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BLOCH, Ernest (1880-1959)

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BLOCH, Ernest (1880-1959), Swiss-American composer, known for his works on Jewish themes and, in American music, for his influence as a teacher. Born on July 24, 1880, Bloch studied violin with the Belgian violinist Eugène Ysa¥e and composition with, among others, the Swiss composer and teacher Émile Jaques-Dalcroze. After a career in Europe as a lecturer and conductor, he went to the U.S. in 1916 and in 1924 became an American citizen. In 1917 he taught at the David Mannes School of Music (now Mannes College of Music) in New York City. He founded the Cleveland Institute of Music in 1920 and was its director until 1925; he was director of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music from 1925 until 1930. For the next decade, he worked in Europe. From 1940 to 1952 he taught at the University of California at Berkeley. Bloch's finest compositions, according to most critics, are those based on or expressing the idioms and emotional qualities of Hebrew folk music, but all his music is notable for its emotional intensity and the complexity and finish of its craft. His major works include the opera Macbeth (1910); the symphony Israel (1915); Schelomo, Hebrew rhapsody for cello and orchestra (1916); Baal Shem,for violin and piano (1925; new version, 1941); Concerto Grosso, for strings and piano (1925); the Sacred Service, a setting of the Sabbath service (1930-33); Voice in the Wilderness, for cello and orchestra (1937); Symphonic Suite (1944); Concerto Grosso no. 2 (1952); and five string quartets (between 1916 and 1956). Bloch's students included the American composers Roger Sessions, George Antheil, and Randall Thompson. In 1942 he was awarded the gold medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the first musician so honored. Bloch died on July 15, 1959 in Portland, Ore.

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