BLOCH, ERNEST. (1880-1959). Swiss-born, American composer of Schelomo and other 20th-century masterpieces. ALS. (“Ernest Bloch”). 2pp. 4to. Châtel, France, July 15, 1938. To American composer and piano teacher ETHEL GLENN HIER (1889-1971).
“Of course I have not forgotten anything of the past and our lessons in Lexington Avenue – and I was much touched to hear from you and to receive such kind token of remembrance.
I was much interested also to read about all your activities and perseverance. This is the only way – nowadays more than ever. If everybody would confine in one’s own realm of action and do it well and with conscience, the world would be better and a great deal of so called social problems would be solved by itself. I have seen examples of this all my life. But actually people are all more or less busy with politics and ‘isms’ instead of doing their own work honestly – only discuss, fight and this only aggravates the situation, which is already so complex. People have not learned anything from the terrible lesson of 1914–1918 and it is again the same – but worse story –
I have been by myself since 4 months, waking from 12-16 hours a day – it’s a very poor health! –
revising, for its new publication in Italy, my opera Macbeth – written in 1904-1907 – which was very successfully revived at the Opera San Carlo, in Naples, last March, and will be given next season again in several cities – In Italy and elsewhere probably. And this has saved me from desperation also!
We intend to come back to the States end of this present year and I hope to have the pleasure of seeing you again – with thanks again and with cordial regards… You are lucky to be in the M.D. Colony – What a splendid institution and what a fine apostle is Mrs. MacDowell. I admire her intensely.”
Bloch studied music in Belgium, Germany and France, composing the three-act opera Macbeth between 1904 and 1906. It was premiered in Paris by the Opéra-Comique in 1910 and revived in Naples in 1938, as mentioned in our letter, but later banned by the Fascist government. In our letter Bloch also discusses the First World War and the rise of Nazism and Fascism that would lead to World War II.
Bloch eventually moved to the United States where he became the first teacher of composition at Mannes College in New York City in 1917, during which time he may have met our letter’s recipient. From 1920 to 1925, he was the Cleveland Institute of Music’s first director, after which he became the director of the San Francisco Conservatory until 1930 when he returned to Switzerland.
Our letter mentions his anticipated return to America in 1939 to accept a professorship at the University of California in Berkeley. “For Bloch music was a spiritual expression. The quality of Bloch’s output is, on the whole, high, particularly in the orchestral and chamber media… His firm beliefs in his own work and his faith in the spirituality of mankind make him a singular figure of 20th-century music,” (The New Grove Dictionary).
Hier was trained at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and Julliard before becoming a composer and piano instructor in Cincinnati and New York City.
Written on the recto and verso of a single, folded sheet; in excellent condition.