Ernest Bloch’s is a name with which to reckon in reviewing the ebb and flow of twentieth-century music. It is a name whose bearer was often removed, physically and musically, from the primary tributaries of the artistic currents of the age. An admirer of the visionary poet Walt Whitman, Bloch adopted as his theme of life that wordsmith’s line “Give me solitude, give me Nature.” A seeker after those dual attributes, Truth and Beauty, Bloch was uncompromising in holding fast to the tenets of art and life he believed to be inviolable.
Ernest Bloch holds a unique place in the history of twentieth-century art music. He was a public figure for much of his life, particularly during his years in New York, Cleveland, and San Francisco, but he was not a public person, at least not in the traditional sense of that term. He held fast to the traditions of the past, particularly those upon which he was nurtured. His love of Renaissance choral music, for example, brought him comfort and solace, poignantly so during his final days of life.
The music of Ernest Bloch is, above all else, sincere. It would be grossly naïve to label it “Jewish” or nationalistic; it is, rather, humanistic. As a result, it delivers a universal message. History, the final arbiter in all aspects of the human enterprise, will, in all likelihood, reserve for Ernest Bloch a place of honor in the pantheon of the musical elite of the twentieth century.
From David Z. Kushner’s The Ernest Bloch Companion, Greenwood Press, 2002, pages 1-10.