Part 1 I. Ma tovu 03:32
Part 1 II. Bar'khu and Sh'ma 03:25
Part 1 III. V'ahavta 01:59
Part 1 IV. Mi Khamokha (I) 01:54
Part 1 V. Tzur yisrael 02:02
Part 1 VI. Eternal is thy power 03:05
Part 1 VII. K'dusha 03:38
Part 2 I. Prayer and response 04:51
Part 2 II. Silent Prayer and Yihyu l'ratzon 01:49
Part 3 I. S'u sh'arim 01:50
Part 3 II. Taking the Scroll from the ark 05:25
Part 3 III. Returning the Scroll to the Ark 02:16
Part 3 IV. The Law of the Lord is Perfect 01:20
Part 3 V. Etz Hayyim 01:45
Part 4 I. Adoration 01:02
Part 4 II. Va'anahnu 01:00
Part 4 III. Universal Prayer 02:56
Part 4 IVa. Spoken Kaddish 02:38
Part 4 IVb. Sung Kaddish 03:46
Part 4 V. Adon olam 01:55
Part 4 VI. Benediction 02:17
Friday Evening I. L'kha Dodi 01:48
Friday Evening II. Mi Khamokha (II) 01:53
Friday Evening III. V'sham'ru 01:32
Friday Evening IV. Eloheinu Velohei Avoteinu R'tze 02:46
Friday Evening V. Yism'ḥu 01:15

Liner Notes

Even at the beginning of the 21st century, Milhaud’s Service Sacré (for Sabbath morning) is considered one of only two cases where the Hebrew liturgy of an entire prayer service formed the basis of a large-scale unified work of universal “high art” expression by a composer of international stature in the general classical music world. (The other is Ernest Bloch’s Avodath Hakodesh, which preceded Milhaud’s.) Individual reactions may differ with regard to the relative success of those aspirations. Nonetheless, they were conceived as transcendent, even inclusive, humanistic works of universal spiritual experience, at the same time attempting to serve the more particularistic function of specifically Jewish worship—almost as if to attempt a resolution of two seeming contradictions, if indeed they are such. As had Bloch, Milhaud intended his service to speak to Jews engrossed in the act of prayer, but also, on another spiritual-artistic level, to general audiences of any faith or religious orientation—much in the way the communicative power of a Roman Catholic Mass setting by one of the great masters does not depend on the Roman Catholic or even Christian affiliation of its audience. Service Sacré is a work as much for serious concert experience, which implies some sense of communion, as it is for the liberal synagogue. In that sense, though less known than the Bloch service, it may be considered as much a part of the Western sacred classical choral-orchestral repertoire as it is of Jewish liturgical music.

The Service Sacré was not Milhaud’s first foray into synagogue music. Apart from his prewar concert pieces based on Provençal and other Hebrew liturgical sources, he had set three individual prayers in 1944–45 for the special annual music services at the Park Avenue Synagogue in New York: a bar’khu, a sh’ma yisrael, and a kaddish, premiered by the synagogue choir and Cantor David Putterman as part of Putterman’s ambitious and visionary program of commissioning new liturgical music by established composers.

Service Sacré was commissioned in 1948 by Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco, one of America’s foremost Reform congregations, which had also commissioned Bloch’s Avodath Hakodesh. Its cantor, Reuben Rinder, had established a reputation as an advocate of new and sophisticated music, especially after the considerable attention drawn by the Bloch service. It was he who spearheaded and guided this new commission and decided upon Milhaud, whom he had come to know on a social level. To fund the project, Cantor Rinder interested a donor-congregant, Mrs. E. S. Heller, whose sister-in-law had financed the Bloch work.

For his Service Sacré, Milhaud made a conscious decision to turn to the minhag Carpentras (Provençal rite)—the distinct liturgical tradition of the Jews of the Comtat Venaissin region—which had become nearly extinct in practice. Much of this tradition may predate both Ashkenazi and Sephardi-French Jewry, having originated independently and earlier in that region. Milhaud seized upon the commission as an opportunity to share a heritage virtually unknown to American Jewry and at the same time to explore the synagogue experience of his childhood and his own French-Jewish identity. Mme. Milhaud once recalled that whenever her husband felt inspired while immersed in a piece of music, “at a spiritual moment he would incorporate a fragment of the minhag Carpentras.” For this overtly religious work, elements of the Provençal rite became a unifying aesthetic vehicle—not only structurally as thematic leitmotifs, but also emotionally on a personal plane. Actual tune references apply directly in some movements or prayers, while ostensibly free melodic invention occurs elsewhere. But there is a pervasive sonic aura about the work that gives the feeling of a very old underlying tradition, skillfully developed with 20th-century techniques and refracted through polytonal and polyrhythmic prisms.

