Conversations with Menuhin
by David Dubal
DUBAL: I know that you are fond of Ernest Bloch’s music. Since his death his music has suffered an eclipse. He seems hard to put in a category.
MENUHIN: Very hard for the people who like to pigeonhole, also Bloch’s rhapsodic style is hard to formulate, since his music is very largely a series of statements and meditations, although he is the most famous Swiss composer, and he always returned there, and loved the mountains. Bloch is essentially a Jewish composer, in his dee and guttural feeling for the Jewish cry of despair.
DUBAL: I think his art is deeply penetrating. The string quartets are an extraordinary contribution to the form. There is a burning passion, also a frustration, as well as a sarcastic irony at times.
MENUHIN: I fully agree, and he was tortured — a prophetic man, who looked astonishingly like an Old Testament face. He wrote beautifully for the violin — you know he was a very good player. Do you know that the first piece I ever played by a living composer was by Bloch, a wonderful piece called Avodah, which he composed for me. I was a child of about seven or eight. Bloch was a great teacher. And he was the director of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
David Dubal, author of Reflections from the Keyboard and The Art of the Piano, taught piano literature at The Juilliard School of Music. He was also musical director of the classical music radio station WNCN.
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich