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Ernest Bloch

Ernest Bloch (1880-1959)

Nationality: Swiss | American
Born: July 24, 1880, Geneva Died: July 15, 1959, Portland, OR (age 79)

3 Nocturnes for Piano Trio

(for violin, cello and piano)
3:00 I. Andante
3:06 II. Andante quieto
2:48 III. Tempestoso
Duration: 10 minutes (approximately)
Composed: 1924 (age 43-44)
6 recordings, 18 videos
autoopen autoplay
2:56
Trio Con Brio Copenhagen
I. Andante
2:35
Trio Con Brio Copenhagen
II. Andante quieto
2:24
Trio Con Brio Copenhagen
III. Tempestoso
2:51
Trio Nota Bene
I. Andante
2:51
Trio Nota Bene
II. Andante quieto
2:36
Trio Nota Bene
III. Tempestoso
3:17
Rawlins Piano Trio
I. Andante
3:34
Rawlins Piano Trio
II. Andante quieto
2:41
Rawlins Piano Trio
III. Tempestoso
2:46
Kairos Trio
I. Andante
2:54
Kairos Trio
II. Andante quieto
2:46
Kairos Trio
III. Tempestoso
2:44
Catherine Wilson Trio
I. Andante
2:54
Catherine Wilson Trio
II. Andante quieto
2:41
Catherine Wilson Trio
III. Tempestoso
3:23
ATOS Trio
I. Andante
3:49
ATOS Trio
II. Andante quieto
3:41
ATOS Trio
III. Tempestoso
From Kai Christiansen

Ernest Bloch, 1880-1959

Three Nocturnes (for piano trio), 1924

Ernest BlochThis year is the 50th anniversary of Ernest Bloch's death, a timely occasion to revisit his chamber music. Though Bloch was born in Switzerland and educated in a number of European cities, he emigrated to the United States in 1916 when he was 36 and became a naturalized citizen in 1924. Despite spending much of the 1930's back in Switzerland, he maintained his U.S. citizenship and lived the majority of his remaining life in America. Bloch was an influential teacher as well as a composer and held significant positions at a variety of American institutions including the founding director of the Cleveland Conservatory of Music (1920-25), the director of the San Francisco Conservatory (1925-30) and a professor at the University of California, Berkeley (1940-52) before retiring. For all these reasons, Bloch is usually considered an American composer of Swiss origin. By those who knew him well, Bloch was considered to be a man of great passion, strong inner faith and a great humanitarian that transcended any borders of faith, nation or race. Neither radically innovative nor the founder of any new formal school of musical thought, he shaped a diversity of musical techniques at his disposal into a vibrantly personal style of great authenticity and passion. Bloch is considered to be a singular personality of 20th century classical music.

Ernest BlochBloch is typically known especially for his Jewish-themed works, a number of compositions based on biblical inspiration and his passion for Hebraic culture, ritual, music and spirituality. Especially famous is Schelomo for cello and orchestra, the Israel Symphony, and a number of chamber works including Baal shem, From Jewish life and Méditation hébraïque, but this is only one part of Bloch's musical personality. Bloch also paid musical homage to nature, Switzerland, the Alps, America, urban life and even Chinatown using a variety of materials from folksong, Amerindian sources, civil war songs and spirituals. He was far ranging in inspiration and evocation including Asian scales and sonorities, French impressionism, cyclical forms, quarter-tones, Neoclassicism and even some elements of 12-tone serialism, in each case applied with judicious restraint in service of his personal expression. With a significant oeuvre of orchestral scores, Bloch was especially fertile as a chamber music composer including some very highly regarded works: the Viola Suite, the first Piano Quintet and a cycle of five string quartets, the first and last of which are especially celebrated.

The Three Nocturnes for piano trio were written in 1924 just before Bloch moved to San Francisco. With no particular programmatic significance, they are mesmerizing character pieces by turns haunting, lyrical and restless. The first highlights Bloch's impressionistic tendencies with exotic scales and ethereal sonorities. The second is a gorgeous lullaby with a bit of canonic writing and the flavor of folksong. The third offers just a tiny glimpse into Bloch's characteristic flair for motoric rhythms with a muscular verve that can be found in his early chamber music. There is a bit of urban energy with a tinge of Jazz that is a signature of the era in many modernist composers. Here also is Bloch's use of cyclic form acquired no doubt from one of his teachers who was a student of Franck: the middle of the third nocturne recalls the beautiful melody of the second with possible allusions to the first binding all three nocturnes into a triptych of thoughtful artistic unity.

© Kai Christiansen and Music at Kohl Mansion. All rights reserved.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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