Service Sacré was conceived as a Sabbath morning service. It was written specifically according to the text versions and format of the Union Prayer Book, at that time the de facto “official” prayerbook of the American Reform movement. However, in most Reform synagogues of that period, the formal “late” Friday evening service (i.e., at the same fixed post-dinner time each week, regardless of the actual time of sundown) was the primary Sabbath event. Many Reform congregations did not hold Saturday morning services on a regular basis, and in those that did, the congregation was far smaller than on Friday evenings. Therefore Milhaud added a few settings for the Sabbath eve liturgy, as a quasi-appendix, to broaden its potential usage. When the work was published in Paris in an organ version, Milhaud’s subtitle “pour le samedi matin” was followed by the words “avec prières additionnelles pour le vendredi soir” (with additional prayers for Friday evening).

In addition to the baritone cantor solo, the score calls for a récitant—a dramatic speaker—for the English readings and spoken prayers (some of them based on liberal translations of the Hebrew) in the Union Prayer Book, rendered against orchestral interludes. In practice, this amounted to an agreed-upon usurpation of what would have been the rabbi’s role in that typical classical Reform format. There was some precedent for this in the Bloch service, although it is much more limited there. Also, in some Reform congregations it was not uncommon for the organist to play softly under some of those eloquent English passages. But the genesis of this parameter in Milhaud’s service—and especially its greater prominence—was an interesting additional circumstance. By that time, Cantor Rinder had developed vocal problems that limited full use of his singing voice and precluded his solo role in a work so important as Milhaud’s. The extended role for récitant was created, therefore, in order to permit Rinder’s participation in the premiere without his having to sing. At that premiere, in 1949, the cantorial solo part was sung by Edgar Jones, with the University of California (Berkeley) Chorus and the San Francisco Symphony, conducted by Milhaud.

Because Ashkenazi Hebrew pronunciation was used exclusively in American Reform synagogues at that time and at least until the 1960s in most cases (as well as in virtually all Conservative and Orthodox ones, with the exception of specifically Sephardi synagogues), Milhaud had to accommodate the premiere performance to that factor and allow for it when constructing the settings. The Provençal practice, however, had always used the Sephardi pronunciation, or at least was much closer to it, and that was Milhaud’s preferred rendition. In the published score, the Sephardi pronunciation, as recorded here, appears in the text underlay, with an Ashkenazi alternative given beneath it in smaller print (and with the spoken parts in both French and English).

We cannot know for certain to what extent Milhaud relied upon his memories of youthful synagogue and family experience for the traditional Provençal elements he incorporated, and to what extent, if any, he might have consulted any notated historical source—especially Z’mirot yisrael k’minhag Carpentras: chants Hébraiques suivant le rite des Communautés Israelites de l’ancien Comtat-Venaissin (Hebrew Chants/Melodies According to the Rite of the Jewish Community of the Old Comtat Venaissin/Minhag Carpentras), compiled and edited by Messrs. Jules Salomon and Mardochee Crémieu. Several of the tunes in Service Sacré are indeed found therein, though not necessarily for the same texts, which confirms their authenticity.

Oreen Zeitlin’s insightful discussion of such musical sources, contained in her master’s thesis devoted to Milhaud’s Service Sacré (Hebrew Union College, 1992), reveals far more than coincidence. The movements in the Sabbath morning sections that contain melodic material, phrases, or tune fragments found in the Crémieu collection—and therefore traceable directly to Provençal minhag Carpentras—are as follows:

  • Ma tovu—derived largely from phrases in the Crémieu Yom Kippur Torah service, especially for the text mi sheberakh, but also from phrases of shirat hayyam and ashrei therein.
  • Sh’ma yisrael.
  • K’dusha, whose theme, partly recapping that of Ma tovu here, Milhaud used in the Torah service sections as well. (In addition to phrases from the Provençal Yom Kippur Torah service, the material also appears to derive from a k’dusha for the musaf service on Yom Kippur, as well as from a tune for el nora alila—all contained in Crémieu.)
  • The opening theme in the orchestra for Part II, under the récitant—resembling a version for the biblical text az yashir moshe, in Crémieu.
  • Adon olam, whose basic tune is probably the most audibly obvious Provençal quotation in the entire work (based on or incorporating melodic motifs found throughout Crémieu, as well as some found in the Torah cantillation according to the Marseilles tradition).
  • The principal melody in the L’kha dodi, in the Friday evening section, is also found in Crémieu in two wedding service texts: mi addir and barukh habba, as well as for b’rukhim attem, indicating that the tune was probably a long-established and ubiquitous part of minhag Carpentras.

