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Thread: Ernest Bloch

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    Default Ernest Bloch

    From the start, I will say I am not that familiar with Bloch's music. By memory, I am familiar with 3 Nocturnes and the very sublime Niguin. The first time I heard the former piece was at a recital I attended. I can't really explain what kind of effect hearing that piece had on me. I can honestly say I recall more details of that recital (and other similar ones) than I do of other concerts I have attended (yes, orchestral included).

    Are there any other Bloch works worth discussing? If so, share them here.

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    I had the second mvt. of his Concerto Grosso played at my wedding!

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    I like his style, which is very rhapsodic and epic. I've not heard the works mentioned above, but I am familiar with the Schelomo, the Violin Concerto, and Voice in the Wilderness. Sometimes his music sounds like the soundtrack to a biblical epic, at other times it is more lyrical and romantic. I think he is a very approachable composer, despite his rather unique and idiosyncratic style.

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    Default Ernest Bloch


    Ernest Bloch was born in Switzerland and died at Agate Beach, Oregon. His work divides into four main periods. In the earliest, he falls under the influence of Richard Strauss and Modest Mussorgsky, an odd combination, to say the least. The works of this period – like the Symphony in C Sharp minor and the tone poem Printemps-Hiver – impress you as trying to find their way. They have not absorbed their influences; the joins show. Later, Bloch exchanges Strauss for Claude Debussy and strengthens the Mussorgsky ties. This results in his opera Macbeth, considered by many as the finest operatic version of a Shakespearean tragedy. The ties to Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov are apparent, but Bloch has made Mussorgsky's devices (irregular metrical shifts, odd chord progressions and cadences) his own.

    In the second, so-called "Jewish," period, Bloch takes up specific Jewish subject matter (although not musical matter) and writes the one work by which he is still remembered: Schelomo, a rhapsody for cello and orchestra based on the figure of Solomon and the book of Ecclesiastes. During this time, he also produces psalm settings for tenor and orchestra, the Trois Poèmes juifs, and the suite Baal Shem for violin and piano. Here, Bloch single-handedly creates a manner all his own – epic, passionate, powerful – with obvious reminiscences of cantorial melos. Once he finds this, for the most part, the specific Jewish references become objectified, submerged, or turned to other expressive uses. He will return to Jewish material for inspiration, but he no longer writes specifically "Jewish" music. Indeed, many of his works seen as Jewish actually have their origins in his imaginative vision of Asian and Pacific jungles.

    About this time, in the mid-1920s, with several significant works behind him, Bloch decided to re-learn counterpoint. J. S. Bach and Palestrina become profound new influences. Yet, Bloch's neo-classicism (in works like the Concerto Grosso No. 1, Piano Quintet No. 1, and the Sacred Service) sounds like nobody else's. The strong, epic quality is still there, but construction just got tighter. It really impresses a listener as a desire to get the most expressive punch out of every musical line.

    During World War II, Bloch became too depressed to compose, but the end of the war released a flood of new work, tending to the abstract, and emphasizing chamber music and chamber combinations. Bach continues as an influence, but so does late Beethoven, particularly in Bloch's string quartets 2-5. He began to experiment with serialism, although again his musical soul remained his own.

    Bloch is out of critical favor right now, along with an entire generation of twentieth-century composers like Artur Honegger, Darius Milhaud, and Ralph Vaughan Williams. He takes big breaths, like Whitman, in a time which prefers the ironic, the distant, and the understated, but he has both intellect and passion.

    Major works include Schelomo and Voice in the Wilderness for cello and orchestra, the opera Macbeth, five magnificent string quartets (Roger Sessions regarded them as among the best ever written), concertos for violin and piano, two violin sonatas, two concerti grossi, three suites for solo cello, the Sacred Service (Avodath Hakodesh), Suite symphonique, Sinfonia Breve, Proclamation for trumpet and orchestra, Suite hébraïque for violin and orchestra, two piano quintets, and two suites for solo violin (his last works).

    [Article taken from Classical.net]


    Bloch was truly a gifted composer. I just heard his Violin Concerto and I'm absolutely enchanted with it's lyrical beauty. Truly remarkable. He's yet another composer who has "fallen between the cracks" so to speak. He's written a good bit of work. I look forward to hearing more of his work.

    Are you guys familiar with Bloch's music?

    Special note: I just realized there's already a thread on Bloch. Oh well....this thread has more information.

