BLOCH’S STUDIES IN FRANKFURT
Meet future wife Marguerite August Schneider at Hoch Conservatory.
February 1900: Arrived at Frankfurt. Begins with Professor Iwan Knorr the long dry study of the fugue which he touched on with Rasse.
May 1900: New family troubles: Loulette, very attracted by protestantism, has her daughter Madeline baptized. His parents curse Loulette.
June 1900: On vacation in Geneva he writes some little melodies.
August 1900: Stay in Drössling, near Munich, in the home of Schörg. He profits from Schörg’s lessons to pull his violin out from its failure.
November-December 1900: His teacher Jaques-Dalcroze commissions a work from him. In one month he writes a symphonic poem remaining unpublished, Vivre-Aimer.
January 1901: Phew! His parents reconcile with Loulette.
February-March 1901: Wagner (his Messiah) is huge. He reveres him as the greatest genius that he knows.
April 12, 1901: He becomes engaged to Marguerite Schneider during the third act of Siegfried in the fifth gallery! Sublime is the Master who can give birth to similar feelings. To Him infinite thanks from the happy ones whom he draws out of Nothing to transport them in a minute to a higher, more pure sphere, the ideal!
May 1901: Following courteous discussions with Knorr, he leaves his teaching because Knorr doesn’t share Bloch’s sympathies for the young French movement (Indy, Chausson, Debussy) and the school of Richard Strauss. Knorr nicknamed Bloch “Mr. Von Bussy”.
June 23 1901: He conducts at Geneva the first performance of Vivre-Aimer during the Second Music Festival organized by the Association of Swiss Musicians. Criticism is rather good.
July 1901: Beginning of a great friendship with Edmond Fleg who like Bloch is on vacation in Geneva.
1901-1903: BLOCH’S STUDIES AT MUNICH
September 1901: Arrived at Munich. He studies alone. He goes to the concert and sends his musical criticism, the “Letters from Munich”, to Jaques-Delacroze’s magazine, “Music in Switzerland”.
October 1901: Beginning of the composition of his Symphony in C Sharp Minor. The work represents him at the age of 21, with his struggles (already!), his hopes, his difficulties.
November 1901: Hardly settled in Munich, he falls sick: jaundice!
December 1901-January 1902: Convalescence in Geneva.
February-March 1902: Return to Munich: he returns to his Symphony (second and third movements). He shows the first movement to the great composer Ludwig Thuille who is interested in it. He hears Richard Strauss conduct his own works. He returns from the concert still trembling from this dazzling vision of genius, transported into a superior world, dazed with admiration.
March 1902: A tough blow! Loulette and her husband, Samuel, publicly convert to protestantism. His mother curses her daughter “once again”. Happily, Bloch intervenes to reconcile them.
April 1902: He finishes his Symphony (fourth movement) but he won’t start the orchestration until autumn.
July-August 1902: On vacation in Switzerland he composes a Concerto for Cello—manuscript lost.
Fall 1902: Return to Munich where he orchestrates his Symphony. He has already written to his fiancée, Marga Schneider, for two years and problems are coming to light. The separation is very cruel, it’s true, very hard; they have times when they almost cry to be distanced one from the other.
January 1903: He meets the composer, Max Schillings. Bloch’s Symphony delights him, he will do everything possible to have it admitted to the next Festival of German Composers in Basel.
Spring 1903: Continuation of family worries, jaundice, the engagement, the Symphony. Atrocious loneliness. “Les désillusions sur la charognerie des artistes continuent.”
March 8 1903: His Symphony is finished.
June 12 1903: Performance of the second and third parts of his Symphony at the Festival of German Musicians in Basel. Fiasco! The German and Swiss critics pitched into him; “Le Temps” (the Times) on the contrary judges his work the best. Wishes to throw himself into the Rhine. Bitter doubts.
Happily the revelation of the work of Mahler is a compensation.
July 1903: Geneva. Terrible family troubles. They stop him in time, with two legs out of the window…
August-September-October 1903: Proceedings. Lawyers. Hideousness! His mother and his father separate. His father having lost enormously on the stock market, there are thousands of monetary difficulties.
1903-1904: BLOCH’S STUDIES IN PARIS
October 1903: He settles in in Paris (20 rue Richer) where he sees his friend Fleg. The music critic Jean d’Udine becomes his friend. Thanks to him, Bloch discovers the novels of Huysmans.
