Ernest Bloch developed no basic new theories like Schoenberg's 12-tone system; he launched no fads or trends such as Primitivism, Neoclassicism or Indeterminacy; he founded no school of composition and cultivated no devout disciples, though he numbered such distinguished composers as Roger Sessions and Quincy Porter among his students.
He lived a few days short of 79 years, composed a lot of excellent music in a variety of styles, cultivated melody at a time when it was not in favor, and used his music for emotional statements related to his Jewish religion and his humanistic philosophy. He has never been fashionable but has always had admirers, and their number is steadily growing. He is seldom spectacular but is consistently one of the most satisfying composers of our century.
None of his works is heard often enough, but this seems especially true of his five string quartets, which are being surveyed by the Portland String Quartet at the National Gallery. Last night the long, intense Quartet No. 1 (dating from World War I) and the succinct, deeply emotional and ingeniously constructed Quartet No. 3 (1952), were performed with the carefully controlled brilliance they demand. It was a deeply satisfying program, and next Sunday night's performance of the remaining three quartets should be equally memorable.