Hyperion Records

From Jewish Life
Bloch composed From Jewish Life for cello and piano while on vacation in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at the end of 1924, the year before his period of office as Director of the Cleveland Institute of Music came to an end. This set of three short pieces was dedicated to Hans Kindler (1892–1949), who had given the premiere of Schelomo at New York’s Carnegie Hall in 1917. They explore the entire range of the solo instrument, musical structures are simple, and the use of Eastern European Ashkenazi modality creates a distinctive atmosphere. This recording features Christopher Palmer’s arrangement of Bloch’s original piano accompaniment for string orchestra and harp.

Prayer is in ternary form, and the two contrasting themes—one broad, the other fragmented—are each introduced by the cello and then repeated in the orchestra. In the final section the melody of the opening appears an octave higher, and is extended into a kind of free recitative. The accompaniment is essentially chordal, but there are several passages of rich two-part counterpoint. The key of F minor incorporates elements of the Magen Avot and S’licha modes of the synagogue; but it is the Ahava Rabba mode (known more colloquially as Freigish) that predominates in the coda. The cello solo ends with an especially poignant quartertone inflection.

Supplication is based upon a single theme in two parts, each of which recurs in various guises. Although the tonality is basically E minor, there is frequent modulation into related keys as the movement progresses. Elements of the Av Harachamim (Mi Shebeirach), Adonay Malach, and Ahava Rabba modes are combined here in rapid succession; and occasional syncopations suggest the rhythms of Hassidic dance. After a spirited climax, a long chromatic descent leads to a peaceful close.

Jewish Song is based upon a single melody in the Ahava Rabba mode on C. And again there are two parts, the first of which appears three times, and the second twice. Quartertones are plentiful; they produce a consistently doleful effect—particularly at the beginning, where the accompaniment comprises a slowly and solemnly repeated drone on a bare fifth. The movement arches to a climax, following which the theme fades away to nothing.

from notes by Alexander Knapp © 2012

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