Herbert Fromm’s Six Madrigals is a series of contrapuntal a cappella choral pieces. In his preface, he wrote, “The work is grouped around the Sabbath and five Jewish holydays and combines secular with sacred selections, so that the term ‘madrigal’ (generally denoting secular content) is given a broader implication here.” For the Hanukka Madrigal, Fromm chose Mi y’mallel? (Who Can Recount or Express?), one of the best-known nonliturgical Hanukka songs. Its lyrics are ascribed to Menashe Ravina [Rabinovich], who actually assembled them from biblical and Talmudic sources. The opening four words of the Hebrew lyrics, mi y’mallel g’vurot yisrael? (Who can recount the mighty acts of Israel?), are a paraphrase of a passage from Psalm 106:2, mi y’mallel g’vurot adonai? (Who can recount the mighty acts of the Lord?). The substitution of yisrael for adonai is indicative of the writer’s secular Zionist orientation. The origin of the tune is undetermined.
Sung in Hebrew and English
Who can retell the deeds of Israel,
Who can count them?
Each generation gives a redeemer, one great name.
Hark! At this season in those ancient days, Maccabee won all his people’s praise,
And today, as once they dreamed, Israel united rises up to be redeemed.
Performers: Samuel Adler, Conductor; Rochester Singers, Choir