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<<  -- 2 --  Bill Newman    BRUCH RARITIES

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Max Bruch - Moses. (c) 1999 ORFEO International Music GmbH

Personally when I had listened to Moses, a Biblical Oratorio for choir, soloists and orchestra, Op 67 - I played it three times in the space of a fortnight - I believe that Bruch, by denigrating his own highly talented abilities, placed a nail in his own coffin. 'Is there justice?', is the title of Ekkehart Kroher's liner note for the 1998 Orfeo recording at the Sinfonie an der Regnitz in Bamberg under the direction of the gifted Claus Peter Flor, signifying the 'quality, status and validity of individual Bruch compositions' and querying whether he 'did not stay still' whilst composing it - 'or did the composer indulge in a forgivable self-deception?' An interesting anomoly here, particularly as the composer had first aired the subject with Hermann Deiters, writer on music notably for Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung , stating that all oratorio performances since Mendelssohn had been unsuccessful. Bruch had been in correspondence with the brothers Spitta, and Bach researcher Philipp was advised that the idea of a secular dramatic cantata would give way for 'a real oratorio'! Philipp then died, and brother Ludwig, theologist and poet met Bruch at his graveside. Ludwig and Bruch collaborated in 1894 for a performance the following year in Barmen, but Barmer Zeitung put the dampeners on the event: 'Today we can absolutely not any longer compose without the declamatory style and colourful orchestration of Wagner ... a mere detail which, however, many composers, especially Bruch never acquire.'

Enter Brahms - a Wagner hater who 'secretly' admired his orchestration, and his amanuensis Clara Schumann, in 1895 still in love with the Dear Johannes who had much earlier jilted her. 'Bruch has now published a Moses ... If one could have only a trace of joy in the thing! In every respect they are weaker and worse than the earlier ones. The single glad feeling is if someone like myself thinks of daring to thank God that He has preserved one from the sin, the vice of the bad habit of merely writing notes!' Writing to publisher Simrock, Bruch saw his efforts differently: '... I could not have written Moses if a strong and deep feeling of the divine were not alive in me, and it will one day happen to every deeply concerned artist that he can proclaim to men the best and inmost feelings of his soul through the medium of his art...I have not stayed still - for that is the greatest danger in old age.'

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Copyright © 15 October 2000 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK

 

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