Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Bloch. Yes, Bloch!

Ernest BlochI have always wanted to spread the word about Swiss born American composer, Ernest Bloch. Especially as his music has recently been undeservedly overlooked. Hopefully the 50th anniversary of his death in 2009 will help to bring Bloch back to the forefront of classical repertoire.

Although Bloch is best known for his powerful Jewish works, I love his innate ability to compose in a variety of styles with great skill. His Concerto Grosso No. 2, for example, won the New York Music Critics’ Circle Award (a Concerto Grosso is a baroque form of composition).

Today I received some very sad news, and as usual I turned to music to console me. I listened to Prayer – No 1. from Jewish Life, for cello and string orchestra. I find it to be one of the most moving and lyrical pieces of music ever composed. This performance is from Jan Vogler’s excellent cello album My Tunes.

Ernest Bloch – Prayer, No. 1 from Jewish Life (mp3)

In stark contrast to Prayer, his String Quintet No. 1, showcases Bloch‘s academical prowess in composition. The first movement opens with ghostly quarter tones in the string quartet. In the meantime the piano plays the leitmotif which forms the basis for the whole Quintet.

Bloch Piano Quintets

I have been completely spell bound by this quintet since I bought the critically acclaimed Hyperion recording. Every time I listen to it I make another discovery.

Ernest Bloch – String Quintet No. 1 – 1st Movement – Agitato (mp3)

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