Ernest Bloch (July 24, 1880 to July 15, 1959) was a Swiss-born American composer. Bloch was a pre-eminent artist in his day and left a lasting legacy. He is recognised as one of the greatest Swiss composers in history. As well as producing musical scores, Bloch had an academic career that culminated in his recognition as Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley in 1952.
Bloch was born in Geneva on July 24, 1880 to Jewish parents, and began playing the violin at age 9. He began composing soon after. He studied music at the conservatory in Brussels, then travelled around Europe, moving to Germany (where he studied composition from 1900ñ1901 with Iwan Knorr at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt), on to Paris in 1903 and back to Geneva before settling in the United States in 1916, taking US citizenship in 1924. He held several teaching appointments in the USA with George Antheil, Frederick Jacobi, Quincy Porter, Bernard Rogers, and Roger Sessions among his pupils.
In 1917, Bloch became the first teacher of composition at Mannes School of Music, a post he held for three years. In December 1920 he was appointed the first Musical Director of the newly formed Cleveland Institute of Music, a post he held until 1925. Following this he was director of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music until 1930. He spent most of the following decade in Switzerland where he composed his Avodath Hakodesh ("Sacred Service") before returning to the USA in 1939.
Bloch's musical style does not fit easily into any of the usual categories. Many of his works - as can be seen from their Hebrew-inspired titles - also draw heavily on his Jewish heritage. Bloch's father had at one stage intended to become a rabbi, and the young Ernest had a strong religious upbringing; as an adult he felt that to write music that expressed his Jewish identity was "the only way in which I can produce music of vitality and significance".