ERNST TOCH (1887 - 1964)
Born into a middle-class Jewish family in Vienna, Ernst Toch was initially self-taught
as a composer, learning from the works of earlier composers. In 1909 he was awarded
the Mozart Prize and abandoned his Vienna medical studies to study music in Frankfurt.
Appointed professor of composition at the Mannheim Musikhochschule, he won a significant
place for himself in Germany as a composer, developing from a conservative style
to something more approaching that of Hindemith. In 1933 he left Germany, where
his music had been proscribed, and the following year moved to the United States,
finally settling in Hollywood, where his music for the cinema provided a ready
income. The lack of wider interest in his concert work in America brought disillusionment,
but this did not prevent him composing seven symphonies, among other works, during
the final years of his life.
Stage, Vocal and Orchestral Music
Toch enjoyed considerable success as an opera composer, before he left Germany.
In America this could not continue. In 1921 he had set poems from Bethge's Die
chinesische Flöte (The Chinese Flute), the textual source of Mahler's
Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth), for soprano and orchestra,
using a form of recitative, and other works sometimes include spoken parts.
His Cantata of the Bitter Herbs, based on the Passover Haggada, is scored
for solo voices, narrator, chorus and orchestra. His symphonies often draw on
extra-musical associations, sometimes indicated in their titles, as with Jephta,
Rhapsodic Poem (Symphony No.5).