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July 24 composer birthdays: Ernest Bloch and Adolph Adam

Station Blog2018-7-24By: Classical Staff

The haunting music of the ballet, Giselle, was composed by Adolph Adam

Today we celebrate two composer birthdays: Ernest Bloch and Adolph Adam.

Ernest Bloch is considered one of the greatest composers to emerge from Switzerland, and his legacy continues to grow (he died in 1959). He studied violin before becoming a highly regarded composer and teacher. He took out US citizenship in 1924 and was a pioneer of the American music schools; he was the first teacher of composition at the Mannes School of Music and then the first Musical Director of the newly formed Cleveland School of Music. Then he went on to direct the San Francisco Conservatory of music, returned to Switzerland for a brief spell, and left for the States in 1939 to stay as the war loomed.

Many of Ernest Bloch’s music draw upon his Jewish heritage, which was a significant part of his upbringing. While his music relates to Mahler and Debussy’s, Bloch felt, when composing, that to convey his cultural identity was “the only way in which I can produce music of vitality and significance.”

Bloch wrote Suite Hebraique for Viola and Orchestra in 1951. The soloist is Gerard Causse with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, directed by Lior Shambadal. The art featured in this video is by Marc Chagall.

Ernest Bloch was born July 24, 1880 in Geneva, Switzerland, and died July 15 1959, in Portland, Oregon, USA.


Adolphe Adam’s legacy is without doubt, “O Holy Night”, a beloved Christmas standard, and the music for two of his ballets, Le Corsaire, and Giselle.

Giselle is about an innocent peasant girl who falls in love with the already-betrothed Albrecht, a not-so nobleman who pretends to be a peasant boy to come on to Giselle. She is so distraught when she finds out he is promised to another, she throws herself upon his sword. “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” takes on new meaning as the Wilis, a group of mystic dance creatures who died of broken hearts, swarm rogue men and dance them to death. As they make Albrecht dance well into the wee hours, Giselle, though, newly-minted as a Wili, saves him from beyond the grave.

On a more hopeful note, a special fact about “O Holy Night” is that Canadian Reginald Fessenden was the first to successfully transmit the sound of the human voice and music. (Not Marconi, as widely believed). He spearheaded the first broadcast to ships at sea on Christmas Eve, 1906, when he grabbed his violin and wung his way through “O Holy Night”, singing along, as well. He gave a brief speech, and used a phonograph to broadcast a solo voice singing Handel’s “Largo”.

“O Holy Night” as sung by Carols from King’s 2017.

Giselle – Act II duet with Natalia Osipova and Carlos Acosta, The Royal Ballet. Her opening developpé – the unfolding the leg out to the side – is unreal.

Adolphe Adam was born July 24, 1803 in Paris, France, and died May 3, 1856, also in Paris.


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