Ernest Bloch (1880–1959) is recognized as one of the greatest Swiss composers in history. As well as producing musical scores, Bloch had an academic career that culminated in his recognition as Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley in 1952.
Bloch was born in Geneva on July 24, 1880 to Jewish parents. He studied music at the conservatory in Brussels, where his teachers included the celebrated Belgian violinist Eugène Ysaÿe. He then traveled around Europe, moving to Frankfurt, Paris and Geneva before settling in the United States. In 1917, Bloch became the first teacher of composition at Mannes School of Music, a post he held for three years. In December 1920, he was appointed the first Musical Director of the newly formed Cleveland Institute of Music. In 1925, Bloch resigned from the Cleveland Institute, where he had not been happy, and relocated to San Francisco. He was named the director of the Conservatory and remained in that position until 1930, when the school was running low on funds. He returned to Switzerland, where he composed his Avodath Hakodesh (Sacred Service) before returning to the US in 1939.
Bloch joined the music faculty at Berkeley in 1941 and taught there one semester each year until his retirement in 1952. He was named a Professor Emeritus at the University of California, even though he had not been a full-time faculty member. He died in Portland, Oregon, of cancer at the age of 78.
Bloch’s musical style does not fit easily into any of the usual categories. Masterly composer of music for strings, he wrote four string quartets, Schelomo – A Hebrew Rhapsody (for cello and orchestra), and A Voice in the Wilderness (for orchestra and cello obbligato), which are deeply emotional works and rank among the most distinguished achievements in the neo-classic and neo-romantic idiom of early 20th-century music.