitled "Pica-páo" (Woodpecker), is for clarinet, bassoon, saxophone, 3 horns, and trombone (or for male chorus, or for both together), and No. 7 (1924), actually subtitled "Septet", is for flute, oboe, clarinet, saxophone, bassoon, violin, and cello (with tam-tam ad lib.).

There are many 20th-century works for seven instruments for which it is uncertain whether the term "septet" should be used, since they may not obviously be chamber music or have titles indicating otherwise. Examples include Maurice Ravel's Introduction and Allegro (1905), Rudi Stephan's Music for Seven String Instruments (1911), Leoš Janáček's Concertino (1925), Arnold Schoenberg's Suite, Op. 29 (1925–26), Isang Yun's Music for Seven Instruments (1959), Aribert Reimann's Reflexionen (1966), and Dieter Schnebel's In motu proprio canon for seven instruments of the same kind (1975) (Kube 2001).

Serenade (Bruch)

Max Bruch's Serenade in A minor, Op. 75 is a composition for violin and orchestra and was composed in 1899.

Swedish Dances Op. 63 (Max Bruch)

The Swedish Dances Op. 63 (German: Schwedische Tänze) by Max Bruch is a set of 15 dances. They were published in two books by N. Simrock in 1892 in Berlin. There are versions for violin and piano solo (first version), four-hand piano duet, military band, and full


Book 1

Dance I: Einleitung (langsam, 2/4).-sehr mäßig (3/4) in D minor

Dance II: Ruhig bewegt. (3/4) in D major

Dance III: Frisch, nicht zu schnell. (3/4) in D minor

Dance IV: Langsam, nicht schleppend.-Ein wenig belebter.- Langsam, nicht schleppend. (3/4)in B-flat major

Dance V: Ziemlich schnell. (3/4) in G minor

Dance VI: Langsam, mit Ausdruck. (3/4)in E-flat major

Dance VII: Lebhaft. (3/8)in B-flat majorBook 2:

Dance VIII: Sehr mässig. (3/4)in F minor

Dance IX: Lebhaft. (3/4)in F major

Dance X: Frisch, nicht zu schnell. (3/4) in D major

Dance XI: Sehr mässig. (3/4) in B minor

Dance XII: Langsam, nicht schleppend. (3/4) in G major

Dance XIII: Sehr mässig. (2/4) in A minor

Dance XIV: Gehend, ruhig bewegt. (2/4) in A minor

Dance XV: Sehr mässig. (3/4) in D minor

Violin Concerto No. 1 (Bruch)

Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26, is one of the most popular violin concertos in the repertoire and, along with the Scottish Fantasy, the composer’s most famous work. It has been recorded often.

Violin Concerto No. 2 (Bruch)

Max Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 44 was composed during 1877, following a failed attempt in 1874, and dedicated to the great Spanish violinist, Pablo de Sarasate. It was premiered in London by Sarasate, conducted by Bruch, on 4 November 1877.

Violin Concerto No. 3 (Bruch)

Max Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 58, was composed in 1891 and dedicated to the violinist/composer Joseph Joachim, who had persuaded him to expand a single movement concert piece into a full violin concerto.

It has never attained the same prominence as the G minor concerto.

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