Ernest Bloch (1880 - 1959) MP

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Birthplace: Geneva, Genève, Canton of Geneva, Switzerland
Death: Died in Portland, Multnomah, OR, USA
Cause of death: Cancer
Managed by: Yigal Burstein / יגאל בורשטיין
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Ernest Bloch

Ernest Bloch (July 24, 1880 – July 15, 1959) was a Swiss-born American composer.

Bloch was born in Geneva and began playing the violin at age 9. He began composing soon afterwards. He studied music at the conservatory in Brussels, where his teachers included the celebrated Belgian violinist Eugène Ysaÿe.

He then travelled around Europe, moving to Germany (where he studied composition from 1900–1901 with Iwan Knorr at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt), on to Paris in 1903 and back to Geneva before settling in the United States in 1916, taking American citizenship in 1924.

He held several teaching appointments in the U.S., with George Antheil, Frederick Jacobi, Bernard Rogers, and Roger Sessions among his pupils. In December 1920 he was appointed the first Musical Director of the newly formed Cleveland Institute of Music, a post he held until 1925. Following this he was director of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music until 1930.

In 1941, Bloch moved to the small coastal community of Agate Beach, Oregon and lived there the rest of his life. He died in 1959 in Portland, Oregon, of cancer at the age of 78. The Bloch Memorial has been moved from near his house in Agate Beach to a more prominent location at the Newport Performing Arts Center in Newport, Oregon.

Music

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

  1. Schelomo (1916) for cello and orchestra, which he dedicated to the cellist Alexandre Barjansky (of Barjansky Stradivarius fame),
  2. the Israel Symphony (1916),
  3. Baal Shem for violin and piano (1923, later version for violin and orchestra),
  4. the "From Jewish Life" suite for cello and piano, and
  5. 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, which won a 1927 prize (sponsored by Musical America) for the best symphonic work on an American theme by an American composer. (Bloch qualified because he was a naturalized American citizen.)

Leopold Stokowski and the Symphony of the Air made the first stereo recording of America for Vanguard Records, which included a short speech by Bloch that explained why he wrote the piece; in June 1993, Gerard Schwarz and 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.

Works

Stage: Macbeth, Opera in 3 acts (1909 Geneva-Paris)

Orchestral:

  • Symphony in C♯ minor (1902);
  • Hiver-Printemps (1905 Paris-Geneva);
  • Trois Poèmes Juifs for large orchestra (1913 Satigny);
  • Israel, Symphony for orchestra (1916 Geneva);
  • In the Night: A Love Poem (1922 Cleveland);
  • Poems of the Sea (1922 Cleveland);
  • Concerto Grosso No. 1 for string orchestra with piano obbligato (1925 Santa Fe - Cleveland);
  • Four Episodes for chamber orchestra (1926 San Francisco);
  • America: An Epic Rhapsody for Orchestra (1926 San Francisco);
  • Helvetia, Symphonic Poem (1929 Frankfurt - San Francisco);
  • Evocations, Symphonic Suite (1937 Châtel, Haute Savoie);
  • Suite Symphonique (1944 Agate Beach);
  • In Memoriam (1952 Agate Beach);
  • Concerto Grosso No. 2 for string orchestra (1952 Agate Beach);
  • Sinfonia Breve (1953 Agate Beach);
  • Symphony in E♭ (1955 Agate Beach).

Concertante:

  • Schelomo, Rhapsodie Hébraïque for cello solo and large orchestra (1916 Geneva-New York);
  • Suite for viola and orchestra (1919 New York);
  • Voice in the Wilderness, Symphonic Poem for orchestra with cello obbligato (1936 Châtel, Haute Savoie); Concerto for violin and orchestra (1938 Châtel, Haute Savoie); Baal Shem for violin and orchestra (1939); Concerto Symphonique for piano and orchestra (1948 Agate Beach);
  • Scherzo Fantasque for piano and orchestra (1948 Agate Beach);
  • Concertino for flute, viola and string orchestra (1948, 1950 Agate Beach);
  • Suite Hébraïque, for viola (or violin) and orchestra (1951 Agate Beach);
  • Symphony for trombone and orchestra (1954 Agate Beach);
  • Proclamation for trumpet and orchestra (1955 Agate Beach);
  • Suite Modale for flute and string orchestra (1956 Agate Beach);
  • Two Last Poems for flute solo and orchestra (1958 Agate Beach).

