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Introduction of BLOCH's most important works
chosen at webmaster's own discretion

This section introduces Bloch's "MOST IMPORTANT WORKS" chosen at webmaster's own discretion in order of year. In other words, they may be webmaster's favorite music, however, compositions which may be just my taste are excluded.
All of compositions here is worth listening. Recommended discs are also introduced. Other compositions will be introduced in the future.

Schelomo Rhapsodie Hébraïque pour Violoncelle solo et Grand Orchestre (1916)

"Schelomo" is the most well-known work in Bloch's compositions. Presently many international-class cellists play "Schelomo", and it became recognized as main repertoire for cello.
But Whether or not, this work makes general impression of Bloch's composition.
If you see Compositions List in chronological order, you will find that this work is one of his earliest composition. It can be said that "Schelomo" is just an entrance of Bloch's outstanding compositions.

It must be unnecessary to introduce it now with webmaster's poor sense, but the webmaster tentatively makes it in due form.
"Schelomo" is one of the series of "Jewish cycle" Bloch composed in this era and is the most striking composition.
As the title says, this work which is for violoncello-solo and orchestra is not concerto but Rhapsody. It may mean that this work is not for showing violoncello-technique but is composed in free form.
Solo-violoncello symbolizes King Solomon (Schelomo), and it leads orchestra. In the entire music, it is full of mysterious atmosphere and colorful orchestration with shades and it gives us great impression.

The webmaster's best choice is live recording laserdisc by Rostropovich/Bernstein/Orchestre National de France. There is also CD recorded in same term. But because of that it is live recording and with picture, it gives us great impression. The state of Rostropovich who is concentrating without trying to wipe perspiration is overwhelming.
Unfortunately, this laserdisc is no longer available and it is hard to get it.
Nevertheless some libraries e.g. Aichi Art Center (Japan) collect laserdiscs and you can watch them there.

Suite for Viola and Piano (or Orchestra) (1919)

The year 1919 may be rich harvest year for viola. Great viola works, Hindemith's viola sonata op.11-4 and Clarke's viola sonata were composed in the year. Of course, Bloch's Viola suite was composed in the same year.

This work is a little different from earlier "Jewish cycle". Not featuring ethnic color, it is formed on orthodox musical form in four movements. This work may be equal to Bartok or Stravinsky who was active in same era.
From arpeggio by piano of the the beginning, the music attracts us completely. The music shows mysterious third movement, last movement with oriental atmosphere using pentatonic scale.

At the first, this work was composed for viola and piano, soon later it was orchestrated for viola and orchestra. In orchestral version, sense of color is emphasized and mysterious atmosphere becomes deeper. In the last movement, it shows the world of exotic mood like that Mahler described in "Das Lied von der Erde".

After this composition, Bloch composed many chamber music in 1920s. The compositions in this era show a tendency to avant-garde, mysticism, or neo-classicism than sense of strong Jewish color.

Several recordings of this work are available. Several CDs of this work are available. They are comparatively easy to get.
The webmaster likes to listen to the recording included in "ERNEST BLOCH : Complete music for viola and piano" by Ernst & Lory Wallfisch. It is a little old recording, but sound quality is good. Bloch's viola works are all great. In this CD, you can enjoy matured music.
The collection of works in 1919 by Schotten/Collier is also good.

In orchestral version, the CD coupling with Bartok's viola concerto by Thompson/Freeman/Slovenian Radio Symphony Orchestra shows performance with exotic coloration.

There is the recording by great William Primrose, but it is very old recording and it can never be said that its sound quality is good.

Poème Mystique : Sonata for Violin and Piano No.2 (1924)

Bloch composed many chamber music in 1920s. This is a masterpiece towering above the chamber music composed much in 1920s.
It is in one movement and its duration is about 20 minutes. It may be a large-scale work in chamber music.

Violin sonata No.1 composed in 1920 was more avant-garde work than this work in which violin techniques are drastically used. In contrast to first sonata, violin techniques e.g. double stopping are not so much used in this work, and it would pursue pure music expression in this work.

The theme played by violin only at the opening is composed of almost E-tone and H-tone, and makes mysterious atmosphere .

Copyright, 1925, by F. E. C. Leuckart.

Also after that, melody moves mainly with fifth or fourth intervals, and also in the harmony, fifth interval, not triad is frequently used. In a sense of perfectly clear transparentness, music grows slowly and assumes tension gradually. At one climax, suddenly music assumes expression and begins to intone Gregorian Chant.

Copyright, 1925, by F. E. C. Leuckart.

Several recordings of this work are available. Several CDs of this work are available. They are comparatively easy to get.
Because of that this work has few technical element, results of performance would depend on musicality of players. Mediocre performance can never show us true value of this work.

In that respect, the recording included in "Bloch : Complete Music for Violin and Piano Volume II" by the Weilerstein Duo shows us value of this work enough.

The recording of Mordkovitch/Milford shows us a large-scale moving music. The duration of performance is over 26 minutes. Music begins in very slow tempo and in the whole music, and the tension continues without a break until the end. It shows the swell of the emotion.
This must be truly great performance which makes us recognize the real worth of this work.

