It is not surprising that Ernest Bloch probed the unique expressive capability and tonal palette of the violin. Born on 24 July , in Switzerland, the son of a clock merchant in Geneva, Bloch exhibited a precocious violin talent. Bloch continued his studies in Germany, but with no obvious prospects for a musical career he reluctantly returned to Switzerland, becoming a book-keeper and clerk in his family's shop. His musical drive did not, however, disappear. In the evenings he quietly and persistently amassed a portfolio of compositions, including an opera, Macbeth.

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I will be trying it out with a pianist soon, and i might upload a video, as we are not allowed to videotape the competition. I am confused about the Nigun: what was the meaning of the piece?

Sir Arnold Steinhardt thinks of it as a cry to god, as a piece recalling Jewish suffering, therefore playing it lamentingly, and sweetly with passion.

Ivry Gitlis thinks of it as a showpiece: I am personally taking it sort of like Mr. What did Bloch want it to be? I can't find anything about it on the internet. Also, you should read up on the teachings of Baal Shem Tov, specifically about his teachings on prayer. Maybe it will help you play it better than how it is usually done. It is not a showpiece Actually, I found myself in this piece--so straight and uncomplicated, yet so melodic and powerful.

I agree it is a cry to G-d but it is not without passion, indeed, it is not contemplative or simply a lament. It is accusatory at the same time. Bell finds none of that in his approach. His is simply the tuneless melodic meanderings of a mind caught in mid-thought. No passion there just melodic thought. I don't find Gitlis to be playing a showpiece rather it is for me an informed, highly personal reading. Jewish literature is filled with this kind of dual prayer --lamenting and accusatory.

I can't fault Gitlis' reading. For me it is spot on! If you want to see the type of text that I am referring to, try to find the text for A Plea to G-d. It is by the 18th century Rabbi Levi-Yitchok of Berditchev and is exactly the kind of accusatory lament I speak of. In Jewish tradition and prayer a nigun is an improvisatory chant that is sung without words.

The melody is melismatic and the syllables used are usually aye yaye yaye or something along that nature. If you ever need clarification or inspiration go to an Orthodox synagogue and you'll hear plenty of nigunnim. The Baal Shem Tov was a very influential Rabbi in the 's I believe but I'm not positive who taught his followers that the way to get closer to G-d was through losing yourself in music and dance.

Yes-- good fortune, Mr. There is some roughness here and there, but only because Skowronski is a violinist who takes risks, and here they really pay off. He shows us that he is a prime example of the old eastern European school of string playing. We strongly recommend this recording, in particular, for the works by Bloch and Szymanowski.

Skowronski's version on cdbaby dot com as well. I like Bell's version and Skowronski's for different reasons. I loved the intensity Skowronski put in to it--undoubtedly.

And I liked Bell's subdued thoughtful interpretation as well. It would be like having to choose between seafood and steak to me. For me the Bell has pink water in its veins. To my ears he brings out more of the introverted, contemplative side of the piece along with the fire and passion, and it's very effective.

I hate when people play this piece like it's a macho Verdi tenor aria or something. These pieces are a tribute to a culture that largely disappeared during the Holocaust, and they are very much tied to a particular culture. Therefore, I think it is ideal to have a violinist with the closest connection possible to that culture. I have not heard Bell's, Vengerov's or Skowronowski's versions. Of the folks mentioned so far, Stern has the closest connection. While Bell and Vengerov and maybe Skowronowski are nominally Jewish, I doubt they have the kind of feeling for the culture that Stern had.

So, I would think Stern's rendition might be the best place to start. He was born in Haifa of Russian Jewish parents. In Stern's biography he stated several times how far from a practicing jew he was, and was actually furious when his daughter elected to become a rabbi. He grew up in California, rather far away from any hasidic community. Where do you get this idea from that he has this connection to hasidism? In any case, even a conservative jewish person wouldn't be familiar with these things, as Hasidic jews are quite removed from the mainstream Jewery, so I don't think Isaac Stern has anything to do with that.

If you can find a Pinchas Zukerman recording I've not heard one , that should be of interpretative interest; my reason for saying this is 35 years old. To quote what I posted on that previous thread:.

In one of life's unforgettable moments, [in ] I was at a scheduled recital by Pinchas Zukerman in a synagogue in Providence, RI, not long after the Israeli athletes were murdered at the Munich Olympics. He played Nigun in memory of the dead athletes, in a stunning and passionate performance. There was no applause, of course, but I think most of us had tears afterwards. Although I've seen the title translated as "Mourning," which describes the mood well the 2nd marking is "lamentoso" , apparently "Improvisation" is a more accurate English translation.

