Max Bruch was born in Cologne, Germany, in 1838 and was given his first musical education by his mother, who was a well-known soprano and music teacher. He studied theory in Bonn and by the age of 11 had composed an orchestral overture and some chamber music. In 1852 he wrote his First Symphony and a string quartet, the latter piece netting him the Frankfurt Mozart Foundation Prize. With the money he won from the prize, he studied piano, composition and theory in Cologne, and in 1858 became a music teacher there.
Bruch then travelled in 1861 and 1862, visiting Berlin, Leipzig, Dresden, Vienna and Munich. He moved to Mannheim in 1862, where he had several pieces performed, including his opera Loreley. He travelled again to Paris and Brussels, and then worked first as a music director in Koblenz (1865-1867), then as Court Kapellmeister in Sondershausen. He lived in Berlin in 1872 and 1873, and then moved to Bonn to compose. Bruch then conducted the Liverpool Philharmonic Society in England, where he also travelled and gained inspiration for his Scottische Fantasie (1880). He then moved to Breslau, where he conducted the Orchesterverein between 1883 and 1890.
In 1891, Bruch finally settled down when he was given a professorship at the Berlin Academy, where he taught composition until his retirement in 1910. In 1893 he was given an honorary doctoral degree by Cambridge University, and became chairman of the Royal Academy of the Arts in Berlin (he was given honorary membership from 1913). Bruch died in 1920 in Berlin as a well-respected composer, particularly abroad. His Violin Concertos are perhaps his best-loved works, and form part of the standard concert repertoire.