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Ernest Bloch

composer , conductor

Ernest Bloch, Swiss composer, conductor. Recipient award for orchestral music New York Music Critics Circle, 1954. Honorary member Accademia di St. Cecilia, Rome; member American Academy of Arts and Letters (awarded gold medal 1942), American Society composers, Authors and Publishers. member Accademia di St; member American Academy of Arts and Letters (awarded gold medal 1942), American Society composers, Authors and Publishers.

Background

Bloch, Ernest was born on July 24, 1880 in Geneva. Switzerland. Son of Maurice and Sophie (Brunschwig) Bloch.

Education

Studied in Geneva, Brussels, Frank-furt-am-Main. Awarded degree of Doctor of Hebrew Literature from Linfield College, 1948.

Career

After spending some time in Munich and Paris, Bloch returned to Geneva where he entered his father’s clock business. Musical engagements as a conductor followed in Neuchâtel and Lausanne.

Bloch also lectured on aesthetics at the Geneva Conservatory.

In 1916 he welcomed the opportunity to travel to the United States and leave war-torn Europe behind. But his tour with dancer Maud Allan was far from successful, and he soon returned home. He returned to America a year later, and taught at the David Mannes School of Music in New York. It was during this time that Bloch established his reputation as a Jewish composer.

In 1920 Bloch became the first director of the Cleveland Institute of Music, a position he held for five years. During his tenure Bloch suggested a number of radical reforms that were not acceptable to his colleagues. He proposed, for example, that the students’ live musical experience should replace the traditional examinations and textbooks. From 1925 to 1930 he headed the San Francisco Conservatory.

Bloch returned to Europe, where he spent most of the 1930s, but returned to the United States in 1940 to escape anti-Semitism in Europe and in order to avoid losing his American citizenship. He settled at Agate Beach, Oregon, in 1941 and taught at the University of California, Berkeley, until his retirement in 1952.

Above all stands "Avodath Hakodesh" (“Sacred Service”), one of the few works that have ever set an entire Jewish prayer service to music.

Writing between 1930 and 1933 on commission from the Temple Emmanuel congregation in San Francisco, Bloch a masterpiece based upon the text of the American Union Prayer Book for Jewish Worship. It is set for a cantor (usually a baritone), a mixed chorus and a large orchestra. At times a narrator is included. Bloch’s other works include "Concerto Grosso", a piano quintet, and five string quartets which project a powerful impact and intensity.

In 1968, nine years after his death, his children’s efforts led to the inception of the Ernest Bloch Society in the United States. In 1990 the first Bloch Festival was presented in Newport, Oregon, featuring concerts, lectures, panels, and a composers’ symposium.

Works

  • Other Work

    • Composer: Symphony in C sharp minor. 1901-1902

    • Hiver-Printemps (symphonic poem), 1904-1905. Poemes d’Automme (for voice and orchestra), 1906.Macbeth (opera), 1909. Jewish Cycle (for orchestra). 1912-1916

    • Quartet, 1916.Suite for Viola and Orchestra, 1919. Sonata for Violin and Piano, 1926. Quintet. 1923

    • Poeme Mystique for violin and piano, 1924.Concerto Grosso for String Orchestra and Piano, 1925. Four Episodes (for chamber orchestra), 1926. America (symphony), 1926.Helvetia (for orchestra), 1928. Jewish Service, 1933. Voice in the Wilderness (for cello and orchestra), 1935.Piano Sonata

    • Evocations (for orchestra). Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, 1937. Suite Symphonique, 1944.Second String Quartet, 1945. Concerto Symphonique, 1946-1948. Scherzo Fantasque, 1948.Concertino, 1950

    • Rhapsodie Hebraique, 1951. Concerto Grosso Northern 2, String Quartet Northern 3, Sinfonia Breve, 19552, Northern 4, 1953. Symphony (for trombone and orchestra), 1954.Symphony (E flat), 1955. Proclamation (trumpet solo & orchestra), 1955. String Quartet Northern 5, 1956.2 Suites (viello solo), 1956.

    • Music for Cello and Piano

Views

Bloch was an advocate of music and art and once said that when art, “becomes an expression of a philosophy of life, it is no longer a luxury. It is a storm that carries one away, unites all men in a unit of solidarity, shakes them to the bottom of their souls, waking them to the greatest problems of their common destiny.”

The composer also said that he aspired “to write Jewish music not for the sake of self-advertisement, but because it is the only way in which I can produce music of vitality.... It is the Jewish soul that interests me, the complex, glowing, agitated soul that I feel vibrating through the Bible.”

Quotations: Bloch, on writing "Avodath Hakodesh" in the Swiss village Roveredo-Capriasca, high above Lugano

I have now memorized entirely the whole Service in Hebrew and I know its significance word by word. What is more important, I have absorbed it to the point that it has become mine, and as if it were the very expression of my soul. It has become the very text I was after since the age of ten - a dream of stars, of forces. I declaim out loud, amidst the rocks and forests in the great silence. It has become a “private affair” between God and me.... I am battling against notes, sounds, rhythms, to extirpate out of my soul all the unexpressed music which has been latent for centuries, which was awaiting this marvellous text. Though intensely Jewish in its roots, this message seems to me above all a gift of Israel to the whole of mankind.

Membership

Member Accademia di St. Member American Academy of Arts and Letters (awarded gold medal 1942), American Society composers, Authors and Publishers.

Connections

Married August 13, 1904. Children: Ivan, Suzanne, Lucienne.

father:
Maurice Bloch

mother:
Sophie (Brunschwig) Bloch

children:
Ivan Bloch

Suzanne Bloch

Lucienne Bloch