In addition, the k’dusha reflects a psalmody of the hallel (hymns of praise, taken from Psalms) recitation for Passover, in turn derived from a chant known in Bayonne for az yashir moshe.

The Service Sacré premiere was received enthusiastically by the press. The San Francisco Chronicle thought it “extremely likely” that it would become part of the general choral literature, noting that “Milhaud has given his text universal artistic significance.” The San Francisco Examiner referred to it as “ritual itself,” as opposed to a dramatization of ritual. The outspoken and demanding composer Hugo Weisgall summed up its overall impression in terms of “serenity, light, joy and ease,” which he noted approvingly as “all specifically and historically wedded to the Sabbath spirit.” He described its musical unfolding curiously as “Gallo-Hassidic intimacy,” by which he obviously meant (since he knew there was no actual Hassidic element whatsoever) simply an internal and personal communicative ecstasy.

Not all critics have felt that Service Sacré mediates the twin objectives of Jewish worship and universal experience as successfully as does Bloch’s service, a comparison that has proved unavoidable. But the Musical Quarterly, for example, commented that, while for Jewish worshipers it is a “warming fire at the Father’s hearth,” it nonetheless “makes an outsider feel at home” in the synagogue. From everything we know, that was Milhaud’s dual aspiration.

Editor's note: The following additional observations are drawn from edited excerpts from the Zeitlin thesis

One obvious feature of Service Sacré is the absence of key signatures, even though there are tonal centers that serve to “anchor” the tonality while leaving the composer free to fluctuate tonally without having to return to any given tonic. Milhaud frequently engages in abrupt and short modulations between flat and sharp keys or key centers, creating a sense of forward motion. Coloristic effects and changes are sometimes achieved here by juxtapositions of major and minor tonalities, reminiscent of Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms, while chord clusters in parallel motion call to mind Olivier Messiaen. In some sections Milhaud sets his melodic material modally, outside the confines of major-minor tonality, so that we find melodies or melodic fragments either based on or hinting at mixolydian, aeolian, Lydian, and Dorian modal scales. The juxtaposition of such modalities with polytonal accompaniment creates an impression of a blend of old and current—of the medieval with the 20th century. There is, however, no use of the specific Jewish “prayer modes” of Ashkenazi practice.

Some of the putative characteristics of “French nationalism” and French neo-Classicism are audible throughout. This is especially evident in the clarity facilitated by distinct delineations of sonorities in opposing registers, along with chordal usage not always for harmonic progression, but sometimes simply for coloration.

In general, the harmonic language of the orchestral accompaniment exhibits a certain degree of complexity. But the solo cantorial lines sometimes stand in contrast with their simpler, almost chantlike quality in many passages. Sometimes the cantorial lines are declamatory, sometimes chromatically melismatic, but much less florid than the virtuoso hazzanut often associated with Ashkenazi cantorial idioms, and generally stressing the chromatic aspect here. Cantor and choir never sing together in a truly integrated construction, contrapuntally or otherwise. The overall effect, rather, is one of responsorial relationship between the two. At the same time, the chorus is an equal partner, not an accompaniment to the cantor. Each movement is self-contained in style and tonality. Yet they work together in presenting a single unified statement.

By: Neil W. Levin



Pour le samedi matin (Sabbath Morning Service)
Sung in Hebrew, spoken in English
Translation of prayers by Rabbi Morton M. Leifman unless otherwise indicated. English readings are from the Union Prayer Book, 1940.


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.

Praise the Lord, to whom all praise is due.
Praised be the Lord, who is to be praised for all eternity.

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.

You shall love the Lord, Your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your might. Take to heart these words with which I command and charge you this day. Teach them to your children. Recite them at home and when away, when you lie down [to sleep at night] and when you arise. Bind them as a sign on your hand and to serve as a symbol between your eyes [on your forehead]; inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Mi khamokha
Who is comparable to You among the heavenly creatures, O Lord? Whose glorious holiness is like Yours? Your awesomeness is reflected in the praises we chant to You. At the shore of the Sea of Reeds the newly delivered Israelites sang praises to Your Name; all of them with one voice offered their thanksgiving, proclaiming Your majesty, saying, “The Lord shall reign for all eternity.”

