Recently I attended a concert featuring clarinet, piano and viola pieces of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Robert Alexander Schumann and Max Christian Friedrich Bruch. I had never heard of Max Bruch, the German composer.
The second half of the concert was devoted to Bruch’s Acht Stücke opus 83 or Eight Pieces. In the concert hall it seemed as though the 38 minutes of the Eight Pieces went quickly.
There was a sterling quality to them. Sometimes a haunting undertone was present, which enrobed one in the moment of listening to pieces over 100 years old.
Acht Stücke was composed in 1910 when Bruch was in his early 70s. He dedicated the composition to Sophie Helene Cecilie Prinzessin von Schönburg-Waldenburg or, as she was commonly known, Princess Sophie of Albania, who was twenty-five.
After a long life, Bruch thought his days of creativity were over, but the wellsprings of creativity seem to flow under the crusty surface of age. They just needed a tap or two to reemerge.
The Eight Pieces:
Allegro molto 2.32
Andante con moto 6.41
Allegro agitato 3.54
Rumanische Melodie 4.29
Allegro vivace, ma non troppo 3.31
Bruch composed over 200 works in his longevity. He was a remarkable man who witnessed history first hand as Europe and the world changed about him, especially the First World War and the virulent Influenza Pandemic.
Bruch is buried with his beloved wife Clara at the Old Saint Matthäus (Matthew) Churchyard Cemetery in Berlin. The cemetery is famous for being:
“A cemetery full of fairy tales – from Snow White to the Frog King to the König von Deutschland. A cemetery full of real-life stories – the fight against diseases, the struggle for tolerance and resistance against dictatorship. The Alter St. Matthäus-Kirchhof has many tales to tell.” https://www.visitberlin.de/en/old-st-matthaus-churchyard
Margaretha, Max and Clara’s daughter, added the following to their tombstone:
“Musik Ist Die Sprache Gottes” translated means “music is the language of God”. Perhaps, in the far shores of the cosmic ocean, empyreal harmonies are created by the hands and voices that were in tune with the celestial polyphonies as they composed their works on this planet traversing the cosmos.
Margaretha, poet and author, is buried with her parents. She died on January 27, 1963 after a long life where she saw her world change with each passing decade.
G. D. Williams © 2019
Max Christian Friedrich Bruch (January 6, 1838-October 2, 1920)
Max Bruch, in full Max Karl August Bruch, (born January 6, 1838, Cologne, Prussia [Germany]—died October 2, 1920, Friedenau [now in Berlin], Germany), German composer remembered chiefly for his virtuoso violin concerti.
Max Bruch (1838–1920) was a German romantic composer and conductor who wrote over 200 works. He wrote three violin concertos, the first of which, in G Minor has become a staple of the violin repertoire.
Bruch demonstrated an exceptional childhood precocity. He was composing by the age of ten and continued to produce remarkably assured pieces in a wide range of genres throughout his early teens.
The problem with poor Max Bruch was that he was born too late. What he produced is art that seems to give off an invisible radiance, one you can feel on your flushed cheeks, deep within your heart as you listen. This is art that got overlooked because it came just a little too late in the cycle of things, in the relentless push of progress, in the seeking out of a new sound, something less classically romantic, more gritty and provocative…
While Bruch continued on with a successful career, composing, teaching, conducting, what have you, history turned its back on him. It cast him as a side note to the masters and deemed his repertoire, with the exception of his Violin Concerto and Kol Nidrei, largely forgettable. Not music you will hear too frequently in today’s concert halls.
Eight Pieces (Acht Stücke), Op. 83 (for clarinet, viola and piano)
Having composed no chamber music for several decades, he wrote the Eight Pieces for clarinet, viola and piano in 1909; the set was published the following year by his loyal publisher Simrock. They belong to the genre of character pieces by Schumann such as the eight Fantasiestücke Op.12 and in particular the quartet of Märchenerzählungen Op.113 (Fairy Tales) scored for the same combination of instruments. According to Clara Schumann, her husband’s own description for the Märchenerzählungen was ‘highly Romantic’, and the same might justly be said of Bruch’s effort in imitation, half a century on.
Sophie Helene Cecilie Prinzessin von Schönburg-Waldenburg (May 21, 1885-February 3, 1936)