Music-to-Text setting in Avodath Hakodesh

(by Gabriela Crane)

As a native speaker of Hebrew, I can relate to how the music corresponds to the text in many instances in this composition, which adds a great deal to appreciating the depth of this work.

Here are some examples from the first two parts that may be noteworthy.

1. Shma (p 9): The Shma is the title of a fundamental and possibly the most significant verse in the Torah: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one”. Over the years it has taken an increasingly extensive place in the Israeli heritage and culture, and is mentioned many times in many different ways and contexts.

The interval in the word “one” (E-chad) is a tritone, which was used occasionally by composers to create a dramatic effect, especially in sacred music, where it symbolized pain or sorrow. (However, in the Middle Ages this interval was the ultimate dissonance, signifying restlessness, and was avoided. It was considered difficult to sing and was called diabolus in musica (“devil in music”) Obviously, this tritone resolves at the end of the phrase. The choice of this interval in such crucial spots speaks volumes.

2. This example follows right after the one above: here the chorus sings in unison the “Shma” – which is a typical treatment in other compositions with similar idea, (see under the “credo” movements in various masses).

3. Ve’ahavta (p 12): this phrase follows immediately after the Shma: “And you shall love our God.” A beautiful angelic choir.

4. Ledor-vador (p 34): The original line is “God will reign from generation to generation,” where “from generation to generation” appears just once in the text. Bloch repeats “generation to generation” to illustrate the idea.

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