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About this Recording 8. From to he was Director of the Cleveland Institute of Music, thereafter taking on similar responsibilities at the San Francisco Conservatory. He had become an American citizen in , but spent much of the s in Switzerland, returning to the United States at the end of the decade. Bloch was an all-embracing composer, whose intellect and senses thirsted to learn and feel as much as possible.
He was involved with his surroundings and nature, mankind and ideology, ethnology and history. No wonder that he underwent several changes in his styles. He was involved with his personality and emotions. Still, any kind of spontaneity was at the same time well controlled, seeking perfection of the art of composing. Above all, Bloch never gave in to the common fashion. He always remained true and faithful to himself. He observed the world profoundly, and used his amazing sense of prophecy in his visions, expressed in ideas and sound.
He used to say that 35 years after his death, his music would be accepted. He wrote an enormous amount of music, masterpieces of orchestral, instrumental, vocal, and chamber music, but at present only a relatively small proportion of all this is being played.
He named them Israel, Helvetia, America. The uniqueness of the America Symphony is that it describes history and events in the language of sound and is thus so different from any other symphony ever written. The symphony covers the period between and , the year of composition. He even wrote the last part, which he named The Future, in a manner of prophecy developing to a style and noises automobile horn that doubtless resembles the styles to come later during the twentieth century.
Bloch built the symphony by embroidering the thematic material along with micro motifs of the final anthem, and with tunes that he collected of the various types of folk-music involved: Native America, Pilgrim, Celtic, Negro, Creole, Civil War, mourning, and the new seeds of the future. In the work won the prize in a national competition sponsored by Musical America magazine.
Its first performance was on 20th December , with the New York Philharmonic and chorus, conducted by Walter Damrosch. It is dedicated to the memory of Abraham Lincoln and Walt Whitman whose vision has upheld its inspiration. The ideals of America are imperishable. They embody the future credo of all mankind: a Union, in common purpose and under willingly accepted guidance, of widely diversified races, ultimately to become one race, strong and great.
Though this Symphony is not dependent on a program, the composer wants to emphasize that he has been inspired by this very ideal. The Anthem which concludes the work, as its apotheosis, symbolizes the Destiny, the Mission of America. The symphony is entirely built upon it. From the first bars it appears, in root, dimly, slowly taking shape; rising, falling, developing, and finally asserting itself victoriously in its complete and decisive form.
It is the hope of the composer that this Anthem will become known and beloved, that the audience will rise to sing it, becoming thus an active and enthusiastic part of the work and its message of faith and hope. The suite was written first for viola or violin and piano in Later, on 10th March , he completed orchestrating the work.
The first performance of the orchestral version was on 1st January , with the viola soloist Milton Preves and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Rafael Kubelik.
Bloch composed the entire piece in the Jewish style, a kind of reminder and nostalgia for his past Jewish cycle. As a matter of fact the very few famous works by Bloch which have remained well known to the world of today, belong to that period of his Jewish cycle.
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