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Price: Sold

Scarce autographed and inscribed  original François Vizzavona of Paris 8” x 9” presentation photograph of the French-Jewish composer, to the Opera Comique stage director Yvon Chéry, 1949.


Bloch (1873-1960) was born to the Rabbi of Wissembourg, Jacques Bloch in the Alcase region near Germany and his wife.  A composition prodigy, Bloch was composing by the age of seven and entered the Paris Conservatoire at ten. (His parents moved with him to Paris at this time.) His main professors were composers Jules Massenet, Ernest Guiraud, André Geldage and pianist Louis Diemer.  Productive as a student, he won a second prize in composition his first year in 1883 and a first prize in solfege in 1884.  In 1889 he won a first in piano and in 1890 a first in harmony.  In 1892 he made his first attempt at the Prix de Rome, coming in second place.  In 1893, he won a unanimous Prix de Rome with his cantata “Antigone”.  From 1898 to 1940 he was Professor of harmony and composition at the Paris Conservatoire. He also was an inaugural Professor at the Conservatoire Américain de Fontainebleau when they opened their doors in 1921 and also was the founding conductor of the Conservatoire orchestra and was the Chef de Choeur of the Synagogue de rue Notre Dame de Nazareth from 1935 until 1940.  Additionally during World War I he was appointed one of three Inspectors of Musical Education in France. In December of 1940, following the German invasion of France, he was summarily fired by the Paris Conservatoire due to the Vichy racial laws at the age of sixty seven; the Conservatoire at Fontainebleau closed it’s Paris operation until the end of the War, strictly operating as a Summer program under Robert and Gabby Casadesus in America during the War. He also was also fired as Inspector of Musical Education in France and robbed of his pension. In the biggest blight of his career, Olivier Messiaen unapologetically interviewed for and was hired by Claude Delvincourt to take Bloch’s Professorship in 1941 at the  Conservatoire. Interestingly, his wife, the pianist Yvonne Loriod studied harmony with Bloch at the Conservatoire. What happened to Bloch during the War is not well known.  We have read three unsubstantiated reports, first Delvincourt, a former pupil helped Bloch teach Paris Conservatoire pupils privately, second that he was deported by the Nazi’s, but no one seems to know where and the third that he spent the War in Switzerland.  Needless to say, he survived the War and continued to compose and published until 1950, with the ability to do so as his pension was restored.


As a composer, Bloch composed in multiple genres, most short biographies only give him credit for his operas. Interestingly at the request of Raoul Gunsbourg in 1904, Bloch revised the Venetian scene in Offenbach’s opera “Le Contes d’Hoffmann” which had remained incomplete at the time of his death and was cobbled together by Ernest Guiraud, Bloch’s teacher.  Gunsbourg had always found the Venetian scene messy, so he contracted Bloch to re-work it, which led to the aria, “Scintille Diamant” the tune taken from the overture of Offenbach’s operetta, “Le Voyage de la Lune” and then among other revisions, he created the final sextette from the famed barcarolle.


 Today, the composer is better known for his symphonic and chamber works, especially for the piece entitled, “Denneriana” for piano and bassoon and written for one of his important pupils, virtuoso bassoonist Fernand Oubradous.


Operas: “Le Contes d’Hoffmann” revised Veneitian scene including a new aria “Scintille Diamant” and the “Sextet”, 1904, “Maïda” 1909, “Une nuit de Noël” 1922, “Brocéliande” 1925, “Guignol” 1939, but premiered in 1949 after the War.  His ballet “Feminaland” 1904, as well as Concert-Ballet for piano and orchestra in 1947.


Cantatas: “Antigone” 1893 and “Hymn to the Sun for chorus and orchestra” 1893


Symphony: “Rhapsodie Thématique & 4 Épisodes Les Maisons de l'Éternité for cello and orchestra” 1930, “Au, Béguinage” 1931, the symphonic poem “Kaa” 1933 (From Kipling’s “Jungle Book”, “L'Isle Nostalgique” 1945, “Suite Palestinienne” for cello and orchestra” 1948, and “Petite Suite Dominicale for small orchestra


His instrumental music started out as piano solos in the 1880’s and moved to woodwind, brass and cello solos with piano as the years moved on.  He is especially admired for his works for bassoon and cello


Songs and Choruses: Bloch wrote numerous song cycles, duets, trios and quartets for a variety of vocal ranges.  From 1935-1940, as a synagogue chorus master for the first time, he wrote a number of a Jewish liturgical acapella choral works and cantorial works, however, most were lost during the War.

The photographer François Antoine Vizzavona (1876-1961) was a leading Parisian photographer of his time.  The composer and the photographer met in 1894 when he was the official photographer for the Académie Française in Rome after Bloch won the Prix de Rome.  This photograph signed in 1949 after all those years shows they had a long friendship.  From 1901 he was the official photographer of the Académie in Paris and an instructor after 1906.  He was awarded the grand photography prize at the World’s Fair in Rio in 1922 and was made a Chevalier of the Legionne d’honneur the following year. An artistic photographer, he was the preferred photographer of Auguste Rodin for his sculptures.

Rare composer autograph and photographer!