Have a look at this pebble. It is another souvenir from my wanderings in the Alps last summer. That rock has been in that mountain river for so many years. The alternance of heat and cold, the wind and the water have given it is round shape. No edges. Grey strata alternate with white ones, at least two different types of rock have been compressed together in that pebble. The shape, the colours, the water that flows around it, all these elements gave it a natural elegance. I touched it after it had caught my eye. It felt good. I left it where it belonged to so that others could admire it.
Natural elegance can be found in Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in G major, Op. 26. Like the pebble, its shape is accomplished, no edges, a clear structure with joyful and plaintive themes alternating. Bruch also achieved a good balance between solo and tutti parts. The tutti parts flow around the solo performance like the mountain river bathes that rock. All is as it should be.
We have met Max Bruch already as the composer of the Yom Kippur prayer “Kol Nidrei” a few months back. He wrote this piece in three movements long before “Kol Nidrei”. It saw its premiere in 1868 in Bremen. Bruch dedicated it to the violinist Joseph Joachim, whom we have met too – in the company of Anton Dvorak and Johannes Brahms. He revised the piece after the premiere upon the suggestion of Joachim.
The German violinist Julia Fischer has recorded Bruch’s concerto and Dvorak’s Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 56, on one single album, and she sees both composers as natural companions. “Formally they are very similar. Both first movements start with quasi-improvised phrases, and both go into the second movement without a break. The slow movements are structurally very similar — each is of heightened importance within the concerto.”
Do I like this violin concert? Oh yes, and I would love to hear it performed live here in Luxembourg.
© Charles Thibo
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