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Ernest Bloch

Ernest BlochBorn: 24-Jul-1880
Birthplace: Geneva, Switzerland
Died: 15-Jul-1959
Location of death: Portland, OR [1]
Cause of death: Cancer - unspecified
Remains: Cremated (ashes scattered at Agate Beach, Newport, OR)

Gender: Male
Religion: Jewish
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Composer

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Schelomo

As a youth, Ernest Bloch was given flute and violin. He studied in Geneva under violinist Louis Rey, composition and music theory under Jaques-Dalcroze, and most notably, in Frankfurt under Iwan Knorr. Beyond that, Bloch came under the influence of the "Young French" movement -- Vincent d'Indy, Ernest Chausson, and Claude Debussy. In 1903 he completed his first Symphony, most of which was performed in Basel at the Festival of German Musicians. He tried to write an opera, Macbeth, but had trouble getting acceptance. It was finally performed in 1910 at the Opéra-Comique in Paris, to devastating reviews. In the meantime, Bloch took a job as conductor. In 1915, his second Symphony was only a moderate success.

Bloch's fortune turned in 1917 with the premiere of Trois Poemes Juifs ("Three Jewish Poems": Danse, Rite, and Cortege Funebre) in Boston. The first part conducted by Artur Bodanzky and the latter two by Bloch himself, his success at Boston convinced him that his place was in America. He became director of the Cleveland Institute of Music, and later, the San Francisco Conservatory. In 1930 Bloch received a $5000/year grant from the Stern Fund, lasting ten years. For much of this time he resided in Switzerland, but returned to America as the Nazi peril became evident. Bloch is best known for Schelomo ("Solomon", 1916), the Israel Symphony (1916), and Avodath Hakodesh ("Sacred Service", 1933). Much of his music reflected Jewish themes. Never groundbreaking, it is nonetheless masterly. A festival in honor of his 70th birthday was performed 1950 in Chicago, lasting several days. Among his students are counted the composers George Antheil, Leon Kirchner, and Roger Sessions. Bloch composed actively until an operation for colorectal cancer in August 1958 left him too weak to continue. He died at a Portland hospital in 1959.


[1] Good Samaritan Hospital, Portland, OR.

Wife: Margarethe Schneider (m. 1904)
Daughter: Suzanne

    Teacher: Geneva Conservatory (1911-15)
    Administrator:
Director, Cleveland Institute of Music (1920-25)
    Administrator: Director, San Francisco Conservatory (1925-30)
    Teacher: University of California at Berkeley

    Naturalized US Citizen 1924
    Surgery colon cancer (Aug-1958)



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