Ernest Bloch

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Bloch in 1917

Ernest Bloch (July 24, 1880 – July 15, 1959) was a Swiss-born American composer.[1]


Bloch was born in Geneva on July 24, 1880 to Jewish parents,[2] he began playing the violin at age 9. He began composing soon after, he studied music at the conservatory in Brussels, where his teachers included the celebrated Belgian violinist Eugène Ysaÿe. He then travelled around Europe, moving to Germany (where he studied composition from 1900–1901 with Iwan Knorr at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt), on to Paris in 1903 and back to Geneva before settling in the United States in 1916, taking US citizenship in 1924. He held several teaching appointments in the USA with George Antheil, Frederick Jacobi, Quincy Porter, Bernard Rogers, and Roger Sessions among his pupils. See: List of music students by teacher: A to B#Ernest Bloch.

In 1917, Bloch became the first teacher of composition at Mannes School of Music, a post he held for three years; in December 1920 he was appointed the first Musical Director of the newly formed Cleveland Institute of Music, a post he held until 1925. Following this he was director of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music until 1930. He spent most of the following decade in Switzerland where he composed his Avodath Hakodesh ("Sacred Service") before returning to the USA in 1939.[3]

In 1941, Bloch moved to the small coastal community of Agate Beach, Oregon[4] and lived there the rest of his life, he taught and lectured (mostly summers) at the University of California, Berkeley until 1951. In 1952 he is named “Professeur Eméritus de l'Université de Berkeley," even though he was not a full-time professor.

He died on July 15, 1959 in Portland, Oregon, of cancer at the age of 78;[1] in keeping with a special tradition, Lucienne Bloch and her husband, Steve Dimitroff, prepared several death masks of Ernest Bloch. This once-common practice was usually undertaken to create a memento or portrait of the deceased, but it is unusual for an immediate family member to make the death mask, the Center for Creative Photography and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music each have a copy of Bloch's death mask. His body was cremated and his ashes were scattered near his home in Agate Beach.[5]


Bloch's musical style does not fit easily into any of the usual categories; he studied variously with Jaques-Dalcroze, Iwan Knorr and Ludwig Thuille, as well as corresponding with Mahler and meeting Debussy. Many of his works - as can be seen from their Hebrew-inspired titles - also draw heavily on his Jewish heritage. Bloch's father had at one stage intended to become a rabbi, and the young Ernest had a strong religious upbringing; as an adult he felt that to write music that expressed his Jewish identity was "the only way in which I can produce music of vitality and significance".[6]


Ernest Bloch with his children Suzanne, Ivan and Lucienne.

Ernest Bloch and his wife Marguerite Schneider had three children: Ivan, Suzanne and Lucienne.

Ivan, born in 1905, became an engineer with the Bonneville Power Administration in Portland, Oregon.

Suzanne Bloch, born in 1907, was a musician particularly interested in Renaissance music who taught harpsichord, lute and composition at the Juilliard School in New York.

Lucienne Bloch, born in 1909, worked as Diego Rivera's chief photographer on the Rockefeller Center mural project, became friends with Rivera's wife, the artist Frida Kahlo, and took some key photos of Kahlo and the only photographs of Rivera's mural (which was destroyed because Lenin was depicted in it).


The Western Jewish History Center, of the Judah L. Magnes Museum, in Berkeley, California has a small collection of photographs taken by Ernest Bloch which document his interest in photography.

Bloch's photography was discovered by Eric B. Johnson in 1970, with the encouragement of Bloch's children, Johnson edited and printed hundreds of his photographs which can be viewed at

Many of the photographs Bloch took—over 6,000 negatives and 2,000 prints many printed by Eric Johnson from the original negatives—are in the Ernest Bloch Archive at the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona in Tucson along with photographs by the likes of Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Richard Avedon.[1]

Some of the pictures that Bloch took in his Swiss residence are visible here, the snapshots have been donated to the Archivio audiovisivo di Capriasca e Val Colla by the Associazione ricerche musicali nella Svizzera italiana.


The Bloch Memorial, which was dedicated by Oregon Governor Bob Straub with Ernest Bloch's three children at his side on April 10, 1976, was moved from near his house in Agate Beach to a more prominent location in front of the Newport Performing Arts Center in Newport, Oregon;[7] in 2009, the City of Newport City Council designated a street in Newport as Ernest Bloch Place. In 2016, the Oregon Department of Transportation Board of Commissioners officially designated the Ernest Bloch Memorial Wayside in the area of Agate Beach where the original Ernest Bloch Memorial was dedicated in 1976, the Ernest Bloch Memorial Wayside and Monument will be formally dedicated in 2018.



