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Bloch’s ‘avodath Hakodesh’ Given Noble First Performance

April 12, 1934
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Ernest Bloch’s “Avodath Hakodesh”–Sabbath morning service–which, in his own words, is “addressed to all mankind,” was given a noble first American performance at Carnegie Hall last night.

The conductor was Bloch himself; Friedrich Schorr, baritone of the Metropolitan Opera Association, was the Cantor; the 250-voice chorus of the Schola Cantorum was the choir, and eighty members of the Philharmonic-Symphony orchestra participated.

Hugh Ross, conductor of the Schola Cantorum group, directed the rest of the program, comprising works of Perotinus, Bach and Brahms, and enlisting the services of the Choir of Pius X School (College of the Sacred Heart) besides the other vocal organization.

The contrast of so exalted an occasion with simultaneous events in the Teutonic world was not lost on many in the audience, who were overheard, during intermission, referring to the beauty and timeliness of the proceedings.

The Hebrew text of the Reied the Hebrew of his youth so formed Sabbath service serves, with a minor interpolation by the composer, as liturgical basis for the score.

Bloch, inspired to his task by the prevalence in American Jewish houses of worship of alien tones and banalities, painfully but at the same time lovingly re-stud- that his mating of text with music might never be haphazard and merely superficially fitting.


In all likelihood no living composer was as well suited to the job of creating an authentically Hebraic and esthetically satisfactory “Avodath Hakodesh” as this one.

Aside from being a musical scholar of distinction, Bloch is an important composer.

The result avoids the pitfalls of over-embellishment and understatement.

The particularly interesting fact of the gem wrought by Bloch is this: that while through all the work there runs an intense Jewishness, a clairvoyant praying by the composer into the heart of a Judaism ever virile and ever forced to defend this virility from attack at the same time “it is addressed to all mankind.”


There were many Gentiles in last night’s audience. They seemed aware of the grandeur of the Bloch conception and of the universality expressed by the Cantor in the “Adon Olom–The Lord of all.”

Properly enough, “Cantor” Schorr is Jewish.

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