Ignaz Brüll was born the eldest son of a prosperous Jewish merchant family in the Moravian provincial town of Prostějov (Prossnitz). In 1850 he moved with his parents to Vienna, which became the centre of his life and work. Brüll was originally destined to take over his father’s business, but because of his precocious gifts he also received a thorough musical education. He studied the piano with Julius Epstein, and composition with Johann Rufinatscha and Felix Otto Dessoff. An enthusiastic assessment when he was fourteen years old from Anton Rubinstein proved the decisive factor in his dedication to a musical career.
In 1864 he wrote his first opera, Die Bettler von Samarkand, and submitted it to the Court Theatre in Stuttgart, capital of Württemberg. At the end of 1866 he went there to supervise the production in person. Sadly, his plans came to nothing, and the score disappeared into the archives. Brüll nevertheless achieved significant successes with his First Serenade for Orchestra and with performances at the piano.
In the next fifteen years he made numerous concert tours which took him not only to musical centres such as Prague, Breslau, Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, Dresden, and Leipzig, but also to the remotest areas of the Habsburg monarchy and of Germany. Between tours he gave regular concerts in Vienna. In 1871 he was offered a Professorship for Piano at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin, which he refused, to avoid separation from his family. He taught from 1872 at the Horak Piano Schools, one of Vienna’s greatest private musical institutions, and became their artistic director in 1881. In the 1890s he refused an appointment to the Vienna Conservatory.
The sensational success of his second opera, Das goldene Kreuz, first performed on 22 December 1875 in Berlin, propelled Brüll from obscurity into the foremost ranks of contemporary composers. It also boosted his career as a pianist. The London publisher Chappell & Co. engaged him early in 1878 for two concerts in England. At the same time, the impresario Carl Rosa was preparing a production of Das goldene Kreuz which had its London premiere at the Adelphi Theatre on 2 March. On 28 January Brüll made his debut in a “Monday Popular Concert” which was such a success that it was followed by more than twenty further appearances in London, Liverpool, and Manchester. He visited England again in 1881, between 31 January and 9 March, and gave eight concerts with the usual good response.
The two concert tours to England marked the highest points in Brüll’s career as a virtuoso. In the following years he sharply reduced the number of his public performances to concentrate more on composition. After his marriage in 1882 to Marie Schosberg, the daughter of a Viennese banker, his house became a social focal point in the city. He built up a large circle of friends, including Johannes Brahms, Carl Goldmark, Julius Epstein, Robert Fuchs, Anton Door, Richard Neuberger, Ludwig Rottenberg, Richard von Perger, Eusebius Mandyczewski, Eduard Hanslick, Gustav Mahler, Theodor Billroth, and Joseph Breuer. He spent the summer months with his family in Upper Austria, initially in Ischl, and from 1890 in Unterach on the Attersee where he built his own holiday home, the “Berghof”. This too became a magnet for musicians, artists, and literary figures.
As a composer Brüll remained faithful to the models which had brought him success in his early years, and flatly refused to have anything to do with new developments. He thereby placed himself in growing opposition to his time, but he nevertheless received many tributes on 7 November 1906, the occasion of his sixtieth birthday. When he unexpectedly died only a few months later, on 17 September 1907, the public mourned him as a serious musician whose artistic endeavours had always shown integrity and sincerity. Das goldene Kreuz kept his name alive for the following decades, until the Nazi ban on all Jewish artists finally swept it from the stage.
In 2007, for the centenary of Brüll’s death, Brüll Re-Discovery and CD label Cameo Classics embarked on a recording project to make Brüll’s orchestral works known to a wider audience. His Symphony Op.31, the Serenade No.1 Op.29, Overture Macbeth, and the Violin Concerto in A minor Op.41 were recorded, along with compositions for piano.
Edited by KraeheK on 8 Apr 2009, 23:03
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