Please wait...

Hyperion Records

CDA68050 - Bruch: Violin Concerto No 3 & Scottish Fantasy
CDA68050
Recording details: August 2013
City Halls, Candleriggs, Glasgow, Scotland
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon & Dave Rowell
Release date: 29 September 2014
Total duration: 69 minutes 35 seconds

The Romantic Violin Concerto
Violin Concerto No 3 & Scottish Fantasy
Pre-order CD by post £10.50
29 September 2014 Release   This album is not yet available for download
Allegro energico  [18'09]
Adagio  [10'49]
Allegro molto  [9'37]
Adagio cantabile  [5'18]
Allegro –  [6'40]

Award-winning violinist Jack Liebeck brings his impassioned tones, fulsome emotional display and formidable technique to the first of three albums of music by Max Bruch.

This programme presents one of Bruch’s most popular pieces for violin and orchestra, the Scottish Fantasy, alongside one of his least known, the Violin Concerto No 3 in D minor, Op 58. Anyone hearing Jack Liebeck’s performance may well wonder why this concerto has languished in the lumber room for so long—it has never been heard at the BBC Proms, for example. It was written for Joseph Joachim who gave the premiere in Düsseldorf and subsequently played the concerto in Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt, Strasbourg, Breslau, Leipzig, Cologne and London (for the Philharmonic Society).

The Scottish Fantasy in E flat major, Op 46 (or more correctly ‘Fantasia for the violin with orchestra and harp, freely using Scottish folk melodies’), was written in Berlin during the winter of 1879–80 for Sarasate and reflected the Spaniard’s more colourful personality. Although Bruch never visited Scotland, he was typical of German Romantics in having a fascination with the picture of the country painted by such writers as Walter Scott. For the Scottish Fantasy he drew on James Johnson’s voluminous folk-song collection The Scots Musical Museum.


Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The beautiful city of Cologne on the Rhine gave the world two notable composers within two decades, but there could hardly be a greater contrast between them. Jakob Levy Eberst, known to us as Jacques Offenbach (1819–1880), had a mainly French education and became the toast of Paris with his frothy operettas. Max Bruch (1838–1920) had a thoroughly German training under Ferdinand Hiller and Carl Reinecke and was rather dour, although he commanded considerable reserves of melody and developed a style just as recognizable, in its own way, as Offenbach’s. It has become fashionable to represent Bruch’s career as a gradual diminuendo and a disappointment, but in truth he is represented in the regular concert repertoire by just as many works as most composers of the second rank. We may no longer hear his symphonies or oratorios very often, or even his chamber music, but several of his concerted pieces for string instruments and orchestra do extremely well—and the G minor Violin Concerto No 1 is many listeners’ favourite work in the genre.

This programme presents one of Bruch’s most popular pieces for violin and orchestra, the Scottish Fantasy, alongside one of his least known, the Violin Concerto No 3 in D minor, Op 58. Anyone hearing Jack Liebeck’s performance may well wonder why this concerto has languished in the lumber room for so long—it has never been heard at the BBC Proms, for example—especially as it was given a very healthy start in life. Perhaps soloists and concert promoters have simply been too ready to opt for certain success with the G minor Concerto, rather than take a risk. The key of the third concerto, the same as that of the second concerto, may also have led people to wonder if Bruch was repeating himself. Such an idea could not be further from the truth: the third concerto is entirely different from the other two and much more substantial, running at around 38 minutes as opposed to about 25. It is also more conventional.

Bruch had an ongoing relationship with two of the great violinists of his era, the Hungarian Joseph Joachim and the Spaniard Pablo de Sarasate. Joachim, a hugely influential star in the German musical firmament, clearly respected him, as he offered much advice and encouragement over the years and helped to edit the solo parts even for works intended for his rival. It was for Joachim that Bruch wrote the Violin Concerto No 3, working on it in the final months of his time in Breslau—he left this city, now Wrocław in Poland, in April 1890, and the following September moved with his family to Berlin. In a letter of 12 December 1890 to his publisher Fritz Simrock, Bruch wrote: ‘I returned from my summer rest with, among other things, a Concert Allegro in D minor … and thought of dedicating it to Joachim. Immediately before my departure for Russia, I was with Joachim to talk the work through with him, and it was decided to expand the piece to a complete concerto.’ The Concerto is scored for double woodwind, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, timpani and strings.

