Bloch: America, Suite Hébraïque / Atlas, Shaham, Et Al

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"America", Bloch's "Epic Rhapsody", purportedly follows the history of his adopted country from the landing of the Pilgrims in the 1600s to the (then) present--1926--with...
"America", Bloch's "Epic Rhapsody", purportedly follows the history of his adopted country from the landing of the Pilgrims in the 1600s to the (then) present--1926--with a lament for the Cival War period along the way. It's all bound together by a simple motto theme that becomes the basis for the somewhat cheesy hymn at the end, which Bloch hoped would be sung by the audience in attendance as well as the chorus on stage. This eclectic, sprawling heap of music is the kind of thing you either love or hate, and I have to confess that I experience both feelings on different occasions. Bloch was a wonderfully accomplished composer, and much of the music is great fun (particularly the last movement, with its tin-pan alley evocations mixed with the sounds of industry and urban life). On the other hand, those who claim that the music is inflated and more than a little tacky, a piece of voluntary Socialist Realism if you will, have a point. It's a matter of personal taste.

Certainly there's nothing to complain about with respect to this performance. Dalia Atlas has managed to carve out a niche for herself on disc as a Bloch specialist, and her interpretation remarkably resembles Stokowski's storied recording for Vanguard in terms of tempo and overall shape. In other words, it's quite persuasive. Both she and Stoki are much broader than Gerard Schwarz on Delos, a version that some might prefer for that reason. On the other hand, this more panoramic vision of the piece allows the sometimes bewildering succession of musical events to register with additional clarity, given the extra time, and if you're in for the duration (about 50 minutes in total) you might as well go whole hog. The Slovak Radio Symphony (and the chorus) handles the music surprisingly well, and the engineering is also perfectly respectable, if not outstanding.

Suite hébraïque, a fond look back from late in his career at the composer's early Jewish period, is a lovely, seldom performed triptych given a warm and characterful performance by violinist Hagai Shaham and Atlas, this time with the conductor's eponymous Israeli ensemble, the Atlas Camerata, and it's good to have this music readily available at budget price. Bloch is one of those composers who deserves to be better known. Even his less perfect creations have plenty of character and color, and only his somewhat spastic habit of employing vastly different musical styles from one work to the next prevents him from being appreciated by a larger following. "America" may not find him at his absolute best, but his admirers will be glad to have it all the same.

--David Hurwitz,

Product Description:

  • Release Date: June 21, 2005

  • UPC: 747313215126

  • Catalog Number: 8557151

  • Label: Naxos

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Composer: Ernest Bloch

  • Conductor: Dalia Atlas

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Atlas Camerata, Bratislava Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Lucnica Chorus

  • Performer: Hagai Shaham


  1. America

    Composer: Ernest Bloch

    Ensemble: Lucnica Chorus, Bratislava Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra

    Conductor: Dalia Atlas

  2. Suite hébraïque

    Composer: Ernest Bloch

    Ensemble: Atlas Camerata

    Performer: Hagai Shaham (Violin)

    Conductor: Dalia Atlas