Some composers, no matter how prolific, are known for just one work – Pachelbel and his Canon, Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur and Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary. Max Bruch (1838-1920) is a case in point. Bruch happened to compose one of the best loved of all violin concertos – the Concerto No 1 in G minor – which has tended to obscure the fact that he also wrote a significant quantity of other music including three symphonies, three operas, chamber music, sacred music and songs. That said, Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy for violin and orchestra and Kol nidrei for cello and orchestra are not entirely forgotten and have found a place in the concert repertory to a greater or lesser extent. A slightly younger contemporary of Johannes Brahms, Bruch lived through the period that saw Germany transformed from a patchwork of kingdoms, duchies and free city-states (indeed, he wrote the Violin Concerto No 1 while music director at the court of Koblenz in 1865-7) to a united country and, later still, a defeated nation at the end of World War I. Put another way, Mendelssohn and Chopin were alive in his childhood and Schoenberg and Stravinsky were on the rise in his old age. Born in Cologne, Bruch held conducting posts in Berlin, Liverpool and Breslau (present-day Wroclaw) and taught composition at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin where his pupils included Ottorino Respighi and Ralph Vaughan Williams. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Cambridge in 1893.
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