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Max BRUCH (1838-1920)
Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor, Op. 44 (1877) [26.30]
In Memoriam, Adagio, Op. 65 (1893) [13.40]
Konzertstück, Op. 84 (1910) [18.21]
Ulf Wallin (violin)
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin/Okko Kamu
rec. 2014, Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Dahlem, Berlin, Germany
BIS BIS-2069 SACD [59.41]

Today Bruch is universally known as the composer of the Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, one of the greatest string concertos ever written and one that enjoys an enduring popularity. It is often forgotten that Bruch actually wrote three violin concertos and was, in his day, especially celebrated for his large-scale choral works.

Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 has been recorded numerous times and his Scottish Fantasy for violin and orchestra is well represented. Faring less well in the recording studio are Bruch’s second and third Violin Concertos and his other works for violin and orchestra: In Memoriam, Konzertstück, Serenade, Adagio appassionato and Romanze. Since its release around thirty-five years ago Philips' set of the complete works for violin and orchestra has virtually had the field to itself. Recorded in 1977/78 in Leipzig it offers excellent accounts with the stylish Salvatore Accardo providing vital and characterful playing.

Composed in 1877 Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 2 bears a dedication to his friend the Spanish virtuoso Pablo de Sarasate. It uses dramatic language inspired by Sarasate’s suggestion of a post-battlefield scene in the Carlist Wars. Sarasate conducted by Bruch premièred the score at the Crystal Palace, London the following year. Ulf Wallin plays with full-toned romantic warmth, forceful yet with natural eloquence. Looking to extremes of expression Wallin explores deep into the core of the work.

The single movement In Memoriam dates from 1893. Bruch described this heartfelt score to its dedicatee Joseph Joachim as “a lament, a sort of instrumental funeral song.” Content with the form of the work Bruch declined his publisher’s suggestion that he should write additional movements. A warmly romantic work this performance feels like a heart-rending and intensely affectionate tribute to a deceased loved one.

Composed in 1910 the Konzertstück was dedicated to Bruch’s friend Willy Hess; a former pupil of Joseph Joachim. Cast in two connected movements it seems that Bruch originally planned the work as his fourth violin concerto. It was premièred the following year by American violinist Maud Powell at the Norfolk Festival in Connecticut, USA. Marked Allegro appassionato the opening episode is laden with dramatic incident. The second which takes the form of an Adagio, ma non troppo lento using the Irish folk song The Little Red Lark and is a yearning and rather beseeching piece.

Recorded for BIS in 2014 at the Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin/Dahlem I used my standard player for this SACD and found the sound close but not too problematic. There's good clarity and a slightly forward balance for the soloist. Wallin's satisfyingly warm romantic playing is matched by effortless virtuosity in these powerfully lyrical accounts. Under Okko Kamu the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin provides responsive support. I’m sure admirers of Max Bruch will be in their element with these excellent performances.

Michael Cookson



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