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    He's also one of my favourites. Sometimes his music can sound a bit pastiche & too cheesy for it's own good (eg. America: An Epic Rhapsody), but his best works have a sense of grandeur which is more dignified, perhaps (Schelomo, Voice in the wilderness, Violin Concerto, Hebrew Suite).

    Here's the other thread on Bloch:

    http://www.talkclassical.com/4535-ernest-bloch.html

    By the way, Mirror Image, which recording of the Violin Concerto did you hear? I've got the one on Naxos with Zina Schiff, conducted by Serebrier...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Andre View Post
    He's also one of my favourites. Sometimes his music can sound a bit pastiche & too cheesy for it's own good (eg. America: An Epic Rhapsody), but his best works have a sense of grandeur which is more dignified, perhaps (Schelomo, Voice in the wilderness, Violin Concerto, Hebrew Suite).

    Here's the other thread on Bloch:

    http://www.talkclassical.com/4535-ernest-bloch.html

    By the way, Mirror Image, which recording of the Violin Concerto did you hear? I've got the one on Naxos with Zina Schiff, conducted by Serebrier...
    That's the one I heard on Naxos. It's an excellent recording of that piece. Jose Serebrier is a very good conductor. I own several recordings of Serebrier.

    How's the rest of that Naxos recording?

    Anyway, that's the only piece I've heard of Bloch, but it's really good.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mirror Image View Post
    That's the one I heard on Naxos...How's the rest of that Naxos recording?...Anyway, that's the only piece I've heard of Bloch, but it's really good.
    The CD has two other works for violin & orchestra, the earlier Baal Shem & the later Hebrew Suite. They are both interesting listening, in the same vein as the Violin Concerto, but much shorter.

    He composed two great concertante works for cello & orchestra, Schelomo & Voice in the wilderness. I recommend those if you like the Violin Concerto.

    His chamber music is also good, I have his String Quartet No. 3.

    As I said above, I think America: An Epic Rhapsody is too cheesy, sprawling & pastiched for it's own good, but it's not a bad piece, if you're willing to put up with these considerable drawbacks. He also composed two other similar works, which I have not heard, called Switzerland & Israel.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Andre View Post
    The CD has two other works for violin & orchestra, the earlier Baal Shem & the later Hebrew Suite. They are both interesting listening, in the same vein as the Violin Concerto, but much shorter.

    He composed two great concertante works for cello & orchestra, Schelomo & Voice in the wilderness. I recommend those if you like the Violin Concerto.

    His chamber music is also good, I have his String Quartet No. 3.

    As I said above, I think America: An Epic Rhapsody is too cheesy, sprawling & pastiched for it's own good, but it's not a bad piece, if you're willing to put up with these considerable drawbacks. He also composed two other similar works, which I have not heard, called Switzerland & Israel.
    Don't worry, I won't be checking out "America: An Epic Rhapsody." I think the idea of that piece sounds a little far-fetched and I've read a lot about Bloch. His strength are in his concertos I think.

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    He wrote a lot of cello pieces like Prayer, Schelomo, Meditation, but I like Schelomo the best.

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    Hi everybody,

    Please have a look at my Ernest Bloch's web page.
    You will find an extensive discography and numerous links to learn more about this extraordinary composer.

    http://claudet.club.fr/Bloch/index.html

    All the best
    Greetings from France

    Claude Torres

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    Quote Originally Posted by livemylife View Post
    He wrote a lot of cello pieces like Prayer, Schelomo, Meditation, but I like Schelomo the best.
    Is that a picture of Jacqueline du Pre on your avatar? She was a great cellist. Her performance of Elgar's "Cello Concerto" is still unsurpassed.

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    Yes I like Bloch

    i like his evocations suite among other things.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Claude Torres View Post
    Hi everybody,

    Please have a look at my Ernest Bloch's web page.
    You will find an extensive discography and numerous links to learn more about this extraordinary composer.

    http://claudet.club.fr/Bloch/index.html

    All the best
    Greetings from France

    Claude Torres
    Please note that my web pages addresses have changed

    http://claude.torres1.perso.sfr.fr/Bloch/index.html
    for Ernest Bloch

    http://claude.torres1.perso.sfr.fr/index.html
    is the Home Page

    Sorry

    Claude Torres

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    IMHO, best recordings of the v.c. are the 2 historicals by Joseph Szigety, with Munch (38) and with Mengelberg (39).

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    I visit that beach often on the Oregon coast. Agate beach is a delight and I always play one of his woprks when there like the Symphony or Schelomo.

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