After the last couple of weeks, we are surely all a little news-weary right now. I decided that in the event Andy Murray was victorious at Wimbledon today, I felt it only right to write a brief post on some music with a Scottish theme, especially with his compatriot, Gordon Reid, having already secured the first wheelchair singles title, as well as the doubles. (Wheelchair tennis is much harder than it may appear: I had lessons a few years ago, and although the pleasure of meeting racquet with ball was enormous, the frequency of that occurrence was rare – a sudden lurch to the left or right simply isn’t an option, you have to be in exactly the right place to avoid being made to look a complete idiot.)
Max Bruch was a German composer and conductor whose life (1838-1920) bridged the romantic tradition of music with the avant-garde, but his style remained firmly in the former. Although I do know some of his music quite well, I knew very little of the man himself, and now I realize why: I’m afraid his life seems to have been wholly devoid of any interesting gossip, scandal, or even a remotely amusing anecdote (contributions welcome if you know of any), so I’m not going to delay you with a lengthy biography. Nowadays he is most well known for his first (of three) violin concertos, but also for his ‘Scottish Fantasy’ for violin and orchestra, a piece in four movements, based on Scottish folk melodies. It is the lively fourth movement, marked ‘Allegro guerriero’ (meaning, appropriately, quickly in a war-like manner) that I want to share with you today. It has a sprightly and appealing tune, and at times even seems to resemble the speedy pursuit of the tennis ball, with the occasional lob and pause for re-load, finishing with an affirming statement of conquest.
The recording I have chosen is played by Itzhak Perlman, the Israeli-American violinist and conductor. He takes it a good pace, and always with extraordinary clarity. It’s a fun, uplifting piece, which celebrates a great day for Andy Murray against his Canadian opponent – and I say this as someone who has lived in the UK for 55 years, but was born in Toronto. I’ve been wondering if my Canadian passport has recently acquired a greater appeal…
This recording has been taken down, I know not why – so here is another, played by Heifetz