My KPFA - A Historical Footnote




by Ernst Bloch

American Premiere

UC Berkeley, March 31st, 1960




During the years that I worked in the UC Berkeley Music Library, the department owned no recording equipment. I had already set the pattern of my life by purchasing the small but excellent Altec M49 condenser microphone and an Ampex 601 portable tape recorder, and soon I was recording events for the music department and producing tapes of musical selections for assigned listening.


Packed away in dusty boxes, long unopened, was a large and fascinating collection of 78 RPM records that had been given to the library over the years. No one on the staff was interested in them and so I became the library’s de facto archivist. By the time I left and went to work at KPFA, I had put onto tape several unique and priceless recordings which, without my intervention, might well have been lost forever. Some were subsequently broadcast and so have appeared in this online treasure trove. A few have been thus rediscovered by scholars and incorporated into historical exhibitions throughout the world.




One of the most spectacular events that I recorded for the Music Department was the first American performance in 1960 of Ernst Bloch’s only opera, Macbeth. The musical director was Jan Popper, for many years head of the UCLA Opera Theater. Listening to it again after almost sixty years, I was amazed by the work itself, the performances, the faithfulness of the simple single-mic recording, and most of all, the survival of the ancient Scotch 111 and 200 tapes.


Click on the numbers below for the four parts the opera and for the program.


1 Prologue

2 Act 1

3 Act 2

4 Act 3

5 Program