The voice of instruments:The influence of vocal idioms in the works for solo strings and orchestra by Max Bruch

Electronic versions


  • Nicholas Hardisty


The nineteenth-century German composer Max Bruch is known today for his Violin Concerto No. 1 in g minor, Op. 26 (1868), yet during his lifetime, his reputation was primarily as a composer of large-scale vocal works, including his opera Die Loreley, Op. 16 (1863) and his oratorio Frithjof, Op. 23 (1864). Whilst the famous violin concerto over-shadowed the rest of Bruch’s music, colleagues and critics alike commented on the vocal character of his instrumental music. Benjamin Swalin’s observations that Bruch considered the violin to be a Gesangsinstrument, an instrument he composed for with an ‘unexcelled instinct’, provides the inspiration and central focus of this thesis. Considering the many vocal-related titles of Bruch’s music, such as Romanze, Serenade, Canzone, Ave Maria, and Kol Nidrei, clearly such analysis was not unfounded. The purpose of this thesis, therefore, is to examine critically and systematically the extent to which Bruch relies on vocal idioms in his instrumental works. Compositions for the combination of solo string and orchestra will help refine the investigation, which will assess three main aspects: folksong (chapter 1), romance (chapter 2) and recitative (chapter 3). Whilst held in very high esteem, Bruch’s attitude towards folksong was that it should act as inspiration for a new creation rather than just becoming a mere arrangement. To this end, Bruch utilised a three-stage process that merges vocal and instrumental qualities into a higher unity and effectively creates a new form. Yet this is not isolated to just folksong-based music since it can be demonstrated as an undercurrent in both his instrumental romances and recitatives. Through thematic and stylistic techniques, a vocal influence pervades the majority of Bruch’s instrument works. While each certainly bears a virtuosic instrumental exterior, the majority of works are vocal to their core.


Iaith wreiddiolSaesneg
Sefydliad dyfarnu
Goruchwylydd / Goruchwylwyr / Cynghorydd
Dyddiad dyfarnuIon 2016