Schelomo : Work information

Ernest Bloch ( Music, Images,)
Performed by
Etienne Peclard (Cello), Orchestre de Bordeaux-Aquitaine, Alain Lombard (Conductor)

This work

Work name
Work number
1916-00-00 02:00:00

This recording

Forlane CI
Ivan Pastor
Jean-Marc Laisne
Recording date
1991-01-01 00:00:00

Track listing

  • 21:14 min


Bloch's colourful and dramatic rhapsody for cello and large orchestra, Schelomo (Solomon) is part of his Jewish cycle of large musical works. Completed in 1916, it was first performed by Hans Kindler at New York's Carnegie Hall on 3 May 1917.

For years, Bloch had been sketching a musical setting of the book of Ecclesiastes, but couldn't decide on a language. In late 1915 in Geneva he met the cellist Alexander Barjansky and his wife, and resolved to use "an infinitely grander and more profound voice that could speak all languages", namely Barjansky's cello. As the book of Ecclesiastes is attributed to King Solomon and Barjansky's wife had sculpted a statue of the King in thanks, Bloch named the work Schelomo, dedicating it to the Barjanskys.

Although the composer claimed there was no definite programme to the work, he did state that the cello was the voice of Solomon with the orchestra representing "the world surrounding him and his experiences of life; at the same time, the orchestra often seems to reflect Solomon's inward thought while the solo instrument is giving voice to his words".

Musically, the work is constructed in three large sections, each with an orchstral climax, and is dominated by two main themes, introduced in the first two sections and developed further in the third. As Bloch himself noted with regards to the Jewishness of his music:

"It is not my purpose, not my desire, to attempt a ‘reconstruction' of Jewish music, or to base my work upon melodies that are more or less authentic. I am not an archaeologist. I hold it of first importance to write good, genuine music, my  music. It is the Jewish soul that interests me...."

There are, however, elements in Schelomo that point to its Jewish heritage: the repeated note patterns and fourths, for example, evoke the call of the shofar, and there is much in the rhythmic flow of the work that suggests the structure of Jewish chant or even the Hebrew language itself.

One of Bloch's greatest works, Schelomo has also proved especially popular in the concert hall, winning a lasting place in the ever expanding repertoire of cello works.

The Composers

Ernest Bloch

Born in Geneva, Ernest Bloch studied violin under Eugène Ysaÿe and composition under Rasse in Belgium.  He first travelled to America in 1916 and spent several years there establishing a reputation as a composer proud of his Jewish heritage.  He was naturalised as an American citizen in 1924 and won accolades as a composer, teacher and conductor.

Originally something of a romantic, Bloch's music later embraced neo-classicism, microtonality and serialism, but never relinquished his devotion to melody.  Nor was he afraid to admit that his musical inspiration stemmed from external sources such as poetry or philosophy.  Roger Sessions  was a famous pupil.

Related composers: Arthur Honegger, Igor Stravinsky