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Christopher Fifield in his Bruch biography (Victor Gollancz, 1988) endeavours to find make a medium assessment, complaining about his lack of imagination and dearth of innovation at the time, criticizing structural power, freshness of invention, uneven qualities. He praises strong moments like the death of Moses, the fearful heartbeats of the Israelites as they await the return of their leader, and the three scenes depicting the Adoration of the Golden Calf. I get the feeling that he has studied the score but has not heard a complete performance, especially one as spiritually compelling as this where there is this sense of marvellous continuity throughout where shifts of scene during the four parts skillfully and effectively combine Moses' commanding strength of vision (Michael Volle, bass/baritone) and Aaron's dutiful yet wavering intentions (Robert Gambill, tenor) along with the praises and condemnation of The People (Bamberg Chorus). The Scene during The Golden Calf  where Moses gives vent to his feelings: 'Apostates, has this come to pass with you? Eternal infamy! I will smash them...the tables of witness on which his eternal finger wrote...', and the final part of The promised land as Moses is ready to die should be immediate persuaders towards investigating the glories of this mighty work with its enormous emotive power of expression.

In places, the orchestral accompaniment transcends the accepted harmonic idiom, interspersed with Elizabeth Whitehouse's serene arias as The angel of the Lord, and the gloriously melodic The Return of the Scouts from Canaan. Incidentally, Barmer Zeitung is wrong - I clearly hear Wolfram's harp (Wagner's Tannhauser) during Moses' 'Up, come forth from your tents...take up the harp, the psaltery and the clear, sweet cymbals!' and there are some glimmerings from the Ring Cycle as well.

Bruch - Symphony No 3 - Violin Concerto No 2. (c) 1999 Chandos Records Ltd

Bruch's Symphony No.3 in E major - 2 longish movements, 2 short ones - inspired the Boston Daily Advertiser to write: 'It accomplishes all it sets out to do..it is a fine example of what may be accomplished by a composer with a good, but not extraordinary gift of inspiration, with exquisite musical sensibility, refined taste, great learning and masterly command of his orchestral resources.' Richard Hickox and the London Symphony Orchestra's freshness of approach is superior to Kurt Masur and the Leipzig Gewandhaus on Philips. Brahms was also rude about the slow first movement of Violin Concerto 2 (a favourite of Jascha Heifetz), describing it as 'Intolerable for normal people', but that fine artist Lydia Mordkovitch extends our appreciation of this neglected work bringing out the essentially rich-veined qualities and the finale's quasi-Hungarian touches. Typical Chandos high quality sound.

 

Copyright © 15 October 2000 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK

 

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