Three Voices in the Wilderness: Foote, Bloch, and Korngold in the Early Twentieth-Century America

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2005

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Barbara Hanning points out in her book Concise History of Western Music, that "Twentieth-century American music was in large measure an extension of European music" (Hanning 1998, 515). My dissertation/perforrnance project features cello works written by three contemporary composers who lived in America but were connected to the European heritage in different ways; each contributed significantly to the development of American classical concert life, music education, and even popular culture. Programs of my performances are intended to illustrate their unique compositional styles. The first recital consists of five cello compositions of Massachusetts-born Arthur Foote (1853 - 1937): Drei Stucke fur Pianoforte und Violoncello, Op. 1; Scherzo, Op.22; Romanza, Op.33; Aubade, Op.77; and Sonata for Violoncello and Piano, Op.78. Foote was influenced by the German-trained John Knowles Paine at Harvard University; he composed music famous for its extensive chromaticism in both harmony and melodic line, and for clearly-defined formal structure. The second recital explores the music of Swiss-American composer Ernest Bloch (1880-1959): a short Meditation Hebraique, a Suite No. I for Violoncello Solo and the famous rhapsody Schelomo. Born in Geneva, Switzerland, and settling in the United States in 1916, Bloch is a composer deeply influenced by the European late-Romantic tradition and is also well-known for employing "Hebraic" elements into his works. The final performance comprises two other of Bloch's cello works and one cello concerto by the Austrian-American composer, Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897- 1957). Bloch's Voice in the Wilderness is a symphonic poem for orchestra and cello (accompanied by piano in this performance), consisting of six movements performed without pause. His Suite No.3 for Cello Solo is shorter and has a simpler style than the first Suite. Korngold was recognized as a child prodigy in his native Austria. After a Nazi-induced exile, he immigrated to America and became a film music composer in Hollywood. The Cello Concerto was used in the movie "Deception" (1 946), for which Korngold provided the film score. The impassioned harmonic language and lavish melodic lines inherited from the high-romanticism make this work one of comparative discordant beauty among other compositions of his time.

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