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BLOCH: Violin Sonatas Nos. 1 and 2 / Suite hebraique


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Ernest Bloch(1880-1959)


Violin Sonata No.1


Violin Sonata No. 2


Suite hebra?»que


Abodah


Melody



A native of Geneva, Ernest Bloch studied violin and composition inBrussels and Frankfurt. His early music, notably the Symphony in C sharp minor

and the symphonic diptych Hiver-Printemps, echoes Richard Straussand the French impressionists, culminating in the lyric drama Macbeth, premi?¿redat the Paris Opera Comique in 1910. It was only with the 'Jewish Cycle' ofworks written over the next decade, notably the rhapsody Schelomo, thatBloch achieved his musical identity, transforming material of an overt Hebrewcharacter into music at once emotionally direct and deeply personal.



The 1920s saw the development of a more compact language, though, as inthe violin sonatas featured on this disc, the underlying 'neo-classical' styleis offset by the music's natural intensity. In 1924 Bloch became an Americancitizen, and the epic rhapsody America (1926) and symphonic fresco Helvetia(1929) are ambitious attempts to redefine his musical heritage in its newcontext. The following decade saw several major works, including the SacredService (1933), Voice in the Wilderness (1936) and the ViolinConcerto (1938), which synthesize these facets. The music of his finalyears is stylistically varied: certain works go back to traditional Jewishsources (Suite hebra?»que); others pursue the neo-classical line with anew economy (Second Concerto Grosso), draw on atonality (Sinfoniabreve) or even twelve-note writing (String Quartets Nos. 3-5),without lessening the spiritual experience which he believed it the composer'soverriding duty to convey.



Bloch's preoccupation with Jewish melodies is at its most pronounced inthe Suite hebra?»que, completed in 1950. The pensive Rapsodie ispermeated with its inflections, skilfully absorbed and recreated in thecomposer's succinct late style. Processional tempers its underlyingmarch pulse with a direct eloquence, while Affirmation opens withdance-like measures, moving through a graceful central section before itsopening idea returns for a decisive final flourish.



Written in 1921, the First Violin Sonata is among the mostpowerful of Bloch's large-scale chamber works. Its free-wheeling yet logicalapproach to tonality finds intriguing parallels with Bartok's contemporaneous FirstSonata. The opening Agitato opens with a driving, toccata idea, witha mysterious transition to the second main theme (2'11"), a raptHebrew-inflected melody typical of Bloch at this juncture. The piano maintainsmomentum throughout the central section, where the opening material isdeveloped extensively. The second theme returns withdrawn and distant, beforethe opening idea reappears (8'03"), merging into a rhetorical coda thatleaves the anguished mood unresolved. One of Bloch's most haunting melodicinspirations, the Molto quieto opens with gentle piano arpeggios, overwhich the violin spins an unbroken cantilena, drawing in the piano's commentaryas it proceeds. The first climax (3'24") dissolves into an almost Bartokiandesolation, then an agitated strumming, before the expressive discourseresumes. Tension drains away in the introspective closing pages. The final Moderatois launched with robust, heavily-chorded dance measures. In what would seemto be a straightforward rondo movement, a withdrawn episode (3'00")looks back to, but does not resume earlier conflict. Instead, the music opensout onto a magnificent plateau of eloquence, derived from the openingmovement's second theme (4'18"). There is a gradual return to the closingmaterial and mood of the second movement, before the sonata draws to a tranquilbut regretful close (7'57").



The two miniatures date from 1929. There is an understandablyconfessional air to Abodah ('God's Worship'). The supplicatory violinline, derived from a melody associated with Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day ofAtonement, is discreetly but pointedly accompanied by the piano, whose openingfigure guides the piece through to the repose of its final bars. Melodie, almostFaure-like in its intimacy, finds the composer in ruminative mood.



Bloch's second violin sonata, Poeme mystique, dates from 1924 andis among his most coherent and resourceful conceptions. Cast in a singlemovement, virtually all its material derives from the unaccompanied initialeight-note phrase, Szymanowski-like in its yearning eloquence. Mysteriousactivity (2'04") heightens the emotional current before a hushed return tothe opening mood. A pungent, folk-like idea (5'03") promises greatermomentum, but calm is again restored. A sense of veiled unease now comesgradually into focus (9'14"), bringing the first real climax, from wherethe violin soars passionately over an ominous left-hand piano tremolo. Atlength, a more conciliatory tone is sounded, with the work's most extendedmelodic writing (12'57"), before the opening phrase ushers in the ascentto the work's emotional apex (17'35"), which dissolves in an eloquentflight of sound. The closing pages sustain this rapt expression, before thesonata is brought to an unexpectedly urgent close (22'08").



Richard Whitehouse

Facts
Item number 8554460
Barcode 636943446027
Release date 12/01/1999
Category Violin
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Performers
Artists Kramer, Miriam
Over, Simon
Composers Bloch, Ernest
Bloch, Ernest
Disc: 1
Violin Sonata No. 2 (Poeme Mystique)
1 Rapsodie
2 Processional
3 Affrirmation
4 Agitato
5 Molto quieto
6 Moderato
7 Abodah (A Yom Kippur Melody)
8 Melody
9 Violin Sonata No. 2 (Poeme mystique)
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