I. Vision and Praise: Narration 01:08
I. Vision and Praise: Vaer'e 03:16
I. Vision and Praise: Overture 04:25
I. Vision and Praise: Nakdishach 05:03
I. Vision and Praise: L'dor vador 01:59
II. Love and Knowledge of God: Love Song 05:49
II. Love and Knowledge of God: O Everyone that Thirsteth 01:37
II. Love and Knowledge of God: Happy is the Man 02:10
II. Love and Knowledge of God: She is the Tree of Life 02:37
II. Love and Knowledge of God: Set Me as a Seal 05:10
III. Sanctification: Narration 00:36
III. Sanctification: Keter 03:03
III. Sanctification: We Will Revere Thee 09:12
III. Sanctification: El adon 02:26
III. Sanctification: Through All Generations 04:11

Liner Notes

The catalyst for Abraham Kaplan’s K’dusha Symphony was a commission from Congregation B’nai Amoona in St. Louis, Missouri, in celebration of its centenary in 1982. The congregation, which requested a large choral-orchestral work, had determined its centennial theme: L’dor vador naggid gadlekha (From generation to generation we will declare Your [God’s] greatness)—the opening phrase of the concluding part of a section of Hebrew liturgy known as the k’dusha. The central theme of the k’dusha is God’s essence of ultimate holiness, which is its Hebrew root (kodesh/kadosh). The English equivalent of k’dusha that is most commonly employed in prayerbook translations is “sanctification,” which can be semantically misleading from theological perspectives, inasmuch as it is obviously not the worshippers who sanctify God. To the contrary, they acknowledge and reconfirm the fact of God’s sanctity, or holiness, through the recital of this liturgy. A proclamation that is pronounced within every communal (i.e., with a minyan, or quorum of ten) morning, afternoon, and musaf service, the k’dusha affirms God’s embodiment of supreme holiness; evokes the image of the heavenly angelic hosts who, in their utterances, provide a model for human acknowledgment of Divine holiness and for worship of God as “Lord of Hosts”; and asserts that the entire world is filled with the evidence and manifestations of God’s glory.

The nucleus of the k’dusha is a pastiche of biblical verses (I Isaiah 6:3; Ezekiel 3:12; and Psalm 146:10) that most scholars believe were used as liturgical responses during the Second Temple era. Various additions and supplementary passages were appended to, and interpolated within, this nucleus, mostly during the first millennium C.E. Some of those additional passages were adopted eventually by all rites, while others have remained confined to specific local or regional customs; and there are variant and expanded forms of the k’dusha for certain distinct services. In the process of liturgical development and evolution, the k’dusha was inserted at the beginning of the third benediction during the repetition of the amida, for those occasions when the cantor or reader repeats aloud the entire set of prayers that has first been recited individually and silently by the congregation. This occurs only when there is a minyan to qualify the service as public worship. The restriction of the k’dusha to communal worship has been ascribed in the Talmud (Berakhot 21b) to the biblical passage in Leviticus 22:32—“And I will be sanctified among the children of Israel”—which has been interpreted to imply the need for a quorum. Another talmudic reference suggests that the perpetuation of the entire world depends on the continual emphasis of holiness as it is expressed in the biblical words quoted in the k’dusha: “Since the destruction of the Temple the world has been sustained by the k’dusha of the liturgy.…” (Sota 49a).

Morning and afternoon service renditions of the k’dusha begin with the introductory passage, n’kadesh et shimkha ba’olam (We sanctify Your Holy Name on earth). This is a summons to the worshippers to proclaim God’s holiness after the manner in which, according to the account in Prophets (I Isaiah), the six-winged seraphim, representing the highest spiritual abode in the universe, are said to have called out to each other—with the very same words.

