Max Bruch

Concerto for clarinet & viola with orchestra, in E minor, Op. 88

    Description by James Reel

    This work from late in Max Bruch's career, though written when atonality and dissonance were coming to the fore, is very much music of the Romantic age, or at least of the period's more classically reserved, Brahmsian element. Bruch avoids sharp contrasts and dramatic outbursts; he seems to be taking his cue from the similarities between the two solo instruments, whose ranges are practically identical.

    It's the viola that gets the first word in the opening Andante con moto, in a short, rhapsodic passage punctuated by orchestral chords. The clarinet then voices the same material itself, and the two instruments begin to intertwine. But the clarinet utters the first statement of the movement's true principal theme, a long, slow, autumnal melody. Bruch then undertakes a pattern of phrase trading between the soloists, rounding off the movement's subsections with small duets. The composer basically employs sonata form, but the structure is obscured by the slow harmonic and metrical motion; the music seems more rhapsodic than it really is.

    Although marked Allegro molto, the second movement sounds no faster than the first, thanks to Bruch's reliance on longer-held notes. The soloists here work in duet far more consistently than in the first movement. Again, the writing is highly lyrical, although it lacks truly memorable melodies. Pizzicato accompaniment brings a little more animation to the movement's second episode, although the solo lines remain long and maintain a nostalgic feeling. The first section returns in full, and what initially seems to be a reappearance of the second section turns out to be merely a coda.

    The concluding Allegro molto promises more vigor with its opening brass fanfares and swirling string figures, the latter soon picked up by the soloists in turn. If the slow movement at times suggested late Richard Strauss, particularly the later composer's Duet Concertino, the more outgoing portions of this movement seem to have influenced the early symphonies of Franz Schmidt. These animated passages, spurred on by the orchestra, alternate with slightly more subdued sections showcasing the soloists, who work through busy material derived from the opening section.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Andante con moto
    2. Allegro moderato
    3. Allegro molto

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2019 Brilliant Classics BRI 95673
    2018 Brilliant Classics 95787
    2018 Evil Penguin EPRC 0026
    2018 Paladino Music PMR 0089
    2016 Brilliant Classics 95241BR
    2010 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records
    2009 Denon Records
    2008 Erato 4697067
    2007 Arte Nova 898260
    2007 Amado Classics 4000
    2007 Apex
    2007 Berlin Classics 0016202
    2006 Transart Live 105
    2002 Arte Nova 89826
    2002 Erato 89229
    2001 RCA 63292
    2001 Supraphon 35542
    1997 Hyperion 22017
    1994 Koch Schwann 311065
    1992 Erato 45483
    1986 Hyperion 66022
    Amado Classics 04007
    Digital Masterworks 71813
    Sony Music Distribution 71013
    ASV CDDCA1180