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Donald Macleod explores Max Bruch’s violin works. Today his folk-inspired Scottish Fantasy leads to a falling out with two close allies.

Donald Macleod explores Max Bruch’s violin works. Today his folk inspired Scottish Fantasy leads to a falling out with two close allies.

Melody, said Bruch, represents the “soul of music” and nowhere is that better represented than in his first violin concerto. It’s a work which brought him fame and fortune, but it’s also a work he came to hate, since he believed its popularity suppressed performances of his other compositions. It’s a sentiment that has some justification, since he wrote some two hundred odd works, the majority of which are rarely performed.

Bruch’s passage through life wasn't easy. Aside from a natural outspokenness and a tendency to take umbrage, which lead to some very prickly professional relationships, he also had to contend with some unlucky timing. Born in Cologne in 1838, Bruch was five years younger than Brahms. Even though he outlived him by some twenty years Bruch remained over-shadowed by one of the great luminaries of German music.

This week though the spotlight falls firmly on Bruch, as Donald Macleod explores his concerted works for the violin, an instrument with which he had a very close relationship. Starting with that most famous example Bruch came to resent so much, you can also hear the second violin concerto, which was championed in more recent times by Itzhak Perlman, the third violin concerto, the folk-inspired Scottish Melody and one of his final utterances for the instrument, the Konzertstück, Opus 84.

Folk music caught Bruch's interest in his mid-twenties, and while, like Beethoven, he never actually set foot in Scotland, when he later coupled these tunes with his gift for melody, he found the violin was a natural partner.

Bei den roten Rosen
Darmstadt Concert Choir
Wolfgang Seeliger, conductor

Odysseus, Op 41, excerpt
Odysseus in the Underworld
Jeffrey Kneebone, baritone, Odysseus
NDR Radio Choir
Budapest Radio Choir
NDR Radio Philharmonic, Hanover
Leon Botstein, conductor

Scottish Fantasy (Excerpt)
Tasmin Little, violin
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Vernon Handley, conductor

Kol nidrei Op 47 (Adagio on Hebrew melodies)
Truls Mork, cello
Philharmonic Orchestra of Radio France
Paavo Järvi, conductor

59 minutes

Music Played

  • Max Bruch

    Bei den roten Rosen (12 Scottish Folksongs)

    Choir: Darmstadt Concert Choir. Conductor: Wolfgang Seeliger.
    • Christophorus CHE 0176-2.
    • Christophorus.
    • 6.
  • Max Bruch

    Odysseus, Op 41: Odysseus in the Underworld

    Singer: Jeffrey Kneebone. Choir: NDR Radio Choir. Choir: Budapest Radio Choir. Orchestra: NDR Radio Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Leon Botstein.
    • Koch Classics NDR 3 6557-2.
    • Koch Classics.
    • 3.
  • Max Bruch

    Scottish Fantasy, Op 46 (excerpt)

    Performer: Tasmin Little. Orchestra: Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Conductor: Vernon Handley.
    • EMI : 7243-5-66119-2-4.
    • EMI.
    • 3.
  • Max Bruch

    Kol Nidrei, Op 47 for cello and orchestra

    Performer: Truls Mørk. Orchestra: Orchestre philharmonique de Radio France. Conductor: Paavo Järvi.
    • Erato 509996158102.
    • Erato.
    • 4.

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