|I. Ma tovu
|II. L'kha dodi
|III. Tov l'hodot
|V. Sh'ma yisra'el
|VI. Mi khamokha
|IX. May the Words
|XI. Let Us Adore
|XIII. On That Day
|XV. Adon olam
Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Sacred Service for the Sabbath Eve was written originally in 1943 on request from his friend Rabbi Nahum Immanuel, interim rabbi at Beth Sholom Temple in Santa Monica, California. Its premiere was originally envisioned for that Reform congregation and is therefore set to the prayer texts as they appear in the Union Prayer Book—except for the sections added later.
Castelnuovo-Tedesco had already written several individual prayer settings, beginning with l’kha dodi (1936) at the request of an Amsterdam synagogue for an a cappella male choir (his first setting of the Hebrew language). He had revised it for mixed choir and organ, at Cantor David Putterman’s invitation, for a performance in 1943 at the New York Park Avenue Synagogue’s first service of new liturgical music. Although Castelnuovo-Tedesco had not been actively involved in the Florence synagogue prior to his emigration, apart from holy day attendance, he had become acquainted with cantors and synagogue music directors in Los Angeles, who invited him to compose for their congregations. Yet he had never attempted an entire unified service, and he saw Rabbi Immanuel’s invitation as an opportunity to write a work dedicated to his mother’s memory. He later recalled that his mother had helped him with the Amsterdam l’kha dodi by transliterating the words with correct accentuation for him and making a literal translation. Also, at that time he was feeling increasingly anxious about the fate of his many relatives left behind in Europe, and he felt “filled with Jewish inspiration.”
As he began to contemplate the work, Castelnuovo-Tedesco was confronted by various obstacles. One was the mixed formal use of English and Hebrew, including English recitation, in the American Reform service (and in many Conservative/non-Orthodox services of that time as well). This seemed alien to him and presented an aesthetic imbalance. His resolution was to fashion organ accompaniments for those recitations, in which themes of preceding choral parts were developed in what he called a “melologue.” His resolve was to compensate for this perceived aesthetic dissimilarity by striving all the more for stylistic unity throughout. The organ, too, was problematic for him—not for reasons of Jewish legal prohibitions of musical instruments on Sabbath or other holy days, but because he held the common but historically erroneous prejudice against its sound as one associated with Western Christian churches. In fact, the organ had been introduced into Reform and Liberal synagogues in Germany in the 19th century, not to emulate Christian services, but for musical-aesthetic reasons and to facilitate orderly, Western-style congregational hymn singing. Moreover, organs had existed in a number of western and central Europe orthodox synagogues as well, albeit only for legally permitted occasions such as weddings, non–holy day services, and liturgical concerts. In any case, Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s subsequent use of the organ in his liturgical pieces after the Sacred Service suggests that he might have come to appreciate its sound within the context of Jewish worship.
An academic issue posed a more interesting conceptual problem for Castelnuovo-Tedesco in selecting an overall musical approach: whether to attempt to base the service on historical ground—specifically on early liturgical traditions or practice. He appears to have flirted briefly with the idea of using a reconstructed sound of Jewish worship in antiquity, or at least in its premodern stages. This would have meant consciously avoiding Western classical techniques, and he came to the conclusion that little could be known of the actual musical sound of early Hebrew liturgy, especially with its continuous acquisitions of musical features of host countries and cultures over the centuries. Also, he realized the difficulty of finding a way to utilize organ, part-writing, polyphony, or harmony in any such reconstruction, since he knew that none of these had existed in those early periods and that choral monody had probably prevailed. So he determined instead to follow specifically the Italian polyphonic tradition, in that way at least relating the work to another, albeit non-Jewish, aspect of his Italian heritage. He also saw a historic rationale for turning to the approach of the 16th and 17th-century Italian composer Salomone Rossi, the first to apply independent Renaissance polyphony to Hebrew liturgy.
The Sacred Service was completed at the end of 1943, although the composer later remarked, “In a way, it was never finished.” The premiere, however, never occurred at the Santa Monica synagogue. By early 1944 Rabbi Immanuel had left that interim post to become rabbi of the new Westwood Temple, in no position yet to cover the costs of the large professional choir the composer required; neither was the Santa Monica synagogue interested or able, since Rabbi Immanuel appears to have been its primary champion. Castelnuovo-Tedesco withdrew the service.
