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Max BRUCH (1838-1920)
Violin Concerto No.1 Op.26 (1868) [25.21]
Konzertstück Op.84 (1910) [17.53]
Romanze Op.42 (1874) [10.13]
Maxim Fedotov (violin)
Russian Philharmonic Orchestra/Dmitry Yablonsky
rec. Studio 5, KULTURA TV and Radio Co., Moscow, 28 November-3 December 2004
NAXOS 8.557689 [53.27]


Credit should go to the Fedotov/Yablonsky team for this follow up CD to their previous Naxos
disc (8.557395 -see review) which couples the Scottish Fantasy with the far less familiar Serenade Op.75. Last year EBS Records coupled the G minor concerto with its later sibling, the third in D minor, so hopefully such imaginative policies on the part of the independent record companies will wean the public off its commonly held belief that Bruch was a one-work composer, of that concerto and little else. As far as works for the violin and orchestra are concerned there are nine of them, which back in the 1980s Philips produced as a boxed set of vinyl played by Accardo under Masur. Only five of these were transferred to CD (Philips 462 167-2), with neither the Romanze nor the Konzertstück among them.** The Romanze is available on Fleur de son 57925 and Vox Classics VXP 7906, but to the best of my knowledge this Naxos Konzertstück is a premiere in CD format.

In 1870 Bruch opted for a freelance career as a composer after five years at Coblenz and Sondershausen respectively. This pattern of alternating the security of a paid conducting post with the freelance option as a composer would persist until 1890 when he became professor of composition in Berlin. Bruch never again achieved the success of his first violin concerto. Curiously it was through his secular oratorios such as Odysseus in 1870 that his fame spread, even to England, where its success eventually led to his appointment to Liverpool in 1880.  As far as violin concertos were concerned, he attempted a second early in 1874, but his love life was going through a troubled patch, and after completing the first movement he lost his muse, the rest of the work becoming no more than ‘a glimmer of ideas’. He was, however pleased with what he had written and encouraged by positive responses from his friends and colleagues, so he decided to publish it as a single movement Romanze. Based on two typically lyrical melodies, according to one critic it was based on the Nordic Saga of ‘Gudrun’s Lament by the Sea’, but knowing the composer’s aversion to programmatic music and what was happening to him at the time, it is far more likely to be subtitled ‘Max’s Lament by the Rhine for Amalie Heydweiller’, whose love he had just lost. As the first movement to his projected second violin concerto it is unusual in that it is slow. Interestingly Bruch persists with this idea when he did indeed come to write the work some three years later.

By the time Bruch came to write the Konzertstück he was over seventy years old. It was written for the American violinist Maud Powell, and again it became a truncated concerto, although this time in two linked movements rather than one. It was dedicated to Willy Hess, who Bruch had helped to return from his post as leader of the Boston Symphony Orchestra to teach at the Berlin Music Academy - he had also led the Hallé Orchestra and frequently performed Bruch’s concertos. Powell gave its first performance at the Norfolk Festival in Connecticut on 8 June 1911, and part of the work was subsequently recorded, the first music by Bruch to be so. ‘She has played the Adagio alone, half of it cut, into a machine (!!!). I told her a few truths’, he wrote later that month. This Adagio uses the Irish folksong ‘The Little Red Lark’ underlining the composer’s love for folk music. It is a beautiful movement, reminiscent of the Adagio from Op.26, written soon after the death of his great friend and violin-adviser Joachim, and is the last music Bruch wrote for solo violin and orchestra. Four decades later, the circle had been completed.

Fedotov’s playing takes no hostages; it is full-blooded in sound and passionately committed, at the same time clinically judged in clean intonation and phrasing, nevertheless the famous Adagio in the G minor concerto should bring a tear to the eye. Tempi are studied, his passage work and double-stopping technique impressively faultless, especially if you like that Eastern European roughness which, for some ears, can be brittle. He clearly loves Bruch’s music, this is no mere ‘gig’. Despite some crude sounds from the heavy brass, the orchestra and conductor serve him well and the acoustics are spaciously resonant, even if possibly added in post-production. If only because works other than Op.26 are featured, especially the beautiful Konzertstück, Bruch would have approved.

Christopher Fifield

see also Review by Michael Cookson June Bargain of the Month

Note received from Ken Gerberg
Christopher Fifield's review on the latest Naxos release of Bruch vioin & orchestra selections, neglected to state that all nine works that were originally released on LP were also released on a 3 cd set (Philips 432282-2).

Further Information received

I thought Christopher Fifield and Ken Gerberg might like to know that Accardos recordings of the Bruch violin concerti and Scottish Fantasy & Serenade for vln & orch op.75 are still available on a Philips Duo. 4621672 AmazonUK The other pieces for violin & orchestra, including the Konzertstück in F sharp minor are available together with Bruchs symphonies on a second Philips Duo.4621642 AmazonUK
Greetings, Roman T.Pawlik


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