Earnest Bloch, whose 100th birthday is being celebrated in concerts this year, is a composer steeped in the rich tradition of Jewish music. It is an exuberant and outgoing tradition, intense and, at times, almost improvisatory in nature.
Two of his best-known large works were played by the Baltimore Symphony at the Kennedy Center last night: the rhapsodic "Schelomo" for cello and orchestra and the "Sacred Service." The concert opened with a fine, if somewhat long-winded "Proclamation" for trumpet and orchestra that is outside of Bloch's main ethnic stream, but is clearly swept along by the same influences.
Don Tison, the BSO's first trumpet, was the soloist here and spun out smooth and incisive lines.
As often as "Schelomo" is played, it always makes a powerful impression. Last night's soloist was Leonard Rose, who certainly has as much claim on this work as a personal vehicle as any cellist going, and he was in marvelous form. He portrayed an image of the complex character of Solomon that, managed to outline both the most introsepective and thoughtful aspects of the great king's personality, and his splendor and majesty. Bloch shetches lines of enormous breadth in this work and Rose, with what, at times, appeared to be an endless bow, drew them out with sweetness and strength. For its part, the orchestra, under Sergiu Comissiona, was a generous and sonorous partner.
For the "Sacred Service," the orchestra was joined by baritone Leslie Guinn and by the Baltimore Symphony Chorus, prepared by Edward Polochick. gGuinn sang a clean, if somewhat up-tight performance, and the chorus, a little thin on the bottom and not always as rich as one might have desired, was well prepared and accurate.