Monday, August 18, 2008

The best composer of our times?


'The best composer of our times is Ernest Bloch' - Pablo Casals

As the string quartets of John Cage, Steve Reich, Philip Glass and Elliott Carter enjoy critical attention one wonders whether Ernest Bloch's main stylistic error was to have been born in Switzerland. With some justification Casals can be criticised for ignoring modern music, and he once unashamedly said 'I have finally come to a definite conclusion: I will have nothing to do with what is called "contemporary music"'. But Casals' opinion of Bloch was shared by another great cellist, Colin Hampton, who, as a member of the famous Griller Quartet, was part of the classic 1954 recording of the Bloch Quartets seen above. Hampton unequivocally endorsed Casals' view writing that '(Bloch's) string quartet No 1 is to me one of the great works in this world. It was a logical conclusion, as far as I am concerned, to the Beethoven quartets. I would put Bloch in front of Schubert and Brahms anytime.'

Read more on the Bloch Quartets here, and, yes, I know the composer took American citizenship in 1924. Meet another neglected Swiss born composer here. And, no, it's not Arthur Honegger, who was also championed by Casals. And are thirteen forward-looking twentieth-century string quartets neglected simply because the composer was a woman?

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4 comments:

Pliable said...

Read Kenneth Woods for a valuable insight into Bloch's music -

http://kennethwoods.net/blog1/2008/08/18/back-in-bloch/

JW said...

I would also highly recommend Walter Simmon's "Voices in the Wilderness" It's a fantastic book that explores five Neo-Romantic c American composers. The first chapter is devoted to Ernest Bloch, and is quite illuminating.

Caleb Deupree said...

Bloch's first piano quintet is also an amazing work, played last year at the Tucson Winter Chamber Music Festival, which I wrote about here.

Sator Arepo said...

Anyone who ignores Ruth Crawford has to answer to me,
SA