Composers Datebook®

Bloch in America

Ernest Bloch (1880 – 1959): America (Seattle Symphony; Gerard Schwarz, cond.) Delos 3135


Composer's Datebook - July 15, 2021

2:00


July 15, 2021

Synopsis

On today’s date in 1959, the Swiss-born American composer Ernest Bloch died in Portland, Oregon, just short of his 79th birthday.

Bloch came to America in 1916, when he was 36 years old. His music made an immediate impression, and an all-Bloch orchestral concert in New York presented the premiere of his most famous work, a rhapsody for cello and orchestra entitled “Schelomo,” after the Hebrew name for King Solomon. The success of that concert led to a contract with the publisher G. Schirmer, who published Bloch’s compositions with what was to become a trademark logo – the six-pointed Star of David with the initials E.B. in the center, an imprimatur that firmly established for Bloch a Jewish identity in the public mind.

In 1924, Bloch became a naturalized American citizen, and in 1928, he composed an orchestral piece entitled “America,” selected as the winner of a Musical America competition for the best symphonic work glorifying American ideals.

In the 1930s, Bloch returned to Switzerland for a time, but, with the rise of anti-Semitism in Germany and Italy, returned to America and settled in Agate Beach, Oregon where he continued to compose, and a new Oregon coast hobby: collecting and polishing agates.

Music Played in Today's Program

Ernest Bloch (1880 – 1959): America (Seattle Symphony; Gerard Schwarz, cond.) Delos 3135

On This Day

Births

  • 1921 - American composer Jack Beeson, in Muncie, Indiana

  • 1934 - English composer Harrison Birtwistle, in Accrington, Lancashire

  • 1949 - English composer John Casken, in Barnsley

Deaths

  • 1789 - French composer and harpsichordist Jacques Duphly, age 74, in Paris

  • 1857 - Austrian composer and piano teacher Carl Czerny, age 66, in Vienna

  • 1959 - Swiss-born American composer Ernest Bloch, age 78, in Portland, Oregon

Premieres

  • 1852 - Spohr: opera "Faust" (2nd version in Italian), in London at Covent Garden

  • 1942 - Villa-Lobos: "Chôros" Nos. 6, 9 and 11, in Rio de Janeiro, conducted by the composer

  • 1945 - Antheil: "Heroes of Today," by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski conducting

  • 1965 - Bernstein: "Chichester Psalms" at Philharmonic Hall (now Avery Fisher Hall) by the New York Philharmonic conducted by the composer, with The Camerata Singers and boy alto John Bogart; On July 31, 1965, Bernstein attended the U.K. premiere of thiswork (performed by a male-only choir) at Chichester Cathedral in England

  • 1988 - John Harbison: Piano Sonata No. 1 ("In Memoriam Roger Sessions"), at the Dorothy Taubman Piano Institute in Amherst, Mass., by pianist Robert Shannon