Ernest Bloch was one of the most interesting, inventive and successful composers, recognised and appreciated during his lifetime as a successor to Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. While these three giants developed and established their own definite style within their own respective historical period, Bloch was unique. He was a wanderer and explorer, caring nothing for the fashions of the time. He possessed the supreme qualities of a great creator in each of the varied styles in which he wrote throughout his whole life.
Music was Bloch’s most authentic language for the expression of his individuality, ideas, philosophy, profound intellect, truthfulness and ethnicity, all perfectly balanced. At the same time he carried within himself and passed on his feelings of Weltschmertz, love and hope.
For several years during World War II he wrote nothing, but found his salvation in JS Bach. In his later compositions he returned to modality and polyphony, whether modern or conventional. After his death, Bloch became internationally famous, but known to the new generation only for several compositions in his Jewish style, in particular his Suite hébraïque (Hebrew Suite) for viola or violin and orchestra, Baal Shem for violin and piano, later orchestrated, and Schelomo for cello and orchestra. His Concerto Grosso No 1 and Concerto Grosso No 2 represent another, neo-classical aspect of Bloch’s music. It is baffling, almost 50 years after his death, that most of his works should have remained hidden from the present-day generation. The challenge now for performers and listeners is to understand Bloch’s multiple styles, and the secret of its correct interpretation.
Ernest Bloch was born in Switzerland and later took out American citizenship, serving as director of the Cleveland Institute from 1920 to 1925 and later of the San Francisco Conservatory.