Tzur Yisrael
Translation: Union Prayer Book, 1940

O rock of Israel, redeem those who are oppressed and deliver those who are persecuted. Praised be Thou, our Redeemer the Holy One of Israel. Amen.

Eternal is thy power

Eternal is Thy power, O Lord, Thou art mighty to save. In loving-kindness, Thou sustainest the living; in the multitude of thy mercies, Thou preservest all. Thou upholdest the falling and healest the sick; freest the captives and keepest faith with thy children in death as in life. Who is like unto Thee, Almighty God, Author of life and death, Source of salvation! Praised be Thou, O Lord, who hast implanted within us eternal life.

We will proclaim Your holiness in this world as is done before You in the highest heavens; as Your prophets have written: and they [the angels] called to one another:
“Holy, holy—the Lord of the hosts is holy. The entire  world is filled with His glory.” (Isaiah 6:3)
Our mightiest One, “Lord, our God! How glorious is Your name in all the earth.” (Psalms 8:2)
“Blessed.” Blessed indeed is the glory of the Lord emanating from His abiding place. (Ezekiel 3:12)
Our Lord is one, He is our Father, our King, our Savior; and in His mercy He will again proclaim in the presence of all the living people: [“I am the Lord, your God.” (Numbers 15:14)].
The Lord shall reign for eternity, your God, O Zion, from generation to generation. Halleluya! (Psalms 146:10).


Prayer and Response

Our Father in heaven, so establish this sanctuary dedicated to Thy holy Name, that the worship offered within its walls may be worthy of Thy greatness and Thy Love; that every heart that seeks Thy presence here may find it, as did our fathers in the Temple on Zion; and that this house may be a house of prayer for all peoples.

Our Father in heaven, hear our prayer and bless Thy servants.

Have compassion upon us and all our brethren of the house of Israel; preserve us from sickness, from war, from strife; keep us from hatred and uncharitableness towards our fellowman. And grant that, dwelling in safety and walking in uprightness, we may enjoy the fruit of our labor in peace.

May it please Thee, O Father, to hear our prayer.

Be with all men and women who spend themselves for the good of mankind and bear the burden of others; who give bread to the hungry, clothe the naked, and provide shelter for the homeless. Establish Thou, O God, the work of their hands and grant them an abundant harvest of the good seed they are sowing.

May it please Thee, O Father, to hear our prayer.

Bless our children, O God, and help us to fashion their souls by precept and example that they may ever love the good, flee from sin, revere Thy Word, and honor Thy Name. Planted in the house of the Lord, may they flourish in the courts of our God; may they guard for future ages the truths revealed to our forefathers.

Our Father in heaven, hear our prayer and bless us.

Silent Prayer
(The following text is not featured on this recording, but could be spoken over the music in actual performance.)

O God, keep my tongue from evil and my lips from speaking guile. Be my support when grief silences my voice, and my comfort when woe binds my spirits. Implant humility in my soul, and strengthen my heart with perfect faith in Thee. Help me to be strong in temptation and trial and to be patient and forgiving when others wrong me. Guide me by the light of Thy Counsel that I may ever find strength in Thee, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Yihyu l'ratzon
May my prayers of [articulated] words as well as the meditations of my heart be acceptable to You, Lord, my Rock and Redeemer.


S'u sh'arim
Lift the locks, O gates, so the King of Glory may enter.
Who is this King of Glory?
The Lord, mighty and strong in battle! Who, then, is the King of Glory?
The Lord of Hosts! He is the King of Glory.

Taking the Scroll from the Ark
In Hebrew and English
Union Prayer Book

Let us declare the greatness of your God and render honor unto the Torah.

Praised be He who in His holiness has given the Torah unto Israel.

O House of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord, our God, the Lord is One.

Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, the glory, and the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is Thine; Thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and Thou art exalted as head above all.

Returning the Scroll to the Ark
O magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His Name together!

His glory is in the earth and in the heavens. He is the strength of all His servants, the praise of them that truly love Him, the hope of Israel, the people He brought high to Himself. Hallelujah.

The Law of the Lord is Perfect

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether. Behold, a good doctrine has been  given unto you; forsake it not.

Etz ḥayyim
It is a tree of life to them that lay hold to it, and the supporters thereof are happy. Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace.


(The following text is not featured on this recording, but could be spoken over the music in actual performance.)

Let us adore the ever living God, and render praise unto
Him who spread out the heavens and established the earth, whose glory is revealed in the heavens above and whose greatness is manifest throughout world. He is our God; there is none else. We bow the head in reverence and worship the King of Kings, the Holy One, praised be He!

We bend the knee, bow in worship, and give thanks to the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, praised be He.

