Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary Composer Biographies

Max Bruch

Born: 1838
Died: 1920
Nationality: German
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Brief biography:

Bruch was born in Cologne into a musical family. His mother, a famous singer, taught him in his early years. He studied in Bonn and composed over 70 pieces of music between his nineth and fourteenth years, and he climaxed this achievement by winning a four-year scholarship to the Mozart Foundation in Frankfurt. He taught and played music as concertmaster in an orchestra for some years and then settled down to a life of composing, conducting, and occasional teaching. He spent ten years working on his G-minor violin concerto, and even after its première he made further revisions to it with much help from the famous violinist Joseph Joachim. When it was played in Liverpool, England, its success was overwhelming. Bruch was invited to conduct the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra for three years (1880 – 1883). However, the orchestra members disliked the foreigner with the heavy German accent and the little oval spectacles; Bruch turned out to be a martinet, and they were relieved to see him leave. While in Liverpool, he met and married the singer Clara Tuczek. He returned to Germany and spent the rest of his working life composing and accepting invitations as guest conductor. After 1910 he lived in retirement in Friedenau, near Berlin, until his death.

Max Bruch is often referred to as a "one-work composer" because his G-minor violin concerto is extremely popular and his other works are seldom played. However, he wrote a great deal of other music in many fields - three operas, 45 choral works, three symphonies, and 15 other works for solo instrument(s) and orchestra. His Kol Nidrei for cello and orchestra, based on the traditional chant associated with that most holy of Jewish holidays, is popular, and George Bernard Shaw considered his "Scottish Fantasy" to be superior to his concertos.

- Ted Wilks

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