Two years later Cantor Putterman excerpted three movements from the full service—mi khamokha, May the Words, and kaddish—which were performed at the Park Avenue Synagogue in 1945. Castelnuovo-Tedesco had offered Putterman these three movements only on the condition that the Sacred Service would soon be performed in its entirety. Until that time, the Park Avenue services, which had become annual events, presented only individual compositions by a variety of composers in a single evening, but not yet entire services by single composers. However, Castelnuovo-Tedesco, stressing that he felt this to be his best work in many years, insisted that he wanted “for the first time to have it performed in its entirety; if not entire, I would not give you permission.” In 1950 the Sacred Service was premiered in full at Park Avenue, with some newly added movements. It was also recorded by the State Department for radio broadcast on the Voice of America. As the first complete singly composed service of the Park Avenue Synagogue commissioning program, it established a precedent, and that practice continued until at least 1976.
For the expanded Sacred Service for Park Avenue, Castelnuovo-Tedesco composed four brand-new settings for l’kha dodi, kiddush, ma tovu, and hashkivenu. These have been incorporated into the present Milken Archive recording.
Castelnuovo-Tedesco commented that he felt this to be one of his “most purely inspired works,” one of the pieces in which he began to “find” himself again. He observed that it had been inspired by neither dramatic nor mystical feelings, but by recollections of serenity from his early home life. How much the Service meant to him on an inner spiritual level is suggested by his expressed fantasy of being able to “hear it once in the synagogue in Florence” where his family had worshiped. When he sat among the congregation and watched the Torah being taken from the Ark, that synagogue had evoked in him an image of Jewish antiquity, and its image was filled with memories of family traditions. In America he had come to associate it with his personal Judaism. But in a special emotional way it indicates a return full circle to Jewish roots.
Castelnuovo-Tedesco fantasized that if he were ever to write a second service, it would either be in a completely nontraditional style or it would involve a faithful artistic resurrection of authentic tradition going back to antiquity. In that case he would employ a choir monodically—as he correctly supposed was the case in the ancient Temple and for a good time afterward—but with all the instruments enumerated in the Bible (in Psalm 150) instead of organ. “It would be a kind of jazz band, as was probably the Levites’ orchestra (in the Temple). Certainly no synagogue in America, perhaps in the whole world, would consent to perform it.” Of course, there had been the Bloch and Milhaud services with orchestra, performed in a prayer service context, albeit classically employed. And in the 1960s there were a few willing experimenters, even with actual jazz and blues ensembles, who found synagogues willing to accommodate. But for the most part Castelnuovo-Tedesco was correct in his skepticism. It is a pity that he did not live to witness that time when a few more musically visionary synagogues, including even some within the Conservative movement, were willing to experiment with orchestral services. Some, such as ...And David Danced by Charles Davidson (in a basically traditional Conservative congregation), have been successful in using the orchestra not only to retain but also to reinforce the prayer experience, in no way expropriating the congregation’s own role. Castelnuovo-Tedesco would have approved.
Even though Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s own tradition was Sephardi, the Sacred Service was written according to Ashkenazi pronunciation and accentuation, which was the prevailing practice in America, except in specifically Sephardi congregations. Many Conservative and then Reform—followed even by some Orthodox—synagogues only gradually adopted the Sephardi pronunciation later, in order to be synchronized with the official pronunciation in Israel.
Sung in Hebrew and English
I. MA TOVU
How lovely are your dwellings, O House of Israel.
O Lord, through Your abundant kindness I enter Your house and worship You with reverence in Your holy sanctuary.
I love Your presence in this place where Your glory resides.
Here, I bow and worship before the Lord, my maker.
And I pray to You, O Lord, that it shall be Your will to answer me with Your kindness and grace, and with the essence of Your truth that preserves us.
II. L'KHA DODI
Beloved, come—let us approach the Sabbath bride and welcome the coming of our Sabbath, the bride.
STROPHES 1, 2, AND 9:
God, whose very uniqueness is His essence,
Whose very name is “One,” Had us hear simultaneously two imperatives recorded in His Sabbath commandment:
Guard the Sabbath, Remember the Sabbath—
Were the words spoken at Sinai concurrently
That were heard by Israel as one command.
To our one and unique God, then and to His name,
Let there be fame, glory, and praise.
Let us go, indeed hasten to greet the Sabbath,
For she is the source of blessing.
From creation’s primeval beginnings that blessing has flowed.
For on the seventh day—the end of the beginning of creation—
God made His Sabbath.
But He conceived of her on the first of the days— at the beginning of the beginning of creation.
Sabbath, you who are your Master’s crown,
Come in peace, in joy, in gladness
Into the midst of the faithful of a remarkably special people.