Vocal and choral:

  • Historiettes au Crépuscule for mezzo-soprano and piano (1904 Paris);
  • Poèmes d'Automne for mezzo-soprano and orchestra (1906 Geneva);
  • Psaume 22 (1913 Satigny);
  • Deux Psaumes pour soprano et orchestre, précédés d'un prélude orchestral (1914 Satigny);
  • Avodath Hakodesh (Sacred Service) (1933 Roveredo-Ticino);
  • America: An Epic Rhapsody for chorus and orchestra (1926 San Francisco).

Chamber:

Piano Quintet No. 1 (1923 Cleveland); Piano Quintet No. 2 (1957);

  • String Quartet: String Quartet in G (1896);
  • String Quartet No. 1 (1916 Geneva - New York);String Quartet No. 2 (1945 Agate Beach);
  • String Quartet No. 3 (1952 Agate Beach);
  • String Quartet No. 4 (1953 Agate Beach);
  • String Quartet No. 5 (1956 Agate Beach);
  • In the Mountains (1924 Cleveland); Night (1923 Cleveland);
  • Paysages (1923 Cleveland) - the first movement Night was inspired by Robert J. Flaherty's Nanook of the North; Prelude (1925 Cleveland);
  • Two Pieces (1938, 1950 Châtel, Haute Savoie - Agate Beach);
  • Three Nocturnes for piano trio (1924 Cleveland).

Instrumental

Violin:

  • Sonata No. 1 for violin and piano (1920 Cleveland);
  • Baal Shem (1923 Cleveland);
  • Poème Mystique, Sonata No. 2 for violin and piano (1924 Cleveland);
  • Nuit Exotique (1924 Cleveland);
  • Abodah (1929 San Francisco);
  • Mélodie (1929 San Francisco);
  • Suite Hébraïque for violin and piano (1951 Agate Beach);
  • Suite No. 1 for violin solo (1958 Agate Beach);
  • Suite No. 2 for violin solo (1958 Agate Beach).

Viola:

  • Suite for viola and piano (1919 New York);
  • Suite Hébraïque for viola and piano (1951 Agate Beach);
  • Meditation and Processional for viola and piano (1951 Agate Beach);
  • Suite for viola solo (unfinished) (1958 Agate Beach);

Cello:

  • Méditation Hébraïque (1924 Cleveland);
  • From Jewish Life (1925 Cleveland); Suite No. 1 for cello solo (1956 Agate Beach);
  • Suite No. 2 for cello solo (1956 Agate Beach);
  • Suite No. 3 for cello solo (1957 Agate Beach);
  • Suite Modale for flute and piano (1956 Agate Beach).

Piano:

  • Ex-voto (1914 Geneva);
  • In the Night: A Love Poem (1922 Cleveland);
  • Poems of the Sea (1922 Cleveland);
  • Four Circus Pieces (1922 Cleveland);
  • Danse Sacrée (1923 Cleveland);
  • Enfantines, 10 pieces for children (1923 Cleveland);
  • Nirvana, Poem (1923 Cleveland);
  • Five Sketches in Sepia (1923 Cleveland);
  • Sonata (1935 Châtel, Haute Savoie), written for Guido Agosti;
  • Visions et Prophéties (1936 Châtel, Haute Savoie).

Organ: 6 Preludes (1949 Agate Beach); 4 Wedding Marches (1950 Agate Beach)

Family

Ernest Bloch and his wife Marguerite Schneider had three children: Ivan, Suzanne and Lucienne. Ivan, born in 1905, became an engineer with the Bonneville Power Administration in Portland, Oregon. Suzanne Bloch, born in 1907, was a musician particularly interested in Renaissance music who taught harpsichord, lute and composition at the Juilliard School in New York. Lucienne Bloch, born in 1909, worked as Diego Rivera's chief photographer on the Rockefeller Center mural project, became friends with Rivera's wife, the artist Frida Kahlo, and took some key photos of Kahlo and the only photographs of Rivera's mural (which was destroyed because Lenin was depicted in it).

Photography

The Western Jewish History Center, of the Judah L. Magnes Museum, in Berkeley, California has a small collection of photographs of Ernest Bloch which document his interest in photography.

Many of the photographs Bloch took—over 6,000 negatives and 2,000 prints—are in the Ernest Bloch Archive at the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona in Tucson along with photographs by the likes of Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Richard Avedon.

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Ernest Bloch's Timeline

1880
July 24, 1880
Geneva, Genève, Canton of Geneva, Switzerland
1909
January 5, 1909
Age 28
Geneve, Switzerland
1959
July 15, 1959
Age 78
Portland, Multnomah, OR, USA
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