Unusually for him, Bruch begins the opulent Allegro energico with an orchestral tutti and constructs the movement in sonata form: the fanfare-like first theme is followed in classic fashion by a lyrical second theme, and the solo violin, having entered with a flamboyant flourish, re-presents these ideas. The fanfare motif is used quite portentously, even threateningly, in the development and the second theme provides many opportunities for the violin to soar in lyrical raptures before the first theme brings the movement to a dramatic close. In the winter of 1890–91 Bruch added the two extra movements that Joachim had suggested. The Adagio, unexpectedly in B flat major, is a wonderfully simple Romance: a long-breathed melody is set out by the soloist and elaborated against a quiet orchestral background. In the middle there is a particularly lovely orchestral statement of this tune which is then taken up again by the solo violin, and the soloist ends the movement quietly up on the E string.

The finale is a rondo with a playful, almost folk-song-like main theme: two of the intervening episodes are very lyrical, providing the utmost contrast, and the soloist is required to execute some atmospheric double-stopping. The ending is very satisfying, without being at all bombastic.

Joachim played through the first two movements of the Concerto in February 1891 at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin, where he taught. Bruch was present and was able to make adjustments, but there was no time to hear the finale until the entire work was played through at the Hochschule on 21 April. Joachim gave the premiere in Düsseldorf on 31 May and subsequently played the Concerto in Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt, Strasbourg, Breslau, Leipzig, Cologne and London (for the Philharmonic Society). The work was published by Simrock with a dedication to Joachim, despite a ludicrous feud between the publisher and the violinist, who was almost insanely jealous and unjustly suspected his wife Amalie of having an affair with Simrock (this behaviour, resulting in the Joachims’ divorce, provoked an estrangement between Joachim and Johannes Brahms and also caused his friendship with Bruch to cool for a time).

The Scottish Fantasy in E flat major, Op 46 (or more correctly ‘Fantasia for the violin with orchestra and harp, freely using Scottish folk melodies’), was written in Berlin during the winter of 1879–80 for Sarasate and reflected the Spaniard’s more colourful personality. Although Bruch never visited Scotland, he was typical of German Romantics in having a fascination with the picture of the country painted by such writers as Walter Scott and James Macpherson, author of the epic poems passed off as creations of the bard Ossian. Bruch had even begun a work based on Scott’s The Lady of the Lake, although he had laid it aside; and in 1863 he had published four-part settings of a dozen Scottish airs. In 1890 he would compose his Adagio on Celtic themes for cello and orchestra. For the Scottish Fantasy he drew on James Johnson’s voluminous folk-song collection The Scots Musical Museum. Besides the harp, the scoring adds a tuba and some extra percussion to the orchestra used for the third concerto.

The brooding E flat minor Grave which opens the Fantasy seems to transport us straight to the land of Ossian—it is supposed to evoke ‘an old bard, who contemplates a ruined castle, and laments the glorious times of old’. The orchestra carries the main burden, with the solo violin commenting in yearning phrases. Bruch then goes straight into the Adagio cantabile, in which, after an appetite-whetting transition, we hear the first of the Scots melodies, known as ‘Auld Rob Morris’ or ‘Through the wood laddie’: the harp shares the limelight with the violin, which indulges in moody double-stopping. The scherzo-like Allegro, based on ‘The Dusty Miller’, features bagpipe drones in the orchestra and leads—via a brief Adagio quoting from the Adagio cantabile—into the Andante sostenuto, which makes effective use of the lovely old air ‘I’m a-doun for lack o’ Johnnie’. The finale, marked Allegro guerriero, is built on the brilliant trumpet tune ‘Hey tuttie tatie’, said to have been played by the Scots at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Incorporating a ‘Scotch snap’ and also used by Hector Berlioz in his overture Rob Roy, it is often known as ‘Scots wha hae’, because Robert Burns wrote his poem ‘Scots wha hae wi’ Wallace bled’, his interpretation of Robert the Bruce’s address to the Clansmen before Bannockburn, to this melody. Anyone lucky enough to know the old recording of ‘Scots wha hae’ by the great bass Robert Radford will realize that there is also a tragic dimension to it; but Bruch is having none of that. His warlike Allegro is thoroughly defiant, even aggressive, and the solo violin, which throughout the Fantasy is required to perform the most virtuosic of decorations, is here fully employed in brilliant elaborations and triple- and double-stops. Bruch does provide a more lyrical secondary theme, earlier material is recalled and the Fantasy ends with a final blazing assertion of ‘Scots wha hae’. No wonder many great violinists, notably Jascha Heifetz, have enjoyed playing this work.

