(1923) Baal Shem Suite

Instrumentation: Three Pictures of Chassidic Life for Violin and Orchestra; also violin and piano; and violoncello and piano.

Isaac Stern - Ernest Bloch - Baal shem - Three Pictures of Chassidic Life-Vidui-Nigun-Simchas torah


    Vidui (2.0)

Vidui & Nigun 

www.youtube.com/watch (Isaac Stern)

    Nigun (5.0)

www.youtube.com/watch (Joshua Bell)

www.youtube.com/watch (Gabriel De Arcangel and Juan Antonio Alverez Parijo)

www.youtube.com/watch (Ivry Gitlis)

www.youtube.com/watch (Jascha Heifetz)

www.youtube.com/watch (Patrick Chemla)


    Simchas Torah (5.0)

Date of Composition: 1923 (orchestrated in 1939)

Place of Composition: Cleveland

Publisher: Carl Fischer

Duration Minutes: 12.0



Arabesque Recordings Z6606

Complete Music for Violin and Piano, Volume II - 1989

The Wellerstein Duo

Poeme mystique

Baal Shem

Suite No. 2 for Solo Violin

Nuit exotique


Sanctuary Classics (CD CDDCA714)


EMI Digital - CDC 7 54108 2

Itzhak Perlman, Live in Russia, Zubin Mehta

Ernest Bloch


No. 2 from/aus/de "Baal Shem" - Three Pictures of Chassidic Life

plus Tartini, Kreisler, Prokofiev, Wieniawski, Tchaikovsky, Bazzini.


Virtuoso Vengerov

UPC: 090317735122

Nigun, No. 2 from "Baal Shem"

plus Wieniawski, Pganini, Kreisler, Tchaikovsky, Messiaen, De Sarasate, Bazzini


Opus 111 - OPS 30-232

Works for cello featuring Peter Bruns on cello, Roglit Ishay on piano.

From Jewish Life

Meditation hebraique

Suite No. 1 for Violoncello solo

Suite No. 2 for Violoncello solo

Suite No. 3 for Violoncello solo

Baal Shem for Violoncello and piano

From Ernest Bloch: Creative Spirit, A Program Resource Book, Prepared by Suzanne Bloch, 1976, page 61.


After Bloch finished a Jewish cycle of compositions in 1916 with his Israel Symphony, the works that followed were composed with no particular attempt to express his racial consciousness. Bloch had never intended to specialize solely in one idiom. Thus, when people read Hebraic strains in some of his more abstract works, he strongly dissented and at times was irritated. Yet when he deliberately set out to write Jewish music, he let go wholeheartedly, with gusto. This is what he did when writing the Baal Shem Suite.

In 1923, when stimulated by the presence of Andre de Ribaupierre, the splendid Swiss violinist whom he had engaged to teach at the Cleveland Institute of Music, he began to think of writing short violin pieces for his friend "Ribau." These would be less serious than his Violin Sonata or the Viola Suite.

The Baal Shem pieces that ensued were disapproved of by many of Bloch's friends. They felt that he was slipping. Bloch himself knew that this Suite was of a totally different caliber than his other works. He knew well that this couldn't be compared with his Violin Sonata. He enjoyed telling the story of his visit to the office of Carl Fischer who was to be the publisher of the music. After he and Ribaupierre had finished playing the Suite, Carl Fischer got up excitedly, slapped Bloch on the back and exclaimed, "Now, Bloch, you are improving and really getting somewhere."

The Suite became successful, eclipsing his other works for a time. He was unhappy about that. But if anyone said a word of criticism about the Baal Shem pieces, he would bridle at once. Bloch dedicated the work to the memory of his mother, who, though having had little knowledge of serious music, would have understood these pieces and liked their titles.

The first, Vidui (Contrition) has a meditative quality and could serve as a prelude leading to the following piece, Nigun (Improvisation), which has been the most played of the trio. Bloch let go and pulled out all the stops of violinistic emotions and drama. He gave himself a musical holiday, well aware that he would incur the displeasure of the highbrows, the purists, but also would be the delight of uninhibited violinists.

The last piece, Simchas Torah (Rejoicing) shows Bloch in his most expansive mood. This is the Bloch who liked to tell a good Jewish story, have a good meal, look around at his family and friends, and pour out his unique warmth and sense of will being.

In this piece he inserted a Jewish melody which he must have heard in his youth. The refrain of the tune contained in the text the name Mezinka. That fragment comes near the end with gusto. An amusing addition to this is that during the epoch he was writing these pieces, Bloch bought his first car, a Ford, whose particular manufacturer had then openly professed anti-semitic views. Bloch, with his usual sense of sardonic humor, at once name his car Mezinka.

At the request of his publisher, he later prepared an orchestral version of this Suite.


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