Hope this helps a tiny bit. The other two Viddui and Simchat Torah refer to the communal confession on the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur,and the holiday, Simchat Torah, "Rejoicing of the Law when the cycle of the reading of the first five book of the Bible is completed and renewed again.

All three taken together speak to the Jewish tradition of cantorial chant and the mood of reverence and awe as well as a plea to the Master of the Universe. The name "Israel" means "wrestles with G-d" and in many ways, aptly describes the relationship of the Jewish people with G-d as evidenced throughout Jewish history. Bloch's dedication to his Jewish roots though perhaps takes its most personal turn with the Nigun which he dedicated to the memory of his mother. As such, his "nigun" though influenced by the Chasidic tradition of nigunnim plural is at once both violinistic and cantorial, defiant and pleading, prayerful and assertive, mystical and extroverted and runs through every emotion I can think of from awestruck wonder to tearful despair.

I would recommend also listening to Bloch's justly revered piece for cello, "Schelomo" to further acquaint yourself with his works written based on Jewish influences. When he was very young a boy , he was invited to play thie Nigun in front of the Israeli Knesset. Unfortunately, one of his pegs was sticking, so it took a bit of coaxing to get the violin in tune. But don't laugh at us, naive audiences. Some of the modern pieces sound that way to us, I am afraid.

Unless the Knesset was told this boy was about to play a modern piece, I doubt they'd be expecting a modern piece of two to four pitches. I think, instead, that in the same way most VIP audiences receive music - as a sort of symbolic ritual that must be undergone but never actually listened to - the Knesset was patiently waiting for this little boy to make his gesture. The gesture itself would have interested them not at all. As for content, a Hasidic friend of mine once told me that the whole Baal Shem suite, of which the Nigun is the middle movement, corresponds to the three high points of the holiest days of the Jewish year.

I took his interpretation quite seriously in part because Bloch's suite is subtitled "Three Pictures of Hasidic Life", not just "Three Jewish-sounding movements". Vidui, the first movement, is subtitled "Contrition" and corresponds with the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah which was actually last week.

On that day, we are meant to take stock of our lives, to assess ourselves and our past. The piece, in all fairness, seems to be very much in that spirit - of dotting i's and crossing t's. The sheer drunken ecstasy of the movement is difficult to maintain but, as my friend told me, all you have to do is to visit a Hasidic neighborhood during Simchas Torah to get a sense of how it's done. On that day, we mourn and fast and pray for God to forgive us.

We mourn not only our own transgressions but also the loss of the Temple, the losses of the Jewish people as a whole. All of this sorrow, this plea for forgiveness must stem from what your assessing revealed in Vidui. As I see it, the issue is not exactly familiarity with Chasidic culture per se or being a religious Jew, but being from a surrounding Jewish culture in which Chasidism thrived and having some sense of both the larger Jewish culture and the more specific Chasidic one.

Stern was born in the Ukraine and came with his parents to the US before the age of one. As another post pointed out, Gitlis would also be in a good position to understand this, at least more than I think Bell or Vengerov would. I completely disagree, having read his biography and seeing how little he was exposed to any of this.

I seriously don't think that immigrating from Ukrain at age 1 then living in suburban California in a fairly secular household means that you'll have any sort of advantage artistically. The only requirement is a soul. I'm afraid you're fishing for a lineage which isn't there. Or to seek out fights. Or to be "shocking", though puerile and inflammatory comments are hardly that. So have a nice time on v. As for your comments, Pieter, though I agree that Stern was a secular Jew, the point is that there are two different Jewish identities out there.

Both are equally important to those who identify themselves as Jews, and they are sometimes - even frequently - present independent of each other.

One identity is that of a religious Jew, observant of the Law. The other is that of an ethnic Jew. And it is that identity, not divorced from the religious element but not dependent upon it, that seems to be prevalent in the US. It may or may not be Zionistic. And it is the identity that I feel to be my own. As such, though I have been only glancingly exposed to Jewish culture - being a Bar Mitzvah, having gone to a yeshiva for my first year and a half in America - I feel a proprietary sense when playing the Baal Shem suite, rather than when playing Schubert's "Ave Maria".

In the latter, I recognize the sentiment, respect the theology and love the music. It's a weird self-perception, I'll grant you. Robin and I frequently have discussions about it when we wonder how we'll raise our children, what group they will be considered to belong to. After all, Robin isn't Jewish and has not converted, so a far-right Jew would consider our children Gentiles as well.


Baal Shem, B.47 (Bloch, Ernest)

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Bloch Nigun Question






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