In that pronouncement, the word kadosh (holy) is stated three times, for emphasis rather than for any special connotation of the number three. This is to signify the ultimate degree of holiness, since biblical Hebrew contains no suffix or superlative form to denote “holiest.” Therefore, any rendition of the sentence should be punctuated as follows: kadosh, kadosh, kadosh adonai tz’va’ot (without pausal separation after the third kadosh), which clarifies the meaning as “Holy, holy—the Lord of Hosts is Holy!”.

Pirkei d’Rabbi Eleazar, an 8th-century Midrash that echoes this passage from the k’dusha, offers an imagined poetic scenario surrounding this heavenly pronouncement:

The majestic scene is thus pictured: Two seraphs stand one on each side of the Holy One; they cover their faces in reverence and sanctify His great Name. One invokes and the other responds, saying, “Holy, holy …” And the ḥayyot (heavenly beings) stand by, but not knowing the place of His glory, they answer by saying, “Wherever His glory is, may the Name of His …”

The second basic response of all k’dusha renditions, barukh k’vod adonai mimkomo (God is worshipped from His place …), is a quotation from Ezekiel. The passage adir adirenu (God is our strength) is added to the k’dusha in the musaf services on Festivals and High Holy Days.

Also included in the k’dusha of the musaf services for Sabbaths as well as Festivals and High Holy Days is an abridged form of the monotheistic credo, k’ri’at sh’ma: its initial pronouncement or motto—Sh’ma yisra’el adonai eloheinu adonai eḥad (Listen Israel! Adonai is our God and Lord; He is the only God; His oneness and unity are His essence!)—and its last six words: lih’yot lakhem lelohim, ani adonai eloheikhem ( be your Lord: “I am Adonai, your God”).

Apart from the amida, there is a form of the k’dusha included in yotzer—a body of nonstatutory liturgical poems (piyyutim) inserted or interpolated into the framework of k’ri’at sh’ma during the morning service of Festivals with reference to God as the Creator of light, who renews Creation daily. And there is yet another k’dusha in uva l’tziyon, the closing prayer of the daily morning service (all or part of which is also included in certain other services), which consists of biblical quotations and a paraphrase of the Targum (Aramaic translations and versions of the Bible). This k’dusha constitutes the minimum amount of biblical learning experienced by all worshippers, and for that reason it is known as k’dusha d’sidra (the k’dusha of the biblical portion).

Shortly after Abraham Kaplan accepted the commission, he came to the realization that the text of the k’dusha, even in its entirety, was too brief for a full symphony as he envisioned it—unless there was endless repetition, in which he did not want to engage. He decided therefore to base the work rather loosely on the k’dusha and its expanded interpretation and to include other texts as well. The centenary’s theme—l’dor vador—would still be central, and that part of the k’dusha appears as the conclusion of the first movement (No. 5) and the conclusion of the third and final movement—the finale (No. 15). Other excerpted parts of the k’dusha and their English interpretative expansions do not necessarily follow the order in which they appear in the actual liturgy. Other liberties or moments of license include the feminine pronoun “she” rather than “it” with reference to the Torah as the “tree of life.” Kaplan has explained that since the noun takes the feminine form in Hebrew, the feminine rather than the neutral pronoun made sense to him.

When the composer learned to his delight that the world-renowned Metropolitan Opera star Roberta Peters had been engaged as the soprano soloist for the world premiere, he decided to create a new setting of a text from Song of Songs, Set Me As a Seal Upon Your Heart, as a vehicle for her, and then to devote the entire middle section of the symphony to the theme of love: “love between a man and a woman, love of God for His people Israel, love of the Torah, and love of knowledge,” as he has explained.

Kaplan also chose to include references to the text, Keter yit’nu l’kha adonai (A crown is bestowed upon You, Adonai), which introduces the k’dusha in the liturgical rite known as nusaḥ s’fard. Keter also introduces the k’dusha in nusaḥ ari, the rite followed by many Hassidic traditions, and at one time it was part of the Italian, Romanian, and Yemenite rites as well. This k’dusha variant introduced by keter is known as k’dusha rabba (the Great K’dusha) or, in the Zohar, as k’dusha ilaa (the Sublime K’dusha).

