Monday, April 9, 2012

Bruch - Symphony No. 1

Max Bruch's music aesthetics put him squarely in the camp of Brahms and other so-called conservative composers.  But the fact that a composer is or isn't conservative only refers to their style and content of their compositions. Like many other labels, it groups people into a readily identified unit that by its very nature is broad and somewhat prejudicial.

It's not that the conservative label doesn't fit Bruch, for it certainly does. But the conservative label doesn't mean that Bruch was a mediocre composer. On the contrary, he had a wonderful melodic gift and he was a master of orchestration,  as his popular Violin Concerto No. 1 and Scottish Fantasy For Violin and Orchestra readily attest.  So it's good to try and go further than just the labels that are put on people. This is pretty good advice for all facets of life, not just music. When we acquiesce to a label given to someone, we cease to think, discover and explore about that person for ourselves. We are in essence taking someone else's opinion without question or examination, an opinion arrived at through their own particular frames of reference, knowledge, taste, and yes, prejudice.

Bruch's Symphony No. 1 in E -flat was composed in 1867 and dedicated to Johannes Brahms. It is in the traditional 4 movements:
1) Allegro maestoso -  Bruch was a master of sonata form and used it in his own way to express himself musically.  The first movement is in sonata form and opens with a grand theme stated by bassoons and horn:
This is not the initial theme of the exposition proper. It is a type of introduction to the initial theme which follows shortly after. After the initial theme is heard, the introductory theme is restated, and the second theme is played. At the end of the second theme, parts of the introduction appear again and the exposition continues with the repeating of the initial and secondary themes. The introduction also plays a large part in the development section as it plays off and against the other themes until the theme itself is varied and leads directly into the recapitulation of the other two themes of the first movement. Bruch's personalized use of sonata form shows why the form was so prevalent for so long in classical music. It is a way to give form and direction to a piece of music while still maintaining a semblance of allowable variation in the use of the form itself to suit the music and the composer.

2) Scherzo. Presto -  This scherzo scurries along somewhat like the music of Mendelssohn, a composer that Bruch emulated in his popular Violin Concerto.

3) Quasi fantasia. Grave -  A heart-felt slow movement, somber in orchestration.

4) Finale. Allegro guerriero -  The Finale begins without pause and is marked 'guerriero' - war-like or militarily. Not so much as a struggle as between two enemies in war, but as a swaggering, self-confident military unit passing by on galloping horses .

 

1 comment:

  1. To begin with, it is commendable that you have shared such a rare gem of music. These Bruch symphonies have been hidden from the standard repertoire. Thanks for posting. Leipzig and Masur are adequate.
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