Unfortunately, although it is great masterpiece, there is very few recordings by international-class artists.
The webmaster hopes that this work will be recognized as main repertoire for violinist.

Concerto Grosso No.1 for String Orchestra with Piano Obbligato (1925)

It can be said that this work is neo-classicism work which is based on baroque music style called "Concerto Grosso". In the classical music style, this work has also modern music elements. It makes this music very impressive.
Piano is not solo-instrument but basso-continuo like cembalo. However piano plays sometimes as independent roles.

This work consists of 4 movements. Each of them are titled "Prelude", "Dirge", "Pastrale and Rustic Dances" and "Fugue".
First movement is composed on Ritornello form which has characteristic theme in combination of two-four time and four-four time.
Second movement is slow movement. In middle section, Melodie in minor key is played on accompaninent in major key. It makes Jewish atmosphere.
Music continues to Third movement "Pastrale and Rustic Dances" without pause. Third movement is refined dance music which has British atmosphere.
Fourth movement is magnificent "Fugue" which is worth closing the music as Finale. Music grows repeating expositions and episodes, then it reaches climax. After the theme of first movement reappears, Coda ends the music.

Amadeus Chamber Orchestra may be best recording of this work. Performance and sound quality are both great. It has cheerful sound in entire music. Especially, two later movements are wonderful. We could never heard beauty of soli of violas in middle section of third movement and overwhelming lively motion of fourth movement in other recordings. In "Fugue", eighth notes are played staccato. That develops lively motion. The section near the reappearance of the theme of first movement may be the best passage in this music.
In contrast to Amadeus Chamber Orchestra, the recording of San Diego Chamber Orchestra shows us tasteful music with profundity. Changes of tempo are played faithfully to the score.
Hanson/Eastman-Rochester Orchestra is a little old recording, but sound quality is good. It shows us strong large-boned music, and is worth listening.

There is the recording of Neville Mariner, but unfortunately, it is not released as CD.
Incidentally, analog record of its recording released from Toshiba-EMI, Japan included detailed analysis of this work.

Avodath Hakodesh (Sacred Service) (1933)

During 1930s, Bloch was returning to Europe. In this era, he didn't compose so much works. However, in this era, he composed mainly orchestral works. All of them are substantial works.

Bloch composed very few vocal works, and this work is the only one except his earlier compositions. This is Jewish oratorio which seems to be a comprehensive compilation of Bloch's music.
Baritone-solo, as Cantor leads chorus. This is beautiful music whose orchestration is colorful.

There is not so much recording of this work. Some of them are Bernstein/New York Philharmonic and Simon/London Symphony Orchestra.
There is also the recording conducted by the composer ( Rockport Records / Jewish Music Heritage Recordings ) which is sung in English.
It is very old recording, but it is low noise and its sound quality is not bad.

Evocations : Symphonic Suite for Orchestra (1937)

Through making full use of pentatonic scale and exquisite colorful orchestration, this work is masterpiece which represents oriental atmosphere.

This work consists of 3 parts. The whole music is played without pause.
I."Contemplation" is a mysterious music using piano, celesta effectively.
II."Houang Ti (God of War)" is fierce music which deserves its title.
III."Renouveau" is beautiful music with exotic mood which has somewhat Chinese atmosphere.

This music also has somewhat atmosphere of Buddhism which is same as Toshiro Mayuzumi's Nirvana symphony.

There are few recordings of this work. They are only Sedares/New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and Amos/Lithuanian National Philharmonic Orchestra. Nevertheless sound quality and performance of both of them are good.

Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (1938)

Bloch composed many of works for solo-instrument and orchestra. However the work which is purely titled "concerto" is only this one.
Bloch had studied violin with Ysaye, and he was well acquainted with violin. Violin technique e.g. double-stopping in his work seems to have same style as Ysaye, and this work must be his masterpiece in which Bloch displayed his great power.

Throughout the whole music, colorful and wonderful orchestration is full used, and it shows occasionally Jewish atmosphere, oriental mood and the music which reminds native American.

This work consists of 3 movements.
First movement is on sonata form. Soon after entering the recapitulation, there is cadenza. This movement has same atmosphere with "Schelomo".
Second movement is slow movement with full of mysterious and sentimental beauty.
In third movement, theme of first movement reappears, and music develops cheerful music in American style.

The webmaster's favarite disc is Menuhin/Kletzki/Philharmonia Orchestra. Both of performance sound quality are good. Both of performance sound quality are good, and it may be exemplary recording which shows the quintessence of this work.

Joseph Szigeti who did first performance of this work recorded this work twice. They are collaborations with Mengelberg/Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam and Münch/Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire, Paris.
The recording with Münch/Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire, Paris is very old recording, but this one is hard to disregard. Its sound quality is not bad for this era, and it is worth listening.
The recording with Mengelberg/Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam is live recording. In third movement, there is a little incident which lets listeners feel a sudden fear.

There are not so many recordings of this work, too. It is desired that major artists perform this work more and more.
The webmaster expects that violinists e.g. Itzhak Perlman, Gil Shaham will play great performance of this work ....