  • Macbeth, Opera in 3 acts (1909 Geneva-Paris)


  • Symphony in C minor (1902)
  • Hiver-Printemps (1905 Paris-Geneva)
  • Trois Poèmes Juifs for large orchestra (1913 Satigny)
  • Israel, Symphony for orchestra (1916 Geneva)
  • In the Night: A Love Poem (1922 Cleveland)
  • Poems of the Sea (1922 Cleveland)
  • Concerto Grosso No. 1 for string orchestra with piano obbligato (1925 Santa Fe - Cleveland)
  • Four Episodes for chamber orchestra (1926 San Francisco)
  • America: An Epic Rhapsody for Orchestra (1926 San Francisco)
  • Helvetia, Symphonic Poem (1929 Frankfurt - San Francisco)
  • Evocations, Symphonic Suite (1937 Châtel, Haute Savoie)
  • Suite Symphonique (1944 Agate Beach)
  • In Memoriam (1952 Agate Beach)
  • Concerto Grosso No. 2 for string orchestra (1952 Agate Beach)
  • Sinfonia Breve (1953 Agate Beach)
  • Symphony in E (1955 Agate Beach)


  • Schelomo: Rhapsodie Hébraïque for cello solo and large orchestra (1916 Geneva-New York)
  • Suite for viola and orchestra (1919 New York)
  • Voice in the Wilderness, Symphonic Poem for orchestra with cello obbligato (1936 Châtel, Haute Savoie)
  • Concerto for violin and orchestra (1938 Châtel, Haute Savoie)
  • Baal Shem for violin and orchestra (1939)
  • Concerto Symphonique for piano and orchestra (1948 Agate Beach)
  • Scherzo Fantasque for piano and orchestra (1948 Agate Beach)
  • Concertino for flute, viola and string orchestra (1948, 1950 Agate Beach)
  • Suite Hébraïque, for viola (or violin) and orchestra (1951 Agate Beach)
  • Symphony for trombone and orchestra (1954 Agate Beach)
  • Proclamation for trumpet and orchestra (1955 Agate Beach)
  • Suite Modale for flute and string orchestra (1956 Agate Beach)
  • Two Last Poems for flute solo and orchestra (1958 Agate Beach)

Vocal and choral[edit]

  • Historiettes au Crépuscule for mezzo-soprano and piano (1904 Paris)
  • Poèmes d'Automne for mezzo-soprano and orchestra (1906 Geneva)
  • Psaume 22 (1913 Satigny)
  • Deux Psaumes pour soprano et orchestre, précédés d'un prélude orchestral (1914 Satigny)
  • Avodath Hakodesh (Sacred Service) (1933 Roveredo-Ticino)
  • America: An Epic Rhapsody for chorus and orchestra (1926 San Francisco)


  • Piano Quintet No. 1 (1923 Cleveland)
  • Piano Quintet No. 2 (1957)
  • String Quartet
    • String Quartet in G (1896)
    • String Quartet No. 1 (1916 Geneva - New York)
    • String Quartet No. 2 (1945 Agate Beach)
    • String Quartet No. 3 (1952 Agate Beach)
    • String Quartet No. 4 (1953 Agate Beach)
    • String Quartet No. 5 (1956 Agate Beach)
    • In the Mountains (1924 Cleveland)
    • Night (1923 Cleveland)
    • Paysages (1923 Cleveland); the first movement North was inspired by Robert J. Flaherty's Nanook of the North
    • Prelude (1925 Cleveland)
    • Two Pieces (1938, 1950 Châtel, Haute Savoie - Agate Beach)
  • Three Nocturnes for piano trio (1924 Cleveland)