For the penultimate number of the final movement, Kaplan turned to the prayer text El adon (God is the Lord [over all works……]), an alphabetical but unrhymed hymn in the Sabbath morning service usually attributed to 8th-century mystics, which praises God as the Creator of the “heavenly hosts”: the sun, moon, and stars—and, by allusion or extension, to the other planetary bodies.

The narration as well as the creative English versions of the Hebrew texts were written by Rabbi Bernard Lipnick, the rabbi of B’nai Amoona for many years, who also narrated the work at its premiere as well as on this recording. Leon Lissek, the congregation’s longtime cantor, sang the tenor role alongside Ms. Peters. The composer conducted the St. Louis Conservatory Orchestra and Chorus.

By: Neil W. Levin





I saw the Lord sitting upon
His throne
Up above the heavens
And above Him stood, the seraphim
And the heavenly beings sing
And the cherubim glorify
And the seraphim exalt
And all the angels bless,
every creature
And wheel and cherub who face the seraphim
Responding to one another with resounding acclaim, they proclaim
Praised be the glory of the Lord from His heavenly abode
Blessed be the name of the Lord
That fills the earth



We will sanctify You
And we will revere You
In the sweet mystic utterance
Of the holy seraphim, who thrice
Acclaim Thy holiness And thus it is written by Your prophet
And the seraphim called unto one another saying
“Holy, Holy, Holy is The Lord of Hosts The whole earth is full of His glory”
Whereupon the angels
In stirring and mighty chorus
Rise toward the seraphim and with Resounding acclaim declare
“Blessed be the glory of God from
His heavenly abode”   
From Thy heavenly abode reveal Thyself
O our King, and reign over us
For we wait for Thee
O when wilt Thou reign in Zion? Speedily, even in our days do Thou establish Thy dwelling there forever
Mayest Thou be exalted, and sanctified
In Jerusalem Thy city, throughout all
Generations and to all eternity


Through all generations we will declare
Your greatness And to all eternity we will proclaim
Your holiness
And Your praise, our God
Will not depart from our lips forever



O everyone that thirsteth
Come ye, come and drink free
And ye that hath no money
Come ye, come and drink free


Happy is the man that findeth wisdom And the man that getteth understanding
Her ways are ways of pleasantness
And all her paths are peace
Happy is the man that findeth wisdom
And the man that getteth understanding
For the merchandise of it is better than silver
And the gains thereof
are better than gold.


She is the tree of life to them that lay hold upon her
And happy is everyone that retaineth her


Set me as a seal upon your heart
As a seal upon your arm
For love is strong as death
And jealousy is cruel as the grave
O set me as a seal . . . Many waters cannot quench love
Neither shall the floors make it drown
The coals thereof are coals of fire
Which has the strongest of flames



A crown of glory, Lord our God,
Is given Thee by the countless angels on high, Together with Thy people
Israel, Assembled beneath
In unison, all of them thrice acclaimed Thy holiness
As it is written by the prophet,
They keep calling to one another.
Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts
The whole earth is full of His glory.
His glory fills the world
His ministering angels inquire
Where is the place of His glory
That we may worship Him?
In response, they give praise and say:
Praised be the glory of the
Lord from His heavenly abode



Composer: Abraham Kaplan

Length: 52:53
Genre: Symphonic

Performers: Laurence Albert, Bass Baritone;  Gayle Green, Mezzo-soprano;  Rabbi Bernard Lipnick, Narrator;  Leon Lissek, Tenor;  Roberta Peters, Soprano;  St. Louis Conservatory Chorus;  St. Louis Conservatory Orchestra

Additional Credits:

Publisher: Abraham Kaplan Publications


Don't miss our latest releases, podcasts, announcements and giveaways throughout the year! Stay up to date with our newsletter.

{{msToTime(currentPosition)}} / {{msToTime(duration)}}