Suite Symphonique (1944)

Because of its very simple title, the webmaster didn't pay any attention to this work. However, if you really listen to it, you will find this is masterwork with very high completion degrees.

The reason of the simple title must be that this work is not programme music but absolute music removing emotional elements and giving priority to the musical form.

This work consists of 3 movements, and they are titled "Overture", "Passacaglia" and "Finale".
Highlight of this work is "Passacaglia" which is played after "Overture" without pause. It is dignified great Passacaglia such as German music.
Passacaglia is baroque variation music form, and it is rare that it is used in later era. Its famous example is the last movement of Brahms' fourth symphony.

"Finale" is great music, too. It may be on Rondo form (or Ritornello form). For reason that the score is unavailable, it is not able to confirm details. But it can be said that there is not so many tempo change, and it may follow allegro movement style in the classical period.

Bloch who had been stopping composing during the world war II resumed composing with this work.
Many of his previous works are on programme music style. After this work, the works in the evening of his life follow not popularized but neo-classicism style which gives priority to musical form.

This work has very few recordings. Nevertheless we have the recording of wonderful performance by Oramo/Malmö Symphony Orchestra.
The webmaster is keen that the catalogue of this work will be enriched.

And also the score must be available for sale to promote this work.

Concerto Symphonique for Piano and Orchestra (1948)

It can be said that this work is a dignified neo-classicism work the same as Suite Symphonique (1944).
Of course, piano is featured as solo-instrument. Nevertheless throughout the music brass instruments sound showily. This is unrefined and stately music.

Generally, concerto consists of 3 movements in [fast-slow-fast].
This work has scherzo (but not in triple time) in second movement and it became [fast-fast-fast]. It is very unusual structure.
Second movement has long trio which would be slow movement in essence.
characteristic theme of first movement appears in second movement, too, and in third movement the motif derived from it develops.

Copyright, 1950 in U.S.A. by Hawkes & Son (London), Ltd.

This work has very few recordings, too. They are Mitchell/Golschmann/Vienna State Opera Orchestra and Yui/Amos/London Symphony orchestra.
The webmaster is keen that the catalogue of this work will be enriched.

And the score seems presently out of stock. However some libraries e.g. Tokyo-Bunka-Kaikan have it in possession and you can look through it there.

Concertino for Flute,Viola and String Orchestra (1950)

This work is small concerto with full of balmy beauty which is very far from "Schelomo". By the point of view, it can be said that this work is like that of Mozart.

This work consists of 3 parts (movements). They are movement in Allegro comodo, slow movement and Fuga, and are played without pause. Fuga has eccentric theme which is composed of combination of triplet and eighth notes, and it is somewhat comical music which seems scherzo style.
Furthermore, there is the version in which full orchestra is suddenly added in last 14 measures.

This work has very few recordings, too. Nevertheless the recording of Kofler/Nicolai/Amadeus Chamber Orchestra shows us charm of this work.
The webmaster is keen that the catalogue of this work will be enriched.

Incidentally, Score of this work is listed in the catalog of G. Schirmer, but in fact, it is not score but sheet music for flute, viola, clarinet with piano accompaniment(50286760). Please notice it !

Two Last Poems for Flute Solo and Orchestra (1958)

Bloch whose age was near 80 got cancer, his health condition became worse, and the death was in front of him.
Some composers standing in front of death show different outlook on the world than before.
For instance, Richard Strauss who had composed dramatic orchestral works and operas making full use of very large orchestra with colorful, voluptuous orchestration has left completely different compositions in most later years.
"Metamorphosen", "Four Last Songs" have a deep outlook on the world.
Also Bloch standing in front of death composed this work.

This work consists of 2 parts, "Funeral Music" and "Life again?...". As this titles show, the theme of this work must be "DEATH". At the beginning, characteristic rhythm is played on D-tone played by contrabasses. It brings calm but unusual tension.

© Copyright 1961, 1975, by Broude Brothers Limited.

Soon Solo flute enters. Throughout Part 1, Strings are with mutes, and "Funeral Music" continues without big ups and downs. Then tension of beginning comes again, and it enters part 2 "Life again?..." without pause.
As it enters Part 2, the music springs to life. But it has something empty look and no lively motion sense.
It can be said that this work shows music of nirvana with clear transparentness pervading the whole music.

There are only one recording of orchestral accompaniment version of this work. It is played by Alexa Still . We have no choice. But it shows us true worth of this work.
The webmaster hopes that the catalogue of this work will be enriched.

Extra choice

America : An Epic Rhapsody (1926)

This work consists of 3 parts, and expresses American history.
It begins with an atmosphere which reminds unexplored continent, and finished with brilliant "Anthem" sung by chorus. And many songs (e.g. "Old Folks at Home" by Foster) are quoted, these melodies appear one after another.
It may be a popularized work, but it may be a interesting work in a sense.
This work won a prize from "Musical America".

There is a recording of this work by Leopold Stokowski / The Symphony of the Air.
The CD of this recording also includes speech by the composer, he speaks about this work.
Incidentally, Stokowski was one of the judges for the prize of "Musical America".