Adagio appassionato for Violin and Orchestra in F minor Op. 57
Adagio appassionato for Violin and Orchestra in F minor Op. 57
When you come upon the statue of Max Bruch and his patron Maria Zanders in Bergisch Gladbach, a memorial which dates from 1991, it is particularly touching to see that the composer has been immortalised holding a violin – a reference to Bruch’s deep attachment to this instrument, for which he left a considerable number of works of timeless beauty. Although the composer himself never played the violin, his son Ewald Bruch recalled that his father loved the instrument “above all else”1. Indeed, according to his son’s recollections he declared “You have to treat the violin like a Beloved. You have to do everything to make her contented and happy!”2 The melodies that Bruch created for the violin always have that rich, graceful, singing quality that became so characteristic of his musical language.
Besides longer works of several movements, his compositions include a number of single movement concert pieces. One of these is the Adagio appassionato for violin and orchestra in F minor op. 57, which dates from around 1890, the same period as his Violin concerto no. 3 in D minor with its consecutive opus number 58. Wilhelm Altmann suggested in the 1920 that the Adagio appassionato might originally have been intended as a movement for the third Violin concerto,3 but lately this has come to be regarded as unlikely.4 Possibly Altmann’s assumption was based on the structural similarity of a motif which appears only in the Adagio appassionato and in the first movement of the third Violin concerto.5 However, apart from this instance no further similarities can be detected.
Although this is a single movement work it has a remarkably formal and balanced construction which displays the composer’s compositional skills and originality. Constructed as a main sonata movement, the Adagio appassionato has a form which as a rule is more likely to be found in the first movements of symphonies, sonatas or concertos.
The themes of the exposition are introduced in turn by the orchestra and the soloist respectively, which not only lends the work a symphonic character but which to a large degree gives equal weight to both sections, as is found in a typical 19th-century symphonic concerto. The opening of the piece has a tragic character, marked by the solo violin’s plaintive calls with their striking upbeats, followed after 16 bars by the introduction of the two contrasting themes. As the piece develops these themes seem to take on and express a whole drama of grief and consolation. It is only the mournful main theme and the opening plaintive calls of the solo violin that are reworked in the development section, which could be interpreted as a kind of coming to terms with grief. In contrast, the consoling second theme remains untouched and is only fully developed in the recapitulation, where it fulfils a special role – for, against expectation, the original sombre F minor does not reappear after the second theme enters in its major key. Instead, the piece closes in F major, thereby laying more emphasis on the consoling element of the secondary theme in the recapitulation.In the end this theme fulfils its symbolic role of transcending the initial grief and tragedy.
From this short analysis it is clear that the work does not simply follow the rules of form and harmony: with the resolution in the major key, the composer achieves a far more profound musical statement.
The piece has an interesting connection in terms of the relationship between Bruch, his friend the violinist Joseph Joachim and the publisher Fritz Simrock, which may even reveal a stronger link to the third Violin Concerto than that regarding its composition. As a personal antipathy existed between Simrock and Joachim, Bruch intended to evade Simrock and publish the Adagio appassionato, with a dedication to Joseph Joachim, with Breitkopf & Härtel.6 When Simrock claimed the rights to the work for himself on contractual grounds, Bruch decided to dispense with the dedication.7 Clearly the composer did not wish to cause needless trouble in his relationship with his publisher. The Adagio appassionato was therefore published by Simrock in 1891 without any dedication. However, to avoid offending the designated dedicatee Joseph Joachim, Bruch presented him with his third Violin Concerto: “I (…) beg you to accept the dedication of this Concerto instead of the dedication of the Adagio appassionato. For the Concerto is the larger and more significant work, and as with the 1st Concerto, your cooperation in its creation has been important, it is wholly meant for you and was created under the influence of your playing, – it already belongs to you in a higher sense.”8 Later, through clever manoeuvring, Bruch even managed to achieve Simrock’s acceptance of the dedication to Joachim, and the Violin Concerto Nr. 3 op. 58 too was published by Simrock.9
Yet as was the case with almost all of the composer’s works, the Adagio appassionato could not in the long run maintain its position in the concert repertoire. Even so, in as late as 1928 Wilhelm Altmann was still assuming Bruch’s music would soon be rediscovered: “If young people today don’t care any more about most of Bruch’s works, they are doing them an injustice that will surely be righted before too many years have passed.”10
Sadly even today – nearly 90 years after Altmann’s words – that time has not yet arrived. However, the recording of all Bruch’s compositions for violin and orchestra by the violinist Salvatore Accardo with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra under Kurt Masur, or publications by a number of musicologists should at least start a trend and help to prevent the composer Max Bruch from being completely forgotten. The edition presented here – a reprint of the first edition of the score published by Simrock in 1891 – should be seen in the context of this endeavour. We hope it will provide an opportunity for all interested music lovers to devote their attention to the music of this unjustifiably forgotten great romantic composer.
Translation: Babette Lichtenstein
1 Ewald Bruch: Persönliche Erinnerungen an meinem Vater Max Bruch in Dietrich Kaempfer (publ.): ‘Max Bruch-Studien’ Köln: Volk 1970 (= ‘Beitrag zur Rheinischen Musikgeschichte, Issue 87) p. 4
3 Cf. Wilhelm Altman: Max Bruch’s Beziehungen zu dem Verlag N. Simrock in Erich H Mueller (publ.) Simrock -Jahrbuch I. Berlin: Simrock 1928, p. 97.
4 Cf. William Fifield: Max Bruch. Biographie eines Komponisten. Zürich: Schweizer Verlagshaus 1990, p. 227
5 Cf, Ibid
6 Cf, Wilhelm Laut: Max Bruch’s Instrumentalmusik. Köln: Volk 1967, p. 72
7 Cf, Ibid
8 Letter from Bruch to Joachim dated 12-11-1890. In: Johannes Joachim / Andreas Moser (publ.):
Briefe von und an Josef Joachim. Dritter Band: Die Jahre 1869-1907. Berlin: Bard 1913, p. 376-377
9 Cf. Fifield 1990, p. 227 and p. 231
10 Altmann 1928, p. 94
For performance material please contact Simrock, Berlin.
210 x 297 mm