Bloch Reissues Brings Together Two Great Performances

The Alto label was formed to answer a very specific need. There were many great recordings issued by labels no longer in business. Alto’s goal is to seek out and reissue the best of those recordings. 

They access labels such as Melodiya, ASV, Collins Classics, and Unicorn Kanchana.  And in this case, Koch International and Vanguard Classics. 

This release pairs selections from two recordings. James Sedares and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra recorded Ernest Bloch’s “Three Jewish Poems” for Koch International in 1993. 

Maurice Abravanel and the Utah Symphony Orchestra recorded Bloch’s “Schelomo” and Israel Symphony in 1967 for Vanguard Classics.

The performances are terrific — which is why they merited reissue. I missed the Koch recording the first time around, so I’m very glad to finally have that back in print. 

The sound quality does vary between the two orchestras, but that’s not a deal-breaker. If you’re listening through a high-end audio system, you’ll notice that the Vanguard tracks don’t have the fine details of the Koch. But almost three decades of recording technology separate them.

The Alto team did a great job of remastering. They bring out all the detail the Vanguard recording captured. And they did so in a way that kept the recording sounding natural and balanced. 

“Schelomo, Hebraic Rhapsody for Cello and Orchestra” is Ernest Bloch’s best-known work. And one of his most recorded. The “Three Jewish Poemes” and the Israel Symphony also reflect Bloch’s pride in his heritage. And also his skill for channeling that heritage into expressive, original works. 

This is great music, delivered with great performances. These recordings deserve to live again, and I’m glad Alto chose to revive them.   

Ernest Bloch: Israel Symphony
Schelmo; Three Jewish Poems
Utah Symphony Orchestra; Maurice Abravanel, conductor
Zara Nelsova, cello
New Zealand Symphony; James Sedares, conductor

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