Compact Discoveries®
a series of one-hour radio programs produced, written, hosted, and edited by Fred Flaxman
©2007 by Fred Flaxman


Program 130
"Bloch-Busters"

MUSIC: Bloch: opening of Concerto Grosso No. 1, performed by the Atlas Camerata conducted by Dalia Atlas [ASV CD DCA 1055, track 1] [under the following]


What exciting music to open another hour of Compact Discoveries! It is the very beginning of the first movement of the four-movement Concerto Grosso No. 1 by Ernest Bloch.

Hello, I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman, and the next hour will be devoted, quite literally, to “Bloch-busters.” By that I mean my picks for the best music by Ernest Bloch -- or, as a record company might put it, Ernest Bloch’s greatest hits. So the name of this program is spelled B-l-o-c-h-b-u-s-t-e-r-s, reflecting the spelling of the composer’s last name.


MUSIC: fades out

Ernest Bloch was born into a clock-making family in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1880. His musical studies began in his native city, then continued at the conservatory in Brussels, Belgium, where his teachers included the famous Belgian violinist, conductor and composer Eugène Ysaÿe. Afterwards Bloch studied in Frankfurt, Munich and Paris, before visiting the United States in 1916. He returned to the U.S. two years later to teach at New York’s Mannes School of Music.

Two years after that, in December, 1920, Bloch was appointed the first musical director of the newly formed Cleveland Institute of Music, a post he held until 1925. He became an American citizen in 1924, a year before accepting the directorship of the San Francisco Conservatory.

Family affairs drew him back to Switzerland in 1930, but the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe, as well as his desire to retain his U.S. citizenship, prompted Bloch’s permanent return to the U.S. in 1939. From 1940 until retiring 12 years later in 1952, Bloch taught at the University of California at Berkeley. He spent the last seven years of his life in Agate Beach, on the coast of Oregon, where he continued composing until shortly before his death from cancer in 1959 at the age of 78.

My very favorite work by Ernest Bloch is his Concerto Grosso No. 1. I think it is a masterpiece of composition. Let’s hear it now, and let me know if you agree with me. You can e-mail me at fred@compactdiscoveries.com. The performance is by the Atlas Camerata conducted by Dalia Atlas. This is from an ASV Digital recording from Arkivmusic.com.

MUSIC: Bloch: Concerto Grosso No. 1, performed by the Atlas Camerata conducted by Dalia Atlas [ASV CD DCA 1055, tracks 1-4]

Ernest Bloch’s Concerto Grosso No. 1. The performance was by the Atlas Camerata conducted by Dalia Atlas on an ASV Digital recording from Arkivmusic.com.

You are listening to “Bloch-Busters” -- the best of Ernest Bloch -- on this hour of Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

[optional one-minute break not included in the total timing of the program]

Next let’s listen to the final movement from one of Bloch’s last works, his Suite Modale for flute and strings, written in 1956, just three years before his death. The title comes from the style of his musical language in his later years, which centered on modal melodies and polyphonic writing. Once again we hear the Atlas Camerata Orchestra from Israel conducted by Dalia Atlas. The flutist is Noam Buchman.

MUSIC: Bloch: final movement from Suite Modale, performed by the Atlas Camerata Orchestra conducted by Dalia Atlas [Naxos 8.570259, track 13] [6:13]

The final movement from Ernest Bloch’s Suite Modale for flute and strings. The Atlas Camerata Orchestra was conducted by Dalia Atlas. The flutist was Noam Buchman.

You are listening to “Bloch-Busters” -- my picks of the best of the music of Ernest Bloch -- on Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

One final piece by Bloch now. It is probably his most famous piece: Schelomo, Hebrew Rhapsody for Cello and Large Orchestra. The piece was written in six weeks at the turn of 1915 and 1916. Its creation helped Bloch overcome a bout of depression that had been caused by a series of professional disappointments. For example, his pupil, Ernest Ansermet, had been selected above him as conductor of the Genevan subscription concerts, and there was little interest in his original music in his Swiss homeland.

Bloch was also troubled by the agony and suffering that followed the outbreak of World War 1. At the same time he was moved by the Biblical story of King Solomon and had begun drafting a work for voice and orchestra. A meeting with a famous cellist of the day inspired Bloch to give the solo voice to the cello, which he later wrote was "vaster and deeper than any spoken language." To Bloch the solo cello represented the voice of King Solomon, while the orchestra represented the world surrounding him.

In this Musiques Suisses compact disc from ArkivMusic.com, the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana is conducted by Alexander Vedernikov and the cellist is Rocco Filippini.

MUSIC: Bloch: Schelomo, performed by the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana conducted by Alexander Vedernikov, with Rocco Filippini, cello [Musiques Suisses MGB CD 6230, track 1] [21:18]

Ernest Bloch’s Schelomo, performed by the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana conducted by Alexander Vedernikov, with cellist Rocco Filippini.

That concludes this hour of Compact Discoveries which I devoted to my picks for the most beautiful music of Ernest Bloch. I called the program “Bloch-Busters.” I hope you’ve enjoyed these recordings and that they have been compact discoveries for you. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

MUSIC: Bloch: opening of Concerto Grosso No. 1, performed by the Atlas Camerata conducted by Dalia Atlas [ASV CD DCA 1055, track 1] [under the following]

This program was supported by contributions from two anonymous South Florida donors. Two of the recordings used were supplied by ArkivMusic.com, for which I thank them. Thanks as well to all the public radio stations that carry this program. And thank YOU for listening!

This Compact Discoveries program is a presentation of WPVM, Asheville, North Carolina.

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  2009 Compact Discoveries