|II. Psalm 113||03:10|
|VI. Psalm 116: 1-11||04:29|
|VIII. Psalm 117||03:27|
|IX. Psalm 118||08:15|
|X. Concluding b'rakha||05:39|
Braun’s Hallel Service was commissioned in 1984 by Congregation Adath Jeshurun in Minneapolis to celebrate its one hundredth anniversary. Apart from the title (and content) of this particular work, the designation hallel (praise) refers to a section of the liturgy that comprises Psalms 113–118, or verses from these Psalms. These selected Psalms and verses pertain to the theme of collective praise for God and for His attributes of mercy, dependability, and ultimate wisdom, and have therefore been assigned to the liturgy for festive, jubilant occasions. Hallel is recited or sung in the synagogue on the Three Festivals (as well as at the Pesah seder at home), Hanukka, and Rosh Hodesh—the beginning of every Hebrew month, or the “new moon.” Hallel can also be recited—in part or in full—as part of a synagogue service to celebrate or mark a special nonreligious or extra-liturgical event—the birthday of a monarch, for example.
Although this work was commissioned for its concert performance to celebrate the synagogue’s anniversary, it was also envisioned at the time that it could subsequently be performed for actual hallel services in synagogues that use musical instruments on holy days and have both the requisite resources and the artistic foresight.
Apart from Psalm 114, which is not included among these excerpts but which was based on a traditional North African Hebrew tune, the Psalm settings in this work are entirely original. The two b’rakhot—one preceding and introducing the reciting of hallel, and the other concluding it—however, are based on what Braun refers to as “an old eastern European cantorial mode.” Both b’rakhot are introduced by a slowly pulsating passage in the orchestra, over which the cantor intones the words. The eastern European cantorial flavor derives in both cases from the ornamentation.
Psalm 113 presents a vivid contrast to the plaintive cantorial introduction in the immediately preceding b’rakha. Its syncopated rhythms and almost dancelike spirit mirror the human experience of praising God as expressed in the text. The bulk of the Psalm is set according to its strophic, parallel structure. An orchestral repetition of the introduction serves as a coda, in which brass play a decisive role in lending overall brightness.
Psalm 116 features the cantorial soloist in an expression of praise filled with heartfelt emotion, followed by a responsorial interplay between chorus and soloist—a format that dates to ancient psalmody. Solo cello and double bass obbligatos lend an imaginative touch.
Psalm 117 is another jubilant articulation, leading into an extensive interpretation of Psalm 118. The melodic material of the opening section is used as a refrain, structurally reflective of the recurrent way these words, ki l’olam ḥasdo (for His kindness endures eternally), are sung congregationally in typical synagogue contexts.
This work was premiered in 1984 by Cantor Morton Kula (who had been instrumental in its commission), the choir of Adath Jeshurun, and the Minnesota Orchestra conducted by Marlys Fiterman. In 1993 it was performed in Israel and broadcast live by Cantor Alberto Mizrahi with the Kibbutz Choir and the Haifa Symphony Orchestra conducted by Stanley Sperber.
Sung in Hebrew
You are worshipped, Lord (praised be He and praised be His Name), our God, Sovereign of the universe—for through the observance of Your commandments we have acquired a sense for holiness; and You have ordained that we recite the Hallel—the verses of praise. Amen.
O Servants of the Lord, give praise; praise the Name of the Lord.
Let the Name of the Lord be blessed now and forever.
From east to west the Name of the Lord is praised.
The Lord is exalted above all nations; His glory is above the heavens.
Who is like the Lord our God, who, enthroned on high, sees what is below, in heaven and on earth?
He raises the poor from the dust, lifts up the needy from the refuse heap to set them with the great, with the great men of His people.
He sets the childless women among her household as a happy mother of children. Hallelujah.
I love the Lord for He hears my voice, my pleas, for He turns His ear to me whenever I call.
The bonds of death encompassed me; the torments of sh’ol [the netherworld] overtook me.
I came upon trouble and sorrow, and I invoked the Name of the Lord, “O Lord, save my life!”
The Lord is gracious and beneficent; our God is compassionate.
The Lord protects the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me.
Be at rest once again, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.
You have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.
I shall walk before the Lord in the lands of the living.
I trust in the Lord, out of great suffering I spoke and said rashly, “All men are false.”
Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol Him, all you peoples, for great is His steadfast love toward us; the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Hallelujah.
Translation: JPS Tanakh
Praise the Lord, for He is good, His steadfast love is eternal.
Let Israel declare, “His steadfast love is eternal.”
Let the house of Aaron declare, “His steadfast love is eternal.”
Let those who fear the Lord declare, “His steadfast love is eternal.”
In distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and brought me relief.
The Lord is on my side, I have no fear; what can man do to me?
With the Lord on my side as my helper, I will see the downfall of my foes.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in mortals; it is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in the great.
All nations have beset me; by the Name of the Lord I will surely cut them down.
They beset me, they surround me; by the Name of the Lord I will surely cut them down.
They have beset me like bees; they shall be extinguished like burning thorns; by the Name of the Lord I will surely cut them down.
You pressed me hard, I nearly fell; but the Lord helped me.
The Lord is my strength and might; He has become my deliverance.
The tents of the victorious resound with joyous shouts of deliverance. “The right hand of the Lord is triumphant!
The right hand of the Lord is exalted!
The right hand of the Lord is triumphant!”
I shall not die, but live and proclaim the works of the Lord.
The Lord punished me severely, but did not hand me over to death.
Open the gates of victory for me that I may enter them and praise the Lord.
This is the gateway to the Lord— the victorious shall enter through it.
I praise You, for You have answered me and have become my deliverance. The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our sight. This is the day that the Lord has made— let us exult and rejoice on it.
O Lord, deliver us!
O Lord, let us prosper!
May he who enters be blessed in the Name of the Lord; we bless you from the house of the Lord.
The Lord is God; He has given us light; bind the festal offering to the horns of the altar with cords.
You are my God and I will praise You; You are my God and I will extol You.
Praise the Lord for He is good, His steadfast love is eternal.
Let all You have brought into existence praise You,
Lord our God; and Your pious followers, the righteous ones who obey Your will, and all Your people, the house of Israel, will join in joyously giving thanks and worship to You. May they praise and glorify, extol and revere, sanctify and affirm the supreme sovereignty of
Your Name, our King. For it is good to give thanks to
You, and it is fitting to sing praises to Your Name; for
You are the God of all ages. You are worshipped, Lord,
King extolled with praises.
Performers: Ernst Senff Choir; Matthew Kirchner, Tenor; Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin; Gerard Schwarz, Conductor
Publisher: Israel Music Institute
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