Towards the end of August 1880 Bruch moved to Liverpool to begin a three-year stint as director of the Philharmonic Society; and it was there, under his baton, that the Scottish Fantasy was premiered on 22 February 1881—not by its dedicatee Sarasate, but by Joachim, who had helped Bruch by editing the solo part. The composer-conductor was not at all impressed by Joachim’s performance; but after all, the Hungarian was playing a work tailored to the quicksilver personality of Sarasate. Bruch conducted a performance for the London Philharmonic Society at St James’s Hall on 15 March 1883, with Sarasate as soloist. On that occasion the Fantasy was described as ‘Concerto for Violin (Scotch)’; and when Sarasate and Bruch presented it in Breslau, it appeared as ‘Third Violin Concerto’. But writing to Simrock on 30 July 1880, Bruch was adamant that ‘the work cannot properly be called a concerto (this is Joachim’s opinion too), because the form of the whole is so completely free, and because folk melodies are used’.

Tully Potter © 2014


Other albums in this series
'The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 1 – Saint-Saëns' (CDA67074)
The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 1 – Saint-Saëns
'The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 2 – Stanford' (CDA67208)
The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 2 – Stanford
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £10.50 Studio Master: FLAC 24-bit 44.1 kHz £9.00ALAC 24-bit 44.1 kHz £9.00 CDA67208  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 3 – Hubay' (CDA67367)
The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 3 – Hubay
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £10.50 Studio Master: FLAC 24-bit 44.1 kHz £9.00ALAC 24-bit 44.1 kHz £9.00 CDA67367  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 4 – Moszkowski & Karłowicz' (CDA67389)
The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 4 – Moszkowski & Karłowicz
'The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 5 – Coleridge-Taylor & Somervell' (CDA67420)
The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 5 – Coleridge-Taylor & Somervell
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £10.50 Studio Master: FLAC 20-bit 44.1 kHz £8.50ALAC 20-bit 44.1 kHz £8.50 CDA67420  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 6 – Hubay 1 & 2' (CDA67498)
The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 6 – Hubay 1 & 2
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £10.50 Studio Master: FLAC 20-bit 44.1 kHz £8.50ALAC 20-bit 44.1 kHz £8.50 CDA67498  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 7 – Taneyev & Arensky' (CDA67642)
The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 7 – Taneyev & Arensky
'The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 8 – Vieuxtemps' (CDA67798)
The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 8 – Vieuxtemps
'The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 9 – David' (CDA67804)
The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 9 – David
'The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 10 – Cliffe & Erlanger' (CDA67838)
The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 10 – Cliffe & Erlanger
'The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 11 – Reger' (CDA67892)
The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 11 – Reger
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £10.50 Studio Master: FLAC 24-bit 44.1 kHz £9.00ALAC 24-bit 44.1 kHz £9.00 CDA67892  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 12 – Vieuxtemps' (CDA67878)
The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 12 – Vieuxtemps
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £10.50 Studio Master: FLAC 24-bit 96 kHz £12.00ALAC 24-bit 96 kHz £12.00 CDA67878  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 13 – Schumann' (CDA67847)
The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 13 – Schumann
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £10.50 Studio Master: FLAC 24-bit 96 kHz £12.00ALAC 24-bit 96 kHz £12.00 CDA67847  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 14 – Glazunov & Schoeck' (CDA67940)
The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 14 – Glazunov & Schoeck
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £10.50 Studio Master: FLAC 24-bit 96 kHz £12.00ALAC 24-bit 96 kHz £12.00 CDA67940  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 15 – Młynarski & Zarzycki' (CDA67990)
The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 15 – Młynarski & Zarzycki
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £10.50 Studio Master: FLAC 24-bit 96 kHz £12.00ALAC 24-bit 96 kHz £12.00 CDA67990  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 16 – Busoni & Strauss' (CDA68044)
The Romantic Violin Concerto, Vol. 16 – Busoni & Strauss
MP3 £6.99FLAC £6.99ALAC £6.99Buy by post £10.50 Studio Master: FLAC 24-bit 96 kHz £10.50ALAC 24-bit 96 kHz £10.50 CDA68044  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Show: MP3 FLAC ALAC
   English   Français   Deutsch