Universal Prayer
(The following text is not featured on this recording, but could be spoken over the music in actual performance.)

May the time not be distant, O God, when Thy
Name shall be worshipped in all the earth, when unbelief shall disappear and error be no more. We fervently pray  that the day may come when all men shall invoke Thy
Name, when corruption and evil shall give way to purity and goodness, when superstition shall no longer enslave the mind, nor idolatry blind the eye, when all who dwell on earth shall know that to Thee alone every knee must bend and every tongue give homage. O may all created in Thine Image recognize they are brethren, so that one in spirit and one in fellowship they may be forever united before Thee; then shall Thy Kingdom be established on earth, and the word of Thine ancient seer be fulfilled: The Lord will reign forever and ever.

At that time, it will be understood that the Lord is one and His Name one. (Zechariah:14: 9)

Mourners Kaddish1

May God’s great Name be even more exalted and sanctified in the world that He created according to His own will; and may He fully establish His Kingdom in your lifetime, in your own days, and in the life of all those of the House of Israel—soon, indeed without delay. Those praying here signal assent and say, “amen.”

May His great Name be praised forever, for all time, for all eternity.

Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted, elevated, adored, uplifted, and acclaimed be the Name of the Holy One, blessed be He— over and beyond all the words of blessing and song, praise and consolation ever before
uttered in this world. Those praying here signal assent and say, “amen.”

May there be abundant peace for us and for all Israel; and those praying here signal assent and say, “amen.”

May He who establishes peace in His high place establish peace for us and for all Israel; and those praying here signal assent and say, “amen.”

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, Z
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.

Read in English and sung in Hebrew
Union Prayer Book

May the Lord bless thee and keep thee. (Amen)
May the Lord let His countenance shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee. (Amen)
May the Lord lift up His countenance upon thee and give thee peace. (Amen)

Additional Prayers for Friday Evening

L'kha Dodi

Beloved, come—let us approach the Sabbath bride and welcome the entrance of our Sabbath, the bride.


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.

Awaken, awaken!
Your light has come.
Arise and shine,
Awake, awake—
Speak a song! Sing a poem!
The glory of the Lord is revealed to you.

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—
Bride, come!

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?

Your children beheld Your majestic power, and said: “This is our God: The Lord will reign for all eternity.”
It is also said: “Just as You delivered the people Israel from a military power, so also redeem all humanity from oppression.”
Praised be You, O Lord, who redeemed Israel.

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.

Eloheinu velohei avoteinu r'tze
Translation: Union Prayer Book 1927

Our God and God of our fathers, grant that our worship on this Sabbath be acceptable to Thee. May we, sanctified through  Thy commandments, become sharers in the blessings of Thy word. Teach us to be satisfied with the gifts of Thy goodness and gratefully to rejoice in all Thy mercies. Purify our hearts that we may serve Thee in truth. O help us to preserve the Sabbath as Israel’s heritage from generation to generation, that it may ever bring rest and joy, peace and comfort to the dwellings of our brethren, and through it Thy name be hallowed in all the earth. Praised be Thou, O Lord, who sanctifiest the Sabbath.

May they who observe the Sabbath and experience its delight rejoice in Your sovereignty. The people that hallows the seventh day will benefit from Your bounty and abundance. For You took pleasure in the seventh day and made it a holy day, calling it the most desirable day—a remembrance of creation.

1. Editor’s note: Milhaud offered two alternative versions for the memorial kaddish—a recitation of the text as a memorial expression, which is the sole function of the kaddish text in the classic Reform ritual of the Union Prayer Book (as opposed to its multiple recitations for various other liturgical functions at various points in the traditional service). One version in the Milhaud score is for the typical classic Reform format, where the rabbi recites the words for the worshipers; the other version calls for the text to be sung by the cantor—a practice rarely, if ever, found in either Reform or traditional formats. Although it is an innovation here, the sung version nevertheless has a traditional character, with its syllabic chantlike intonation—almost “spoken.”



Composer: Darius Milhaud

Length: 64:06
Genre: Liturgical

Performers: Czech Philharmonic OrchestraRabbi Rodney Mariner, Reader;  Prague Philharmonic ChoirGerard Schwarz, Conductor;  Yaron Windmueller, Baritone

Date Recorded: 10/01/2000
Venue: Rudolfinum (B), Prague, Czech Republic
Engineer: Kornacher, Bertram
Assistant Engineer: Weir, Simon
Project Manager: Schwendener, Paul

Additional Credits:

Publisher: G. Schirmer, Inc.


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