Hyperion monthly sampler – October 2014
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Movement 1: Allegro energico
Movement 2: Adagio
Movement 3: Allegro molto
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).
from notes by Tully Potter © 2014