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Ernest Bloch
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Ernest Bloch

Ernest Bloch (July 24, 1880 - July 15, 1959) was a Swiss-born American composer of Jewish descent.

He was born in Geneva and studied music at the conservatory in Brussels, where his teachers included Eugène Ysaÿe and later at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt. He travelled around Europe before settling in the United States of America in 1916, taking American citizenship in 1924. He held several teaching appointments there, with George Antheil and Roger Sessions among his pupils. He spent most of the 1930s back in Switzerland before returning to the USA. He died in Portland, Oregon from cancer.

Bloch's early works, including his opera Macbeth (1910) show the influence of both the Germanic school of Richard Strauss and the impressionism of Claude Debussy. Mature works, including his best-known pieces, often draw on Jewish liturgical and folk music. These works include Schelomo (1916) for cello and orchestra, the Israel Symphony (1916), Baal Shem for violin and piano (1923, later version for violin and orchestra) and Avodath Hakodesh (Sacred Service, 1933) for baritone, choir and orchestra. Other pieces from this period include a violin concerto written for Joseph Szigeti and the rhapsody America for chorus and orchestra.

Pieces written after World War II are a little more varied in style, though Bloch's essentially Romantic idiom remains. Some, such as the Suite hébraïque (1950) continue the Jewish theme; others, such as the second concerto grosso (1952), display an interest in neo-classicism (though here too the harmonic language is basically Romantic, even though the form is Baroque); and others, including the late string quartets, include elements of atonality.