Max Bruch (6 January 1838–2 October 1920) was a German Romantic composer and conductor who wrote over 200 works but only a handful of his works get performed currently. Today his fame rests largely on this piece; the Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26, which has become a mainstay of the violin repertoire. Other works by Bruch that you may encounter are his Scottish Fantasy, Op. 46 for violin & orchestra and Kol Nidrei, Op. 47 on Hebrew themes for cello & orchestra. Both of these pieces are well worth exploring.
This concerto was written in three movements. The first marked Allegro molto appassionato is a rhapsodic prelude whose opening drum roll and sombre woodwind theme introduce an impassioned flourish for the solo violin. The orchestral part soon gains a more rhythmic pattern against which the violinist pits a new, dramatic theme. At the emd of the movement, the initial flourishes return in a more pronounced form and provide a link to the central adagio. This second movement is the emotional heart of the piece and contains many beautiful themes; the first three introduced on the violin and the fourth by horn and woodwind. The final movement is a sparkling, dance-like allegro that, perhaps in tribute to the great Hungarian-born violinist Joseph Joachim (for whom Bruch wrote the piece), has a strong Hungarian feel about it.
For our collection we have chosen a performance starring Anne-Sophie Mutter the German violinist who was supported early in her career by the great conductor Herbert von Karajan. This magnificently played and conducted version was recorded in 1980 but still holds ones attention 37 years later. Herbert von Karajan does not dominate the performance (something he had a tendency to do when conducting concerti) allowing Anne-Sophie Mutter to steal the show with a warm, singing quality throughout the work. In particular in the slow movement her playing sounds absolutely gorgeous.
For the vinyl fans reading this, I am pleased to say that this performance has just been re-issued on DG (Catalogue No: 4797220).