Max Bruch: His life and works by Christopher Fifield, Victor Gollancz, London, 1988; 2nd edn. The Boydell Press, Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK, 2005, 400 ff.
There can be few music lovers who do not know the Violin Concerto No.1 in g minor by Max Bruch. But, somewhat to the composer's frustration, this is almost the only composition of his that is heard regularly in the concert hall or over the airways - either now or even during his lifetime. It is in fact only one of three violin concertos Bruch composed and its greater popularity is probably due to its use of lovely, long-breathed melodies to a greater extent than the other two concertos. But Bruch composed music in other forms too - much choral music, three symphonies, a concerto for two pianos, a Serenade and a Scottish Fantasy for violin and orchestra, and an Adagio and the quite lovely Kol Nidrei for cello and orchestra. This last piece was composed to accompany the declaration in the synagogue at the start of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement; and Bruch also composed an oratorio on the subject of Moses. Probably as a result of these compositions, especially the former, he was thought to be Jewish, but that was not the case.
Bruch also wrote some lovely chamber music - two string quartets, two string quintets, a piano quintet and a string octet, all currently available on CD. Musical examples are used sparingly in this book, which works chronologically through the life of this composer and conductor, bringing in the compositions at the appropriate time of his life when they were written. However, descriptive musical analyses as well as his social interactions are given in sufficient detail to give the reader a real sense of involvement in the life of the man and his music. When this book was originally written (1980s) there existed no other biography of Max Bruch, even in German. The book ends with a list of his compositions and those who were significant figures in his life, and a general index. For this second edition, there is also an interesting 35-page Appendix listing works that Bruch conducted for the three years that he was Court Music Director in the town of Sondershausen.