Max Bruch

Scottish Fantasy, for violin & orchestra, Op. 46

    Description by Roger Dettmer

    Bruch composed this work in 1880 for violinist Pablo de Sarasate, who played the first performance at Hamburg in September of that year. The orchestra includes two each of winds, trumpets and percussion, four horns, three trombones, and timpani. The Nazis lumped Bruch among a host of "racially impure" composers (including Mendelssohn and Mahler) whose music they banned. Yet this son of a noted soprano and a civil servant was descended from German-Protestant stock. Although his canon included two string quartets and nearly 50 works for chorus and orchestra, he is chiefly remembered today for the first violin concerto, the Scottish Fantasy, and a variation setting for cello and orchestra of the Yom Kippur chant Kol Nidrei -- most likely the reason for his blacklisting by the "Thousand-Year Reich."

    Following Paganini's meteoric career after he left Italy, the most famous nineteenth century violinists were German-schooled Joseph Joachim (who played the definitive version of Bruch's first concerto in 1868), and the virtuosic Spanish showman, Pablo de Sarasate. For the latter, Bruch composed not only his second concerto (in 1877) and Scottish Fantasy, but a failed third concerto and a serenade. Bruch wrote more for Sarasate than did any other composer, and while Bruch was fonder of his Second Concerto, the Fantasia Freely Using Scottish Folk Melodies (the present work's formal title) proved to be far more popular.

    Bruch freely admitted the influence exerted upon the work by Walter Scott, whose writings had ensnared Bruch's attention during a conducting stint in England in 1880; Scott's Lady of the Lake inspired a subsequent cantata, Das Feuerkreuz. The Fantasia opens with a slow, solemnly bardic introduction for brass and harp, and then a recitative for the soloist on a soft cushion of strings. This leads directly to an Adagio cantabile in E flat major, based on the song "Auld Robin Morris," with the harp nearly as prominent as the violin's decorations.

    The G major second movement has various titles -- "Scherzo: Allegro" and "Dance" -- and is based on "Hey, the Dusty Miller." Drone basses imitate the sound of bagpipes, while the violin adds all manner of pyrotechnics after it introduces the tune on double-stopped strings (two strings played with one stroke of the bow). The merriment ends with a bridge passage recalling "Auld Robin Morris." This leads without pause to the third movement, a set of plushly sonorous variations in slower time, Andante sostenuto, on the song "I'm Down for Lack o' Johnnie." The violin rhapsodizes eloquently throughout, and concludes with a memorable sigh.

    Bruch gave his finale the same warlike marking, Allegro guerriero, that Mendelssohn used in the last movement of his Scottish Symphony. "Scots wha hae" is the dominant folk melody, legendarily sung by Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn. The violin adds excitement by playing on two, three, even four strings simultaneously until a tender reprise of the first movement. "Scots wha hae" returns, however, to conclude the four-movement work rousingly.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Prelude. Grave
    2. 1. Adagio cantabile (Thro' the Wood, Laddie)
    3. 2. Allegro - Adagio (Hey the Dusty Miller)
    4. 3. Andante sostenuto (I'm a-Doun for Lack O' Joy)
    5. 4. Finale. Allegro guerriero (Scots Wha Hae)

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2018 Sony Classical 19075842002
    2018 Sony Classical G010003887568H
    2016 RCA Red Seal 88843095342
    2016 Praga / Praga Digitals PRD 250328
    2016 Sony Classical / Sony Music Distribution 88875183402
    2015 IDIS IDIS 6693
    2015 Warner Classics 0825646129836
    2015 Warner Classics 0825646130184
    2014 Decca B002129002
    2014 CPO 7778332
    2014 Hyperion CDA 68050
    2013 The Entertainment Group 11703
    2013 Decca 4785437
    2013 Tudor Records TUDOR 7188
    2012 Decca
    2012 Decca 4783351
    2012 Entertainment Group 107587
    2012 Concerto / Zebralution
    2011 ABC Classics ABC 4805269
    2011 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 509990858832
    2011 EMI Classics
    2011 EMI Classics 6790602
    2011 Decca 4782826
    2011 Testament SBT 61471
    2010 Decca
    2010 RPO 28790
    2010 RCA Red Seal / Sony Classical 88697761382
    2009 Decca
    2009 Decca 4781149
    2008 CBC Records 5245
    2008 Sony Classical Essential Classics 721742
    2007 Philips
    2007 Decca 15
    2007 Philips 4768485
    2007 EMI Music Distribution 3873972
    2006 RCA Red Seal 71622
    2005 EMI Music Distribution
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 Naxos 8557395
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 64123
    2005 Cedille Records 83
    2005 PentaTone Classics 5186117
    2005 Brilliant 92609
    2004 IDIS 6433
    2004 Rca Red Seal 63885
    2003 EMI Music Distribution 62589
    2003 EMI Classics 85083
    2002 CBC Records 5222
    2001 Naxos 110940
    2000 Dutton Laboratories 9704
    2000 RCA 63470
    1999 Platinum Entertainment 2879
    1999 London 460620
    1999 Pearl GEM0051
    1999 Decca 460976
    1999 EMI Music Distribution 73118
    1998 Philips
    1998 Philips 462167
    1997 Philips 454180
    1996 London 448597
    1996 Parlophone
    1996 EMI Angel / Angel Records / Warner Classics CDC 5553952
    1996 RCA Victor 61779
    1995 RCA 61745
    1995 EMI Music Distribution 83177
    1994 Sony Classical 58967
    1988 EMI Music Distribution 49071
    1987 Sony Classical 42315
    Philips 000798102
    Russian Revelation 10051
    RCA 6214
    EMI Music Distribution 575802
    Vox 7906
    Beulah 2PD10
    One-Eleven 96050
    BMG 61737
    Brilliant 92609/3
    RCA 60942
    Winterthur