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Bloch, Ernest (1880-1959)

Ernest Bloch

born: 24 July 1880
died: 15 July 1959
country: USA

Bloch's early works, including his opera Macbeth (1910) show the influence of both the Germanic school of Richard Strauss and the impressionism of Claude Debussy. Mature works, including his best-known pieces, often draw on Jewish liturgical and folk music. These works include Schelomo (1916) for cello and orchestra, the Israel Symphony (1916), Baal Shem for violin and piano (1923, later version for violin and orchestra), The "Jewish Life" Suite for Cello and Piano and Avodath Hakodesh (Sacred Service, 1933) for baritone, choir and orchestra. Other pieces from this period include a violin concerto written for Joseph Szigeti and the rhapsody America for chorus and orchestra. Leopold Stokowski and the Symphony of the Air made the first stereo recording of America for Vanguard Records and included a short speech by Bloch that explained why he wrote the piece; years later, the Seattle Symphony Orchestra recorded the work for Delos. Pieces written after World War II are a little more varied in style, though Bloch's essentially Romantic idiom remains. Some, such as the Suite hébraïque (1950) continue the Jewish theme; others, such as the second concerto grosso (1952), display an interest in neo-classicism (though here too the harmonic language is basically Romantic, even though the form is Baroque); and others, including the late string quartets, include elements of atonality.

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