America, an Epic Rhapsody

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America, an Epic Rhapsody (often shortened to America) is an orchestral work composed between 1926 and 1927[1] by Swiss-born Ernest Bloch, as a tribute to the country to which he had emigrated in 1916. The work consists of three movements, covering the history of the United States and entitled '1620', '1861-1865' and '1926'.[2] It was first performed in New York.[2]

According to Bloch, the idea for America first came to him as he arrived in the United States in 1916.[1] This idea reoccurred to him as he studied some works of Walt Whitman in 1925, and the following year he composed the rhapsody's anthem while in San Francisco.[1]

In a 1927 contest sponsored by Musical America, the rhapsody won the $3000 prize for the best symphonic work on an American theme by an American composer, beating ninety-one other entries to gain the unanimous vote of the judges.[1][2] On 21 December 1928, following this success, America was performed simultaneously in five American cities: Chicago, New York, Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e Upton, George P.; Borowski, Felix (2005). The Standard Opera and Concert Guide, Part Two. Kessinger Publishing. pp. 93–96. 
  2. ^ a b c Simmons, Walter (2004). Voices in the wilderness: six American neo-romantic composers. Scarecrow Press. pp. 76–77.