Bruch – Romanze for Viola in F Major, Op. 85

by Max Derrickson

Max Bruch     (Born Cologne, Germany, 1838; died Friedenau (near Berlin), Germany, 1920)

Romanze for Viola in F Major, Op. 85

Max Bruch launched his composing career with opera.  He was exceptionally able at writing for voice – some of his sacred and secular choral works are exquisite Romantic gems – and this talent served him well throughout his long career.  All of his pieces, for voice or instrument, are richly tuneful, lyrical and delightfully sing-able.  His deepest desire was to write music that would be pleasing to his listeners.  Deeply rich, Romantic and beautiful melodies were his craft, and in this he was truly gifted.  His craft was recognized, too – he occupied a respected place among Germany’s composers in his lifetime, and rose to one of that guild’s most respected positions as Chairman of the Royal Academy of the Arts in Berlin.

His best known instrumental works are his First Concerto and the Scottish Rhapsody for violin.   But late in his career Bruch set about a project of writing soloistic works for the lesser celebrated instruments, and from this came the gorgeous Romance for Viola and Orchestra in 1912.  In keeping with his aesthetics of composing,

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As with most of Bruch’s compositions, this is a deeply satisfying work in the way that it leaves us breathing slower, closing our eyes and curling up in its aural coziness.

The reception to this work in 1912, however, was not quite as cozy.  Already the musical world had moved past the instantly gratifying works that Bruch and his heroes had produced.  Audiences and critics of the day were busily reacting to more esoteric approaches to music –
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But his works are finding audiences today, and his Romance for Viola, though still relatively unknown, ranks as one of his most outstandingly beautiful creations.