BRUCH: Kol Nidrei for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 47; Romance for viola and Orchestra, Op. 85; Overture to “Scherz, List, und Rache,” Op. 1 (orch. Grove); Serenade on Swedish Folk Melodies; Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 26 – Alexandre da Costa, violin/Gilad Karni, viola/Orchestre Symphonique Bienne/Thomas Roesner – Guild GMCD 7338, 64:41 [Distr. by Albany] **** :
As “academic” as Max Bruch (1838-1920) often appears next to the more naturally fluent melodists Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Brahms, his lyrical gifts remain undeniable, and this disc, recorded in Switzerland in 2008 and 2009, presents us several aspects of his effusive personality.
The Kol Nidrei–usually for cello and orchestra–of 1880 exemplifies Bruch’s interest in ethnic sources for musical invention. A Jewish player in the Sternscher Gesangverein presented him the Hebrew melody, and Bruch made two versions: one for violin, which he assigned to Schievert. Montreal violinist Alexandre da Costa (b. 1979) plays the Kol Nidrei on a 1727 “Di Barbaro” Stradivarius with a sweetly burnished tone. The lesser known Romance for Viola (1911) extends Bruch’s capacity for cantabile outpouring, the viola part rendered by Israeli Gilad Karni, who plays in the viola section of the New York Philharmonic.
Bruch set the music for Goethe’s singspiel Scherz, List und Rache in 1858; but as only the vocal score survived, composer Stefans Grove orchestrated the overture in a style similar to Mendelssohn and Italianate Schubert, for strings, tympani, double woodwind and brass. If there seem to be perky elements reminiscent from Mendelssohn’s Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, it may be no accident. The five-movement Serenade After Swedish Melodies dates from 1916, published posthumously. After a martial Allegro moderato, the Andante has the solemn grandeur of a Mendelssohn nocturnal procession. The contrapuntal Allegro projects a girth and dark hue that hint at Faure or youthful Sibelius, but never quite achieve their individualism. The singing Andante sostenuto could be mistook for Grieg without embarrassment. The last dance opens in the form of a martial round that trips lightly in pizzicato and fades away. The harmonies throughout are rooted in traditional tonal syntax, especially as Bruch rejected the modernist tendencies after Wagner and endemic to Schoenberg.
The familiar G Minor Violin Concerto (1868) dedicated to Joachim has had many excellent adherents, and certainly Mr. da Costa and conductor Roesner perform it with ardent enthusiasm and grace. Given the “novelty” aspect of the production, however, I must wonder they did not proffer the D Minor Concerto in its stead, rather than add yet another stone to an already towering monument.