|II. The Twenty-third Psalm of David||02:47|
|IV. Jonah's Prayer from the Belly of the Whale||05:52|
The genesis of Donald Waxman’s Psalms and Supplications was an invitation in 1953 by journalist Ben Hecht to write a work in celebration of the upcoming (1954) tercentenary of American Jewry. The occasion was a concert—over which Hecht would be presiding—commemorating the first lasting Jewish settlement in North America in 1654. But the inspiration for the particular texts Waxman chose, and for the ultimate form of the work, was ignited by his discovery of the book Language of Faith (edited by Nahum Glatzer), a series of freely creative, imaginative, and liberal poetic translations of—and in some respects poetry based on—Hebrew liturgical texts, Psalms, and other biblical stories and passages by Jacob Sloan. Although familiar with these texts from their standard translation, Waxman was intrigued by Sloan’s interpretations, which, for him, amplified their internal poetry. And he was suddenly reawakened to a sense of personal pride in the sophisticated literary accomplishments of Jewish antiquity. He selected four items from the book for his work: a text drawn from the evening liturgy for Yom Kippur (“Evening Prayer for the Day of Atonement”), Psalms 23 and 24, and “Jonah’s Prayer from the Belly of the Whale,” taken from the biblical Book of Jonah, two of which are recorded here. He scored the work for tenor and small orchestra, and in 1994 he expanded it to incorporate a small chorus as well as a fifth poetic setting from the same book, drawn from Sephardi liturgy. “To have contributed in music,” he later wrote concerning this work, “even if in the humblest of ways, to that poetic tradition was and still is my affirmation of my faith.”
Text: Nahum Glatzer 1947
In my straits I called to my Lord, and He did reply!
From the belly of the chasm, I cried out;
Thou didst heed my voice.
When Thou cast me deep into the heart of seas, when the torrent surrounded me, when all Thy breakers and waves passed over me—
Then I said, “I am banished from before Thine eyes.”
Yet shall I look again toward Thy sacred habitation.
The seas engulfed me to the soul, the deep surrounded me, weeds wrapped round my head; I sank to the ends of the hills, the bars of the earth all enclosed me; and yet Thou raised me alive out of the pit, O Lord, my God.
*The self-contained Psalm texts, which are not given here, may be found in any standard Bible.
Performers: Joseph Evans, Tenor; Steven Gunzenhauser, Conductor; Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Pubisher: G. Schirmer Inc.
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