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David Denton
David's Review Corner, April 2012

Ernest Bloch was born in Switzerland, but moved to the States during the First World War and became an American citizen in 1924. As a student in Paris he met with Debussy resulting in his early works being much influenced by French Impressionism. His Jewish background was not only to play a significant role in his everyday life, but resulted in many of his best known works. That he wanted to be seen as American came with the 1926 score, America: An Epic Rhapsody, which took a musical journey from the time when the Indians inhabited the country, through to a look into the future. It is a ‘descriptive symphony’ each of the three movements subdivided into many sections of differing tempo and mood, the central, Hours of Joy – Hours of Sorrow, recalling the years surrounding the Civil War. The Present finale taking us into noise, automation and the jazz era, none of which Bloch particularly enjoyed, but he sees in the future either the apocalypse of society or the hope expressed in the choral anthem, America! America!. The first Concerto Grosso came from the previous year and is stylistically more typical of his output with an important part for keyboard that stops someway short of a piano concerto. It has a short and pithy Prelude that leads to three movements of length and stature, the opening Dirge probably standing as an epitaph for the First World War. As a contrast the following Pastorale and Rustic Dances are a happy view looking back to his young life in Switzerland. This appears to be the first in a ‘Settle Symphony Collection’, the present disc, excellently played in Gerard Schwarz’s perceptive accounts, coming from the early 1990’s, and makes a most exciting prospect of future releases. © David’s Review Corner





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