, August 2002
There’s a little joke behind the innocuous name of Ernest Bloch’s Symphony in E-flat. It is, in truth, one of his most harmonically acerbic works, very close to the tortured contrapuntal idiom of another famous Swiss composer: Honegger. The piece only really achieves its home key in the quiet, final bars, but along the way sparks fly in all directions, and no matter how dissonant the idiom the argument is very easy to follow, and melodies and motives have distinctive, easily recognizable shapes. Andrey Boreyko and the Malmö Orchestra play the work with the guts and vigor it needs, and as usual the BIS recording is superb. The same observations about performance and sound characterize the other two works as well.
Evocations, inspired by a book on Chinese art, deserves to be much better known. Tuneful, glitteringly scored, and with a really exciting central movement (God of War) and a mesmerizing, lyrical finale (Renouveau-Spring), it also has a gentle fund of pentatonic-inspired melody, but otherwise sounds like Bloch in his “exotic” mode. The Three Jewish Poems, though never played in concert, have enjoyed a few recordings, and compared to the competition on Koch and ASV, this performance offers a touch more languor without ever seeming too slow, and it’s the best sounding of the batch. BIS is quietly working its way though Bloch’s orchestral output, and in my opinion no series in progress on any label is more important or interesting. Hopefully the series will include two of the most enthralling and magnificent of 20th century concertos, the Viola Suite, and the Concerto symphonique, without delay.