Masterclass: Joshua Bell on Bruch Violin Concerto no.1, third movement
The American violinist discusses gypsy style, charisma, flair and contrast in the lively third movement of this much-loved work
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Joseph Joachim, for whom this piece was written, once made the famous statement: ‘The Germans have four violin concertos. The greatest, most uncompromising is Beethoven’s. The one by Brahms vies with it in seriousness. The richest, the most seductive, was written by Max Bruch. But the most inward, the heart’s jewel, is Mendelssohn’s.’ Joachim’s placing of the Bruch in this highest tier of concertos is praise indeed, and certainly justified. The Bruch packs an amazing emotional punch, and its slow movement in particular is one of the most glorious pieces ever written for the violin.
The whole concerto is incredibly crafted and fits the hand so well that even players near the beginning of their advanced studies can get around it. Ironically, it suffers because of that: a lot of us remember it as one of the first pieces we ‘hacked away at’ when we were young. As we get older we tend to forget that it is one of the real gems of the repertoire.
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