Ernest Bloch

Avodath Hakodesh (Sacred Service), for baritone, chorus & orchestra (or piano or organ)

    Description by Eric Goldberg

    As a young man Ernest Bloch had made a commitment to himself to write "Jewish rhapsodies for orchestra, Jewish poems, dances mostly, poems for voice." He fulfilled that plan with a number of religious and ethnically oriented works, the best known of which include Schelomo (1915 - 16), the Three Jewish Poems (1913), and the Israel Symphony (1912 - 16).

    During his tenure as Director of the San Francisco Conservatory (1925 - 30), Bloch struck up a friendship with Cantor Reuben Rinder of the Temple Emanuel congregation. It was this association that brought about the commission for Bloch's Avodath Hakodesh--Sacred Service (1930 - 35). As part of his preparations for composing the work, Bloch spent a year studying the synagogue music and Hebrew texts used for Saturday morning worship. Much of the work was written during the composer's return to his native Switzerland in the early 1930s.

    The Sacred Service comprises five main sections--"Meditation," "Kedushah" (Sanctification), "Silent Devotion and Response," "Returning the Scroll to the Ark," and "Adoration"--further divided into a total of twenty-six distinct parts. The work also incorporates a recitation of the Kaddish (Prayer for the Dead); in synagogue performances, it is often the rabbi who does this reading. As in the case of any great religious work, the Sacred Service transports the attentive listener beyond the specificity of one set of beliefs into a greater universality; in this regard it ranks as one of Bloch's supreme legacies.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Mah Tovu (How goodly are thy tents)
    2. Borechu (Sing His praise)
    3. Shema Yisroel (O hear, Israel)
    4. Ve' ohavto (And thou shalt love Him)
    5. Mi Chomocho (Who is like Thee)
    6. A donoy Yimloch (And the Lord shall reign)
    7. Tzur Yisrol (Rock of Israel)
    8. Nekadesh (Sanctified be Thy name evermore)
    9. Kodosh (Holy, holy, holy)
    10. Adir Adireinu (O God ever mighty)
    11. Echod Hu, Eloheinu (For One is the Lord our God)
    12. Yimloch Adonoy Le' olom (Shalt reing, Adonoy, evermore)
    13. Yihu Lerotzon (O Lord, may the words of my mouth)
    14. Se' u She' orim (Lift up your heads)
    15. Toroh Tziroh (The Torah, which God gave through Moses)
    16. Shema Yisroel (O hear, Israel, our God)
    17. Lecho Adonoy (And Thie, Adonoy, is the greatness)
    18. Gadelu Ladonoy (Praise the Lord with me)
    19. Hodo al Eretz (Earth sees His Glory)
    20. Toras Adonoy (The Law of the Lord is perfect)
    21. Etz Chayim (A Peace Song) (The Torah is a Tree of Life)
    22. Va' anachnu (We adore Thee)
    23. Bayom Hahu (And on that day the Lord shall be One)
    24. Tzur Yisroel (God of Israel! Arise to the help of One)
    25. Adon Olom (Eternal God, who reigned supreme)
    26. Benediction (Now may the Lord bless you)

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2011 Helicon Classics 029623
    2010 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 5099945631
    2005 Musiques Suisses 6230
    2002 Pearl GEM0164
    2000 Phoenix USA 146
    1999 Rockport Records 5001
    1992 Sony Music Distribution SMK-47533
    1992 Chandos 8418
    Chandos 10288