November 1903: In vain he appeals to Edouard Colonne and Camille Chevillard for their interest in his Symphony. Oh, the conductors! What cowards! What dirty guys. Oh! The hours of waiting in antechambers…
He composes some little pieces for piano (only an Ex-Voto survived) and some melodies.
Pelléas: enormous impression!
Beginning of the correspondence with his future friend, Robert Godet, the only critic who liked his Symphony.
December 1903: It is decided, he is going to create an opera on Macbeth, for which Fleg will write the libretto.
He listens to Pelléas again: it is what he finds the strongest, the most original, the most beautiful since Parsifal.
January 1904 He rereads and savors Mahler’s symphonies. Having written to him, he replied to Bloch immediately in affectionate and sincere words.
January 20 1904: He sees Debussy. They chat for quite awhile. Bloch finds him a strange and interesting man, like his music!!
March 1904: End of the cycle of four melodies on the poems of Camille Mauclair, Historiettes au Crépuscule. It will be his first published work.
Spring 1904: Numerous visits to the Louvre and to the Museum Gustave Moreau. He leafs through the books at the National Library where he took up residence.
May 1904: He leaves to Hamburg to get his wife and bring her back to Geneva.
June 1904: He is married before God, without ceremony and without a priest in Cologne. He spends summer in Switzerland with his wife and his mother.
August 13 1904: Civil marriage in Geneva to show the authorities that he doesn’t give a damn about them (his wife already being pregnant). “Place of marriage : p. 285, in the Townhall in Geneva.”
September – October 1904: Long and painful settling in at Pinchat near Geneva, he looks for his lost self in the move.
November 1904: Trip to Paris, Cortot chooses to play his First Symphony.
January 19 1905: First hearing of the “Historiettes au Crépuscule” in Geneva in the Reformation auditorium. This work written on the poems of Camille Mauclair is sung by the soprano Nina Faliero-Dalcroze, Emile Jaques-Dalcroze on piano. Public icy. Nevertheless, they didn’t boo.
February 20 1905: Birth of his first child: Ivan-Kolia.
March 8 1905: Final point for two Poems for orchestra Hiver-Printemps. As for Macbeth he has finished the sketch of the first two scenes.
April 1905: The third scene of Macbeth is completed.
May 8 1905: Robert Godet who initiated him to the work of Moussorgsky, unknown at this time, writes to him: “It seemed to me that it was necessary to find someone to whom to transmit, if I can say, the friendship of Moussorgsky”
November 1905: Stay in Paris: Cortot is unable to fulfill his promise to direct Bloch’s first Symphony.
January 1906: In the course of a party, he meets a pretty young poetess, Béatrix Rodès, with whom he falls in love.
January 27 1906: At Geneva he directs the creation of his symphonic poems Hiver-Printemps during the sixth subscription concert. The public, a bit taken aback by Hiver, was conquered by Printemps. The orchestra was great.
February 20 1906: The three days that he just spent with Robert Godet will count among the most beautiful and the most profound of Bloch’s life. These are the moments which mark a decisive point, an interior event, a new era, in a life.
May 1906: On some poems of Béatrix Rodès he composes in two months Poems d’Automne for soprano and orchestra.
May 26 1906: At the Temple du Bas of Neuchâtel he directs the second hearing of Hiver-Printemps with the Kaim orchestra of Munich on the occasion of the seventh musical festival of the Association of Swiss Musicians. It went well, the public success was frank and the Swiss-German critic didn’t dare, this time, to treat him too poorly.
June 28 1906: He finishes Poems d’Automne: it is the entirely first thing he has done which gives him a little joy.
August 1906: The divorce is decided…
September 1906: But he can’t resolve himself to it.
October 1906: Leaving the small town of Pinchat, he is going to live in Geneva in the Saint-Jean quarter, 2 rue de l’Ouest, on the fifth floor of a beautiful house from which there is a view of the Salève.
November 11 1906: Last night a poor little broken faded old man came to get him; it was Jules de Brayer, Godet’s friend, “the real discoverer of Moussorgsky!”
End of November 1906: He reads the Bible. He reads fragments on Moses. And an immense pride made his heart throb! His whole being vibrated. It’s a revelation.
End of December 1906: Béatrix and Bloch sorrowfully separated,
January 16 1907: He accompanies on the piano the soprano Nina Faliero-Dalcroze for the creation of Poems d’Automne, in Geneva, Reformation auditorium. The disconcerted critic finds that he has gone too far.