Come, O Sabbath bride—
III. TOV L'HODOT (PSALM 92:2–10; 13–16)
It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, Most High One,
To tell of Your kindness in the morning, to tell of Your faithfulness each night.
With a ten-stringed instrument and a nevel, with sacred thoughts sounded on the kinor.
For You, Lord, have brought me much gladness with Your works.
Let me revel in Your handiwork.
How great are Your works, Lord!
Your thoughts are indeed profound.
The ignorant do not know of this, nor can fools understand this: that though the wicked may spring up like grass;
And though evildoers may flourish, they do so only eventually to be destroyed forever.
But You, Lord, are to be exalted forever.
Here are Your enemies; Your enemies shall perish; the workers of evil shall be scattered....
The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, growing mighty as a cedar in Lebanon.
Planted in the Lord’s house, they shall flourish in the courtyard of our God.
They shall bear fruit even in old age, and be full of life’s vigor and freshness—
To declare that the Lord is upright and just, my Rock in whom there is no unrighteousness.
Praise the Lord, to whom all praise is due.
Praised be the Lord, who is to be praised for all eternity.
V. SH'MA YISRA'EL
Listen, Israel! The Lord is our God.
The Lord is the only God—His unity is His essence.
Praised and honored be the very name of His kingdom forever and ever.
VI. MI KHAMOKHA
Who, among all the mighty, can be compared with You, O Lord?
Who is like You, glorious in Your holiness, awesome beyond praise, performing wonders?
When You rescued the Israelites at the Sea of Reeds,
Your children beheld Your majestic, supreme power and exclaimed: “This is our God: The Lord will reign for all time.”
Cause us, O Lord, our God, to retire for the evening in peace and then again to arise unto life, O our King, and spread Your canopy of peace over us.
Direct us with Your counsel and save us for the sake of Your name. Be a shield around us.
Remove from our midst all enemies, plague, sword, violence, famine, hunger, and sorrow.
And also remove evil temptation from all around us sheltering us in the shadow of your protecting wings.
For You are our guardian and deliverer;
You are indeed a gracious and compassionate King.
Guard our going and coming, for life and in peace, from now on and always. Spread over us the sheltering canopy of Your peace.
Praised be You, O Lord, (praised be He and praised be His name) who spreads the canopy of peace over us and over all Your people Israel, and over all Jerusalem. (Amen)
The children of Israel shall keep and guard the Sabbath and observe it throughout their generations as an eternal covenant.
It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever.
IX. MAY THE WORDS
Sung in English
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable unto thee, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Praised be You, O Lord, (praised be He and praised be His name) our God, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.
Praised be You, O Lord, (praised be He and praised be His name) our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us through His commandments and has taken delight in us. Out of love and with favor You have given us the Holy Sabbath as a heritage, in remembrance of Your creation. For that first of our sacred days recalls our exodus and liberation from Egypt.
You chose us from among all Your peoples, and in Your love and favor made us holy by giving us the Holy Sabbath as a joyous heritage.
Praised are You, O Lord, (praised be He and praised be His name) our God, who hallows the Sabbath. (Amen)
XI. LET US ADORE
Sung in English
Let us adore the ever-living God and render praises to Him who spread out the Heavens and established the earth, whose glory is revealed in the Heavens above and whose greatness is manifest throughout the world.
He is our God, there is none else.
We bend the knee, bow in worship, and give thanks to the King of Kings, the Holy One, praised be He.
XIII. ON THAT DAY
Sung in English
On that day the Lord shall be one and his name shall be one.
Recited in English
May the Lord bless thee and keep thee.
May the Lord let his countenance shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee.
May the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee and give thee peace.
XV. ADON OLAM
Lord of the world, who reigned even before form was created,
At the time when His will brought everything into existence,
Then His name was proclaimed King.
And even should existence itself come to an end,
He, the Awesome One, would still reign alone.
He was, He is, He shall always remain in splendor throughout eternity.
He is “One”—there is no second or other to be compared with Him.
He is without beginning and without end;
All power and dominion are His.
He is my God and my ever-living redeemer,
And the rock upon whom I rely in time of distress and sorrow.
He is my banner and my refuge,
The “portion in my cup”—my cup of life
Whenever I call to Him.
I entrust my spirit unto His hand,
As I go to sleep and as I awake;
And my body will remain with my spirit.
The Lord is with me: I fear not.
Publisher: Universal-MCA Music Publishing, a division of Universal Studios
Translation from Hebrew: Rabbi Morton M. Leifman
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