Chang Tou Liang
Singapore Straits Times
July 2012

If one has enjoyed the music in those epic biblical movies of the last century, mostly starring Charlton Heston, chances are one will also respond to the works of the composer who influenced that genre.

The Swiss-American Ernest Bloch (1880-1959) also wrote much secular music, but he will be best remembered for the works that reflect his Jewish heritage. The best known is Schelomo, the 1916 Hebraic rhapsody on the life of King Solomon, scored with the cello as his incarnation.

The triumphs, trials and tribulations are indelibly captured in the string instrument’s deep and wide emotional reach, but its abiding message is to be found in Solomon’s Ecclesiastes: 'All is vanity'. Its companion is the six-movement Voice In The Wilderness (1936), a more diffuse work that carries the same burden of toil and torment, always a Judaist trait of the generations. Far lighter in mood are the three Hasidic-related movements of From Jewish Life (1924), orchestrated by Christopher Palmer.

Completing this gorgeously performed anthology by young British cellist Natalie Clein is Max Bruch’s popular Kol Nidrei. It uses several genuine synagogue chants to sympathetic effect, remarkably so because Bruch was not Jewish himself. Essential listening.