Bruch, Max


An eminent German composer and conductor, specially distinguished in the field of the epic cantata. He was born at Cologne, his mother being a singer and teacher, and a member of a family of marked musical talent. From her, Max received his first instruction in music, and his further training progressed under her guidance. While studying with Breidenstein at Bonn he was considered a remarkably promising pupil. Gaining the scholarship of the Mozart Foundation, which assured him an income for four years, he was enabled to continue his musical education under Killer, Reinecke, and Breuning, the while producing some work and making his name known. Then for three years, from 1858 to 1861, he was engaged in teaching in his native town, and here, at the age of twenty, he set Goethe's Scherz, List und Rache, this operetta being his first dramatic composition. Bruch's first composition, produced at the age of fourteen, was a symphony. Visits to various musical centers, Vienna, Berlin, Dresden, Leipsic, and Munich, aided in his development. In the city of Mannheim, in 1863, his opera The Lorelei was produced, written to the libretto prepared by the poet Geibel for Mendelssohn.

The Lorelei was followed by the great male chorus-cantata Frithjof, still considered one of his best works. His most successful work is the heroic cantata Odysseus; another great work, Arminius, Bruch likes best of all his compositions. Achilleus and Lied von der Glocke, works for solos, choir and orchestra, should be included in a mention of Bruch's most important creations. Of the composer's accomplishment in this field, Grove gives this estimate: " Bruch's real field is concert music for chorus and orchestra; he is above all a master of melody, and of the effective treatment of masses of sound. Bruch's melody is not drawn from hidden depths of innermost feeling, but rather from the upper surface of his nature; yet it is true, unconstrained, natural, and excellent in structure, broad, impressive, and vocal." In addition to the compositions mentioned, Bruch has written many songs, three symphonies, choruses, pieces for the piano, violin concertos, the oratorio Moses, and the opera Hermione, based on The Winter's Tale. His first violin concerto is very well known.

Bruch was musical director at Coblenz from 1865 to 1867, and from 1867 to 1870 court-conductor at Sondershausen. On resigning the latter post, he resided for a while at Berlin, and then went to Bonn, where he remained for five years, devoting all his time to composition. In 1878 he succeeded Stockhausen as director of the Stern Singing Society in Berlin. In 1880 he was invited to Liverpool, as director of the Philharmonic Society, and for three years occupied this post; resigning to become director of the Orchestral Society at Breslau. Later he was appointed director in the branch of composition at the Royal Hochschule in Berlin, in which city he now resides and which post he still occupies. In 1881 he married the singer Emma Tuczek, of Berlin. Max Bruch holds honorary degrees from Breslau University and Cambridge University and is corresponding member of the French Academy of Fine Arts.