January 1907: He sees Béatrix Rodès again…
Moreover in three weeks he produces and copies the first act of Macbeth.
Beginning of March 1907: At Leipzig he listens to some motets for men’s choir and Salomé by Richard Strauss.
April 27 1907: He meets Debussy in Paris to try to reconcile him with his old friend, Robert Godet.
June 1907: Paris: He performs his opera Macbeth for the director of the Paris Opera, Messager, then for the great soprano Lucienne Bréval who receives him warmly.
August 9 1907: Birth in Geneva of his second child: Suzanne.
October 1907: He goes through a black and gloomy period. The course which he had tried to organize for the complete analysis of the fugues of the Well-Tempered Clavier, the different works of Beethoven and some modern works played here only brought together three students.
End of October 1907: He indicates to Béatrix Rodès that his decision to break up is irrevocable.
November 21 1907: He puts on a recital at the home of the director of the Opéra-Comique, Albert Carré, who accepts to produce Macbeth.
January 1908: His first interview is published in the Swiss magazine La Vie Musicale (The Musical Life). Otto Wend writes: “Will we let him become a naturalized Frenchman and won’t we do everything to keep this musical creative force in our midst?”
January 29 1908: Alexandre Birnbaum directs Hiver-Printemps in Lausanne. Bloch hears himself for the first time and he admits it without deception. A laudatory article by Ernest Ansermet, critic of the Gazette of Lausanne, is the point of departure for a correspondence and a long friendship.
February 11 1908: Profound emotion upon hearing the work of Otto Barblan, The Festival of Calven.
End of May 1908: Stay in Paris where he listens to Hippolyte et Aricie by Rameau sung by the incomparable Lucienne Bréval, then Boris Godunov.
July 1908: Reading of the work of Ramuz brings about a profound joy.
September 1908: He starts Balzac of whom he was unaware: Le Père Goriot, La Cousine Bette, César Birotteau carries him away prodigiously.
November 16 1908: Beginning of a course on “the musical work” under the auspices of the Lausanne Conservatory.
January 5 1909: Birth of his third child named Lucienne, in honor of Lucienne Bréval. Tensions with Albert Carré who doesn’t want her for the role of Lady Macbeth. But Edmond Fleg and Bloch stand up to him, Macbeth won’t be produced without Lucienne Bréval.
Mid-March 1909: End of the singing-piano version for Macbeth; it is all told an ending point to five years of Bloch’s life, and to many beautiful and bad things.
May 8 1909: Concert on the sly “to test” him before the members of the Committee of the Lausanne Casino. He directs Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, Hiver-Printemps, the Overtures of the Marriage of Figaro and of the Maîtres Chanteurs.
June 25 1909: He plays Macbeth before the director of the Metropolitan Opera of New York, Gatti-Casazza, who is enthused by it. In the afternoon, Gabriel Astruc signs the contract for publishing Macbeth, but he will only publish the voice-piano version.
July 1909: Four conductors are named as the head of the Lausanne orchestra! As for Bloch, he directs the subscription concerts at the Casino.
Fleg sends him the libretto of Jézabel. He begins this opera but he will never finish it.
August 31 1909:
End of Macbeth. But the orchestral version will never be published.
October 15 1909: He begins in the career of orchestra director in Lausanne. It is prodigiously interesting and he is learning an enormous amount. He presents the Unfinished Symphony of Schubert, Beethoven’s violin concerto, the pastoral suite by Chabrier and the Prelude from the Maîtres Chanteurs.
October 29 1909: Second concert at Lausanne. The hero of the night is the Russian cellist, Serge Barjansky, whom he accompanies in the Concerto for Cello by Edouard Lalo. It is to this virtuoso that he will dedicate Schelomo six years later.
November 12 1909: Third concert at Lausanne: success of Hiver-Printemps, of the Symphony in E Flat Major of Mozart and of the Fifth piano concerto of Beethoven.
November 18 1909: Concert at Neuchâtel with the Orchestra of Lausanne.
November 26 1909: Fourth concert at Lausanne. The second Symphony of Brahms is rather well received. The Romanian violinist, Georges Enesco, triumphs in the Concerto in A by Saint-Saëns.
December 10 1909: Fifth concert at Lausanne, he presents several new works including the Symphonie Héroïque by Swiss composer Hans Huber.
December 16 1909: Second concert at Neuchâtel. The public appreciates the Symphony in B Minor by Borodine.