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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Ernest BLOCH
Schelomo (1915-16) Israel Symphony (1912-16)
  Zara Nelsova (cello) Utah SO/Maurice Abravanel
 order from omegarecords

Schelomo receives its mead of barbarous splendour at the hands of Nelsova and Abravanel. The recording is a shade too warm but Nelsova (who recorded far too little) who studied the piece with the composer demonstrates her familiarity and sympathy with the piece. This is essential as Schelomo is one of those works that can easily seem nondescript if the artists involved are unengaged. In that sense it is rather like the Bax cello concerto (still awaiting its ideal exponent on disc). This is Nelsova's second, recording of the work (1). The feverish grip of the music is strongly asserted.

The Israel Symphony, like Schelomo, is a single movement although the work falls into sections each of which Vanguard have banded. It does not share the gaudy barbarity of Schelomo. I would place it in the company of the symphonies of Respighi (Drammatica) and Dohnanyi (1 and 2) or indeed Bloch's epic C Minor Symphony. He uses five solo voices in the finale and provided words only to give the voices syllables to sing rather than the usual vocalisations. In fact the score directs that the singers are to be placed among the orchestra. The music is less self-consciously Semitic than in Schelomo. Sidney Finkelstein's notes claim the splendour and turbulence of Biblical times. I hear none of that but there is no mistaking the concise excitement and generalised splendour (almost Mahlerian) of the Allegro agitato. The Symphony is not otherwise available.

This decently recorded disc is certainly well worth seeking out.

© Rob Barnett

(1) Nelsova's first recording is on Jewish Musical Heritage Recordings SMHR CD015 - CD can be ordered from the Trust for £13.49 plus £1 Post and Packing in UK and £2 outside UK. Phone 0181 909 2445 Fax 0181 909 1030. E-mail enquiries to


Rob Barnett

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