Resources on analysis/structure of the Bruch concerto

November 8, 2018, 11:51 AM · Hi all - does anyone know anything good to read on the structure or musical analysis of the Bruch concerto?

There is a load of stuff out there about Bruch's biography, or Joachim's involvement with the concerto... much less about analysis of how the harmony and the melodic material work together!

So if you can't point me to anything that would be really helpful. Thanks!

Replies (6)

Edited: November 8, 2018, 1:09 PM · May I suggest doing the analysis yourself? I believe you will learn more at a deeper level with a better understanding of the concerto than by reading someone else's analysis (if indeed there is one published). I note you are working towards the LRSM Diploma, so you should be sufficiently equipped academically.
November 9, 2018, 5:10 AM · I am indeed looking at it myself and seeing where I get to! But I'm learning how to approach this from books not people... which is fine as far as it goes, but there is lot published on how to look at a Classical sonata in minute detail and rather less on how to look at a Romantic concerto. (And e.g. Rosen's "Romantic Generation" is on the hardcore side for me...)

So basically the first movement is moving from G minor via D in the middle section to B-flat, which is acting both as the relative major of G to conclude the first movement and the dominant of E-flat to introduce the second movement. The tension between G and Bflat is also a major feature of the melodic writing, with many figures ascending or descending from one to the other, and that influences the phrasing and shaping of most of the melodic passages (particularly the opening) because it gives a sense of what the musical destinations of each part of the phrase is, which goes beyond what Bruch indicated in the score.

Obviously the idea of a first movement of a concerto being an extended foreword to the second movement, without even reaching a proper harmonic conclusion, is a very Romantic one.

So that's sort of where I'm at, and I think if the LRSM examiners asked "tell us about the structure of this piece and how it affects your interpretation" then saying that would be a pass-level answer. But looking for anything that will help me get beyond it, and it's far easier to find resources for Beethoven than it is for Bruch :)

November 9, 2018, 11:33 AM · I once had a nice book called "The Literature of the Piano" which gave brief descriptions of the structure of some of the most important pieces. So maybe what you need to do is go to some library where there is a good collection of musicology texts and see if there are any such books about the violin literature. Searching by title may not be adequate -- that's my point.
November 9, 2018, 12:30 PM · The Science of Violin Playing by Raphael Bronstein is probably the closest you'll get to a good analysis of the Bruch. If you buy the book, make sure it's the one with Bruch in it (I think the new edition doesn't have Bruch, but the old one does.
November 9, 2018, 3:00 PM · I am not strong in theory or formal analysis, but the first movement of the Bruch has always struck as being a very long introduction to a something that never happens, but instead modulates into a very fine slow movement. So, for me it is not as wonderful as Tchaikovsky, Brahms.
Edited: November 9, 2018, 8:28 PM · This might not be what you want, but I have some thoughts about it.

I feel like the first movement of Bruch is a real missed opportunity. The first page is an epic and wonderful way to start a concerto. I always think "goodness, that's great"...but unfortunately it's not much more than a facade. The rest of the first movement just kind of lingers a bit and dies off. It's like a sailboat embarking on a grand expedition, only to discover that there's no wind outside of the harbor so it kind of drifts aimlessly and not much comes of it.

The second movement is pretty, but it sounds really conservative to me. He had some great ideas, and parts of it are very beautiful, but overall it sounds held back. I might be spoiled by listening to Tchaikovsky, but if Tchaikovsky had written it, he'd have really squeezed all the sugary goodness out of that melody, whereas it sounds like Bruch thought "well they can have this much, but not more, that's quite enough already".

The third movement however, is worthy of being a standalone piece. It's beautifully structured, it's romantic, it's memorable, fun to play, fun to listen to, and generally excellent. Unlike the second movement, it doesn't feel held back at all. He just went for it and you really get that sense as a player that you can pull all the sound you want out of it and it'll never be too much. I'm not saying you can just play the whole thing super-fortissimo and ignore the dynamics, I'm just saying that you can really rake in the expressiveness of it and have fun doing it.

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