ERNEST BLOCH IN ISRAEL
Contributed by the Ernest Bloch Society in Israel.
During the first half of the 20th century, Bloch’s music in the Jewish style was performed relatively frequently in Israel, making a great impact on musicians and music lovers.
Although in Israel at that time the trend was to search for, and establish, an original Israeli Mediterranean style, based on the styles of the various Jewish communities, the authentic and pronounced Jewish style of Bloch influenced many Israeli composers.
One only has to recall Bloch’s phenomenal ability to visualise Israel in music – and through his reading of the Bible alone. Alongside the European Jewish tradition, he created his own unique Jewish style. In fact, some of his melodies, written at the beginning of the 20th century – as in the Trois poèmes juifs or the ‘Israel’ Symphony – foreshadow, with an amazingly prophetic power, several Israeli melodies and styles from the 1960s.
Bloch wished to be invited to visit Israel, and had an extensive correspondence with several personalities there, but unfortunately the visit never materialized. Nevertheless, a measure of national acknowledgement has been accorded by Israel to Bloch over the years. For example, a postage stamp bearing Bloch’s portrait was issued, while in Haifa there is a walkway between Disraeli and Sinai Streets named after the composer, hidden behind the green leaves of a beautiful tree. Coincidence or destiny? – without her realizing it, this walkway was directly opposite the house where Dalia Atlas lived for 30 years…
From 1996, the Israeli conductor Prof. Dalia Atlas started to take an interest in rediscovering the neglected music of Ernest Bloch, in order to record it for the ASV label. With the guidance and encouragement of the Bloch expert Dr Alexander Knapp, the composer’s elder daughter Suzanne, lutenist, educator and composer, and the composer’s grandson Ernest Bloch II, she systematically researched Bloch’s oeuvre, making an indepth analysis of his various styles and conducting many of the neglected works with major orchestras internationally, in concerts and festivals as well as recordings for radio stations and the ASV and Naxos labels. To date she has recorded 30 neglected as well as more familiar works by Bloch.
The year 1996 ended with Dalia Atlas and her orchestra, the Atlas Camerata, performing a special all-Bloch concert at the Municipality Hall in Haifa on 2 December, at the invitation of the Mayor of Haifa Municipality, Amram Mitzna.
In November of the following year, the radio music programme producer Haiuta Dvir (a future founder member of the Bloch Society in Israel) invited the same performers to perform more Bloch in a concert in her weekly series ‘Etnachta’ at the Henry Crown Auditorium in Jerusalem.
In 2001, a significant event took place: a week-long National Bloch Festival, held at the Churchill Auditorium in the Technion in Haifa. Many prominent Israeli artists participated, together with the Atlas Camerata Orchestra, the Technion Symphony Orchestra and Choir, and the Philharmonic Choir, under the direction of Dalia Atlas. Music lovers came from all over the country to hear the repertoire, which included extracts from Bloch’s opera Macbeth. A lecture was given by Avi Hannani, head of the National Israel Radio music department (and a future founder member of the Bloch Society in Israel). Some of the concerts were recorded for ASV and Naxos at the festival.
In the following year, Dalia Atlas and her Atlas Camerata performed Bloch programmes throughout Israel, including another live concert in the ‘Etnachta’ series, which was broadcast by Kol-Israel Radio. Although these many Bloch concerts and CD recordings received great acclaim from audiences and critics, unfortunately the Atlas Camerata Orchestra had to cease its operations shortly afterwards due to the lack of finances after that expensive project.
However, interest in Bloch remained very much alive, and in 2005 a new play about the composer was staged in Jerusalem, written and performed by Zecharia Plavin of the Jerusalem Academy of Music.
A hugely important event took place in Tel Aviv in November 2007, with the founding of the Ernest Bloch Society in Israel by Dalia Atlas. Its aim is to promote the complete repertoire of Bloch’s neglected compositions – effectively some 85% of his entire output. The founding committee comprises 12 distinguished personalities in Israel, and it meets annually to discuss, in particular, ways to encourage musicians to perform Ernest Bloch’s neglected works.
As part of this promotional activity, Dalia Atlas, as President of the Society, has approached numerous music academies and conservatoires throughout Israel, as well as teachers and educators, opera companies and orchestras, including the Israel Philharmonic, encouraging them to programme the works of Bloch, in particular the unknown music. She has also promoted the same subject in conferences as well as concerts and festivals worldwide.
As a result, the music of Bloch has been slowly spreading through the concert halls of Israel. The peak came in the 2008–09 season when, on three separate occasions, the Israel Philharmonic performed different works by Bloch. In the same season, Israel hosted a Bulgarian choir in a performance of Bloch’s Sacred Service, with the participation of Sita Milchev, singer and granddaughter of Ernest Bloch.
Another notable Bloch-inspired musical event was a new sonata for cello and piano entitled Homage to Bloch, written by one of Israel’s most distinguished composers, Prof. Tzvi Avni, himself a member of the Israel Bloch Society. Commissioned by Dalia Atlas, the sonata has now been published by the Israel Music Institute. It was given its world premiere, to great acclaim, at the gala concert of Bloch works that concluded a one-day Bloch symposium at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in August 2009, as part of the International Jewish Congress.
The symposium was followed, just a few months later, by a Colloquium on Bloch, held at the Bar-Ilan University music department on 1 December 2009, at the invitation of Prof. Bathia Hurgin, another member of the Israel Bloch Society. At the Colloquium, Dalia Atlas gave a presentation on the different styles to be found in Bloch’s music, illustrated by musical excerpts.
Between these two events, Bloch’s music could be heard frequently in a number of radio broadcasts in Israel. For a whole week in September 2009, for example, the Israel Broadcasting Service dedicated one hour every day, between 1 and 2 pm, to the neglected works of Ernest Bloch, conducted by Dalia Atlas and presented by Avi Hannani. In November 2009 another Israeli radio station, Galley Zahal, the Army’s radio station, broadcast Bloch’s ‘America’ Symphony, again conducted by Dalia Atlas, and this time presented by Yaakov Mishori, also a member of the Israel Bloch Society. The ‘America’ Symphony was to be heard again in February 2010, once more conducted by Maestro Atlas, concluding a radio programme of American music.
For more information about the activities of the Ernest Bloch Society in Israel, please contact: www.Dalia-Atlas.com or e-mail: dalia firstname.lastname@example.org.
For further information:
Dalia Atlas [If this link does not work, go to <www.dalia-atlas.com/>]
Dalia Atlas and Bloch Society in Israel. See <www.dalia-atlas.com/Ernest-Bloch.html>
Dalia Atlas has been working for over a decade to promote Ernest Bloch. She has recorded 30 or more works of Ernest Bloch, works which are not often recorded.
Updates on the work of this society will be presented here.