Work: Concerto Grosso no 2
About This Work
Swiss-born American composer Ernest Bloch adopted the Neo-Classical style for his Concerto Grosso No. 2. Neo-Classicism became popular in the 1920s with composers such as Igor Stravinsky (1882 - 1971) and Paul Hindemith (1895 - 1963). Bloch
originally turned to this style for his very popular Concerto Grosso No. 1 for Strings and Piano obbligato (1924 - 25). In a nutshell, Neo-Classicism is the inclusion of characteristics of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century music in a modern style and a rejection of the overly emotional nature of the late Romantic era. Searching for new methods of structural organization, composers turned to forms from the Baroque period such as the suite, toccata, and, in Bloch's case, the concerto grosso. (The concerto grosso, one of the most important forms of that period, consists of a smaller group of solo instruments against or contrasting the full orchestra.)
The Concerto Grosso No. 2 is in the traditional four movements standardized by Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762). The Maestoso is divided into three sections. Beginning in a typically grand manner, the smaller ensemble exchanges episodes with the orchestra before breaking into a faster fugal section followed by a solemnly slow ending that anticipates the mood to follow. The Andante commences without a break. Lush and rhapsodic, it is worthy of English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 - 1958) at his most idyllic. The Allegro has a robust, rustic quality with its strictly square Baroque rhythms and sequences, highlighted by an interesting segment of chromatic triplets and a unison ending. Finally, the hymn-like opening of the Tranquillo misterioso; Allegro sets into motion an ostinato (a phrase that is persistently repeated) based on a descending chromatic pattern (movement in half steps) that gives the impression of a Baroque passacaglia. (This form, used frequently by J. S. Bach (1865 - 1750), is a type of continuous variation based on a recurring pattern usually in the bass.) Starting slowly, the pattern builds momentum and culminates in a faster tempo carried through to the end. While the form is distinctly borrowed from the eighteenth century, the sensibility is decidedly Romantic. Here, Bloch departs from Stravinsky's remote, more abstract embrace of Neo-Classicism.
-- Mona DeQuis, All Music Guide
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