In the spring of 1866, Max Bruch’s first violin concerto was debuted by celebrity violinist Joseph Joachim. Its auspicious beginnings paved the way for its permanent success; the concerto is still popular (here it’s played by my favorite violinist, Gil Shaham). Bridging a gap wider than 150 years, Bruch’s passionate melodies still have the ability to move us, bringing to heart a time period that can feel distant in pictures or even on paper.
For comparison’s sake, I found a Goodreads book list called “Popular 1860s Books.” It’s really astounding to see so many famous books there, at a glance. High on the list is, of course, Little Women, whose recent Masterpiece Classic adaptation I’ve enjoyed watching on PBS (tomorrow is the conclusion!).
Clearly great classics of art and literature did not appear within a vacuum. I’d love to think a writer somewhere in Bruch’s audience was inspired by the story he tells with this piece.