  • Violin
    • Sonata No. 1 for violin and piano (1920 Cleveland)
    • Baal Shem (1923 Cleveland)
    • Poème Mystique, Sonata No. 2 for violin and piano (1924 Cleveland)
    • Nuit Exotique (1924 Cleveland)
    • Abodah (1929 San Francisco)
    • Mélodie (1929 San Francisco)
    • Suite Hébraïque for violin and piano (1951 Agate Beach)
    • Suite No. 1 for violin solo (1958 Agate Beach)
    • Suite No. 2 for violin solo (1958 Agate Beach)
  • Viola
    • Suite for viola and piano (1919 New York)
    • Suite Hébraïque for viola and piano (1951 Agate Beach)
    • Meditation and Processional for viola and piano (1951 Agate Beach)
    • Suite for viola solo (unfinished) (1958 Agate Beach)
  • Cello
    • Méditation Hébraïque (1924 Cleveland)
    • From Jewish Life (1925 Cleveland)
    • Suite No. 1 for cello solo (1956 Agate Beach)
    • Suite No. 2 for cello solo (1956 Agate Beach)
    • Suite No. 3 for cello solo (1957 Agate Beach)
  • Flute
    • Suite Modale for flute and piano (1956 Agate Beach)


  • Ex-voto (1914 Geneva)
  • In the Night: A Love Poem (1922 Cleveland)
  • Poems of the Sea (1922 Cleveland)
  • Four Circus Pieces (1922 Cleveland)
  • Danse Sacrée (1923 Cleveland)
  • Enfantines, 10 pieces for children (1923 Cleveland)
  • Nirvana, Poem (1923 Cleveland)
  • Five Sketches in Sepia (1923 Cleveland)
  • Sonata (1935 Châtel, Haute Savoie); written for Guido Agosti
  • Visions et Prophéties (1936 Châtel, Haute Savoie)


  • 6 Preludes (1949 Agate Beach)
  • 4 Wedding Marches (1950 Agate Beach)


  1. ^ a b "Ernest Bloch, 78, Composer, Is Dead. Creator of 'Schelomo' Wrote in Terms of Jewish Spirit. Used Bible Themes. Cited By Music Critics. Won Two Awards in 1953. Conducted Premiere of His 'Sacred Service' Here". New York Times. Retrieved 2015-11-27. 
  2. ^ "Pittsburgh Post Gazette". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. June 1, 2009. 
  3. ^ Ginell, Richard S. (June 17, 2013). "Los Angeles Times". 
  4. ^ Bloch Festival Program
  5. ^ "Ernest Bloch". Find a Grave. 
  6. ^ Gdal Salesky, Famous Musicians of a Wandering Race (New York, 1927), quoted in Nigel Simeone's notes to Hyperion Records CD CDA68155 (2017)
  7. ^ "Ernest Bloch Project". Archived from the original on 2007-08-07. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Ernest Bloch: Composer in Nature's University by Nancy Steinberg. Oregon Coastal Council for the Arts. July, 2006; Edited by Frank Geltner and members of Bloch family, 2007, 2008; Edited by Frank Geltner, Alexander Knapp, and members of the Bloch family, 2013.
  • Strassburg, Robert. Ernest Bloch: Voice In the Wilderness, California State University & Trident Shop, Los Angeles, 1977 ASIN #B001LO4X86
  • Grove, Gregory Alan. The Life and Music of Ernest Bloch. Thesis (M.A.), San José State University, 1976). San Jose, Calif. San Jose State University, Department of Music 1976.
  • Eric B. Johnson prepared Ernest Bloch: A Composer's Vision for an independent study thesis at the University of Oregon in 1971. Johnson researched, edited and printed many of Bloch's photographs. 40 of these prints from Bloch's negatives are now in the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson AZ along with the entire collection of his negatives and prints. Johnson is currently Professor of Art and Design at Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo Ca. An account of his discovery and many of Bloch's images can be found on his website. []
  • Voices in the Wilderness: Six American Neo-Romantic Composers, by Walter Simmons. (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2004) ISBN 0-8108-5728-6
  • Kushner, David Z. The Ernest Bloch Companion, (Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut, 2002) ISBN 0-313-27905-5
  • Kintner, Helen Johnston. The Ernest Bloch I Knew (Published by Helen Johnston Kinter, June 2009) ISBN 0-9743356-3-0
  • Werlin, Joella. Suzanne Bloch: Recollections (Familore, Portland, Oregon, 2007) ISBN 0-974356-2-2 Parameter error in {{isbn}}: Invalid ISBN.
  • Bloch, Suzanne. Ernest Bloch: Creative Spirit: A Program Source Book (Jewish Music Council of the National Jewish Welfare Board, 1976.
  • Johnson, Eric B. A Composer's Vision (Aperture 16:3, Millerton, New York, 1972)

External links[edit]