Bloch composed From Jewish Life for cello and piano while on vacation in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at the end of 1924, the year before his period of office as Director of the Cleveland Institute of Music came to an end. This set of three short pieces was dedicated to Hans Kindler (1892–1949), who had given the premiere of Schelomo at New York’s Carnegie Hall in 1917. They explore the entire range of the solo instrument, musical structures are simple, and the use of Eastern European Ashkenazi modality creates a distinctive atmosphere. This recording features Christopher Palmer’s arrangement of Bloch’s original piano accompaniment for string orchestra and harp.
Jewish Song is based upon a single melody in the Ahava Rabba mode on C. And again there are two parts, the first of which appears three times, and the second twice. Quartertones are plentiful; they produce a consistently doleful effect—particularly at the beginning, where the accompaniment comprises a slowly and solemnly repeated drone on a bare fifth. The movement arches to a climax, following which the theme fades away to nothing.