Although Ernest Bloch’s exploration of the ‘Jewish Soul’ focused on a cycle of seven works written between 1911 and 1916, he returned to Jewish themes throughout his life. Baal Shem explores Eastern European Hasidic traditions in all their expressive intensity in this version for viola and orchestra transcribed by soloist Hong-Mei Xiao. Bloch’s 1918 Coolidge Prize-winning Suite for Viola and Orchestra remains one of the twentieth century’s enduringly important works for the instrument, whilst the Suite hébraïque, written in his last decade, absorbs Jewish elements ever more fluently and subtly.
"Hong-Mei Xiao made this excellent transcription of Baal Shem for viola and orchestra. Xiao preserves the original orchestration ... Xiao’s transcription sounds at home on the viola... The solo playing is spectacular on all counts ..."
Elaine Fine - American Record Guide - November/December 2013