Instrumentation: for flute and orchestra; flute and piano
Date of Composition: 1958
Place of Composition: Agate Beach
Publisher: Broude Brothers
Duration Minutes: 13.0
Koch International Classics 3-7232-2H1 1994
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, James Sedares
From ERNEST BLOCH: Creative Spirit; A PROGRAM SOURCE BOOK
Prepared by Suzanne Bloch
In Collaboration With Irene Heskes
Jewish Music Council of the National Jewish Welfare Board, 1976, p. 99
TWO LAST POEMS (MAYBE . . . ), FOR FLUTE AND ORCHESTRA
During the Autumn of 1957, Bloch received the taped recording of Elaine Schaffer's performance of his Suite Modale with its String Orchestra version, which he had dedicated to her. Delighted with her performance, he began to think of writing another work for her, this time with full orchestra.
His sketches show that at first he entitled them "Funeral Music." At the time he did not know that in less than two months he would be told that he had cancer, and if treatments did not show results he would need surgery. At the hospital, he persuaded the doctors that he must first finish this composition, and managed to leave and return home to Agate Beach. There, he finished this work whose title he changed to "Two Last Poems." The day he finished copying his orchestral score, he called in my mother, and my brother, Ivan, and his wife who were there, showing them the beautifully written manuscript. Then with his everlasting sense of irony, having not too much faith in the pronouncements of the medical profession, he ceremonially added to the title the word "maybe," and meticulously put three dots after it.
But his intuition was right, for after this, he wrote two Suites for Unaccompanied Violin and one for Viola. He then submitted to surgery, after which he never wrote another note of music and ten months later passed away.
The two movements of this work for Flute and Orchestra are played without interruption. In both, there is a recurrence of thematic material characterized by an opening ascending fifth whose expressive meanings change through subtle treatment. The first part "Funeral Music," is more elegiac than funereal. It is Bloch himself giving a philosophical soliloquy. Becoming more lyrical and flowing, it quiets down to lead into the second part, "Life Again?" -- a title and its music that could be interpreted in various ways. With Bloch's acceptance and skepticism, it is best not to wonder about this question mark and let the music speak for itself. This quiet serenity in light, with a short theme and ascending fifth that returns often heard in both the solo and orchestral sonorities. Motion an dynamics reach to a peak which then slowly resolves to Calmo and a Coda bringing back the opening measures of the movement, ending in a peaceful pianissimo.