Oberlin Conservatory of Music

Oberlin Conservatory of Music

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Charles Colwell, cello, on Bloch’s ‘Schelomo’

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Story

Schelomo is a story of an extraordinary life, that of the Israeli
King, Solomon. Various musical parameters in the piece serve as means
of telling that story. Some melodies represent his youth, others his
old age. There is a remarkable amount of wisdom that I experience in
the musical lines of his tale. There is a great depth of human
experience in this story, and the music powerfully carries us through
those diverse memories and feelings.

Color

In a way, one can hear Schelomo largely in terms of colors. Bloch’s
use of chromaticism and exotic harmonies paints a picture that is
sometimes vibrant, other times dim, and often highly textured. I also
often view dynamics as markers of color hues or densities more than
simply measures of pure volume or intensity.

Song

Although Schelomo is full of many rapid flourishes and extremely
dramatic climaxes, I feel that the true heart of the pieces lies in
the slower, more lyrical melodies. In those moments of melodic focus,
I am brought back to my childhood when I used to attend Jewish
services and gatherings with my family. The “songs” of Schelomo are
like those tunes the cantor would sing for my congregation or the ones
we would quietly hum together. Although these particular melodies
certainly belong to Bloch, they embody the essence of my favorite
Hebrew melodies, and serve as strong, grounding monuments that tie the
whole work together.

Hear Charles perform this piece live in Finney Chapel (or Listen Live!) with the Oberlin Chamber Orchestra this Saturday night at 8 pm!

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