Although the degree and level of Alexandre Tansman’s or his family’s involvement with Judaism and Jewish life has yet to be established, he made several forays into Judaically related music. In 1933, he composed Rapsodie hebraique, and after the war he wrote an oratorio, Isaie le Prophete (Isaiah, the Prophet; 1950), for which he created his own adaptations of the biblical texts. But his most overtly Jewish liturgical expression is probably this setting of ma tovu (in English translation), an introductory prayer text for the kabbalat shabbat (welcoming the Sabbath) and Sabbath eve services, which was commissioned by the Park Avenue Synagogue in New York and premiered there in 1946 by Cantor David Putterman and the synagogue choir as part of its annual service of new music.
Sung in English
How fair are thy tents, O Jacob, thy tabernacles, O Israel. How fair are thy tents, O Jacob, thy tabernacles, O Israel. As for me, by Thine abundant grace I enter Thy House, I enter Thy House, I worship in Thy Holy Temple in awe of Thee. I worship in Thy Holy Temple in awe of Thee. O Lord, I love to abide in Thy House, the place where Thy glory dwells. I will therefore worship and bow, I will kneel before the Lord, my Maker. I will kneel before the Lord, my Maker. O let my prayer come before Thee, O Lord, at a time of grace. God, in Thine abundant kindness, answer me with Thy saving Truth.
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