Bruch – Violin Concerto No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 44

by Max Derrickson

Max Bruch   (b. Cologne,Germany, 1838; d. Friedenau (nearBerlin),Germany, 1920)

Violin Concerto No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 44
1. Adagio non troppo
2. Recitativo.  Allegro moderato – Allegro – Andante sostenuto
3. Finale –  Allegro molto


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.  He occupied a respected place amongGermany’s composers in his life, and rose to one of that guild’s most respected positions as Chairman of theRoyalAcademyof the Arts inBerlin.  But he was never as revered as Mendelssohn or Brahms, nor did he follow in the flashy and avant-garde steps of Wagner and Liszt, the two main proponents of the “new German School” whose music making expanded the limits of harmony and structure.  It’s an unfortunate fact that, generally speaking, Bruch’s entire career was overshadowed by the other compositional giants of his day.  But Bruch was a tunesmith, and generally stayed within the boundaries of the kind of tonal harmonies of Mozart and Beethoven.  His philosophy behind these choices, however, was not for any lack of compositional brilliance – his deepest desire was to write music that would be pleasing to his listeners.  [. . . ]
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The Second Concerto is the kind of music that invites you in like a big chair and a book by the fireplace – the book having an exciting last chapter.  The themes are luxuriant and the harmonies comfortable.  But in this it’s also deceptive – the solo violin writing, with all of its soaring and melting lines, can be exceptionally difficult technically.  Its many and cherishable pianissimo passages are no less challenging, either, demanding the touch and sensibilities of a poet rather than a pyro-technician.  [. . .]