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Monday, February 27, 2017

Ernest Bloch - Violin Concerto; Baal Shem; Suite Hébraïque (Zina Schiff)


Composer: Ernest Bloch
  1. Violin Concerto: I. Allegro deciso
  2. Violin Concerto: II. Andante
  3. Violin Concerto: III. Deciso
  4. Baal Shem: I. Vidui (Contrition)
  5. Baal Shem: II. Nigun (Improvisation)
  6. Baal Shem: III. Simhat Torah (Rejoicing)
  7. Suite Hébraïque: I. Rapsodie
  8. Suite Hébraïque: II. Processional. Andante con moto
  9. Suite Hébraïque: III. Affirmation. Maestoso

Zina Schiff, violin
Royal Scottish National Orchestra
José Serebrier, conductor

Date: 2007
Label: Naxos




This is a wonderful disc. Zina Schiff plays this music with exceptional passion and commitment, which is really what Bloch is all about. Her tempos in the outer movements of the concerto are a touch more relaxed than the competition, particularly the classic Szigeti/Mengelberg, but the performance has greater excitement than the (limited) modern recorded versions, not just because of the fine sound, but because Schiff really digs into the music and phrases with both spontaneity and unusual communicative depth. When the melodies have such strong character even the long first movement, which admittedly has a tendency to sprawl in less committed hands, sounds amazingly cogent. It’s clear that Schiff really knows the music and has no inhibitions when it comes to delivering the emotional goods. This is such a lovely work–it’s amazing that it gets played so infrequently.

In the shorter pieces Schiff is just as splendid. The final movement (“Rejoicing”) of Baal Shem lives up to its title as in few other performances, while the Suite Hebraïque’s opening Rapsodie is hypnotically intense. José Serebrier and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra provide ideally balanced, colorful accompaniments, and the engineering, as usual from this source, is terrific. If you’re looking for an inexpensive single disc containing all of Bloch’s major works for violin and orchestra, let this release be your choice. I wonder if Schiff also plays the viola? I’d love to hear these forces in Bloch’s spectacular Viola Suite. [11/29/2007]

-- David HurwitzClassicsToday

More reviews:

MusicWeb International  RECORDING OF THE MONTH


Ernest Bloch (July 24, 1880 – July 15, 1959) was a Swiss-born American composer.  Bloch's musical style does not fit easily into any of the usual categories; he studied variously with Jaques-Dalcroze, Iwan Knorr and Ludwig Thuille, as well as corresponding with Mahler and meeting Debussy. Many of his works - as can be seen from their Hebrew-inspired titles - also draw heavily on his Jewish heritage. He held several teaching appointments in the U.S., with George Antheil, Frederick Jacobi, Quincy Porter, Bernard Rogers, and Roger Sessions among his pupils.


Zina Schiff, now residing in California, was a student of Jascha Heifetz and Ivan Galamian. She was featured as a soloist on Maurice Jarre's soundtrack to the 1968 film The Fixers. Schiff's name has never been a household one, and she has made only about ten compact disc recordings, but her sweet tone and vigorous interpretations have been welcome wherever she has traveled. She has recorded a diverse repertoire for the Stradivari, 4-Tay, and Naxos labels.


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