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Bloch: Israel Symphony, Suite for Viola & Orchestra / Atlas

Bloch / Kohutkova / Kramolisova
Release Date: 08/12/2014 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 573283   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ernest Bloch
Performer:  Katrina KramolisovaAdriana KohútkováTerezia BajakovaDenisa Hamarova,   ... 
Conductor:  Dalia Atlas
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Slovak Radio Symphony OrchestraAtlas Camerata
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Dalia Atlas continues her admirable survey of Ernest Bloch orchestral works with this very attractive disc. The Israel Symphony doesn't get played very often (even for Bloch) owing to its finale, which requires five vocal soloists singing brief devotional phrases in Hebrew and English before the piece achieves a peaceful close. Before that there's a brief introduction followed by a big, rhapsodic Allegro agitato in the composer's ripest "Jewish" style. The only previous major recording was Maurice Abravanel's on Vanguard, though Svetlanov (of all people) also made one just before his death. Abravanel's was very good, and a bit fleeter than this newcomer; Svetlanov's was not so special.

Atlas delivers a very
Read more sympathetic performance and gets really good playing from the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, with surprisingly rich string sound for this group. The sonics help, being big and bold, with plenty of deep bass but also lots of clarity (though the voices should not have been so close to the microphones--Bloch asked that they sound from within the orchestra and the words really don't matter). Certainly this orchestra seems to have improved markedly from its early screechy days on Naxos.

As for the Viola Suite, it's a masterpiece, in my mind the finest piece for viola and orchestra of the last century, and it's a total mystery why it's not better known. Its four movements explore the composer's imagined vision of the Far East, beginning in some Southeast Asian rainforest and culminating in a delicious "Chinese" finale. Despite the title of "Suite", Bloch constructs it as tightly as any French symphony in cyclical form.

Violist Yuri Gandelsman does a terrific job with the very difficult solo part. I like his dusky tone and characterful projection of the music's high spirits as well as its introspective side, and the sonics, a touch brighter than in the symphony, balance him perfectly against the very colorful orchestration. Once again Atlas takes marginally more time with the music as compared to the few competing versions, yet there's not a trace of lethargy--rather, her pacing shows pure enjoyment of the work's luscious textures, which she explores with obvious pleasure. This piece exists in versions for viola and piano as well as cello and piano, and I have no doubt that if the cello version were married to this orchestration, the work would become equally popular with cellists. God knows it deserves it! This fine disc should win it many new friends.

– David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com, reviewing a previous issue of this album Read less

Works on This Recording

Israel by Ernest Bloch
Performer:  Katrina Kramolisova (Soprano), Adriana Kohútková (Soprano), Terezia Bajakova (Mezzo Soprano),
Denisa Hamarova (Alto), Michal Macuha (Baritone)
Conductor:  Dalia Atlas
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1912-1916; Geneva, Switzerland 
Suite for Viola and Orchestra by Ernest Bloch
Performer:  Yuri Gandelsman (Viola)
Conductor:  Dalia Atlas
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Atlas Camerata
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1919; USA 

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