The Swiss-born composer Ernest Bloch, a pupil of Eugène Ysaÿe, became an American citizen in 1924. He has a particular reputation as a Jewish composer, but during his life his compositional style underwent several changes. He was hugely prolific, and wrote masterpieces of orchestral, instrumental, vocal and chamber music. This month's new release of his Israel Symphony and Suite for Viola is conducted by Dalia Atlas, a long-time champion of the Swiss-American's oeuvre and an acknowledged leader in the interpretation of his works.
Bloch’s so-called Jewish Cycle—the Israel Symphony, Schelomo, Trois Poèmes Juifs and the String Quartet—earned the composer the kind of esteem in America that had been lacking in Europe. The Israel Symphony, premièred in Carnegie Hall in 1917, is the cycle’s centrepiece and originally intended as a gigantic three-part work, but later reduced in size. Powerful and evocative, it also fuses pastoral and sensuous elements in a rich tapestry. The award-winning Suite for Viola and orchestra or piano is a rhapsodic but cyclical tour de force, a ‘vision of the Far East’, in Bloch’s own words.
Listen to an extract from Suite for Viola and Orchestra: Movt. I
About the Artists
Dalia Atlas was born in Israel and graduated from the Music Academy of Jerusalem. She won seven prizes in prestigious international conducting competitions, the first woman to do so, and was immediately invited to direct major orchestras. Her extensive repertoire includes around 750 scores, among them hitherto unknown works (some of them her own discoveries). Since 1996 she has undertaken extensive research into the music of Ernest Bloch to reveal and revive his neglected compositions.
Yuri Gandelsman was born in Russia and studied in Moscow with Heinrich Talalyan and Valentin Berlinsky. After winning the National Viola Competition in 1980 and joining the Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra as principal violist and soloist, he became one of the USSR’s most sought-after musicians. In 1990 he became principal violist with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. From 2001-2008 he was a member of the Fine Arts Quartet, recording numerous albums of chamber music. He plays a 1748 Paolo Testore viola.
The Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1929 as the first professional musical ensemble fulfilling the needs of radio broadcasting in Slovakia. The original ensemble was gradually enlarged and, from 1942, it gave regular symphony concerts that were broadcast live by Slovak Radio. In addition to these broadcasts and many recordings the orchestra has also enjoyed an overseas concert life, with successful tours throughout Europe and Japan.
The Atlas Camerata Orchestra was established by the conductor Dalia Atlas in the 1990s, its members drawn mainly from new immigrants to Israel from the former Soviet Union. A number of Israeli composers have written specially for the orchestra, which has also made recordings, particularly of less usual repertoire; these works have been performed by the Atlas Camerata Orchestra at international festivals.