DURATION: ca. 12 Min.
DATE: 1. August - 8. September 1938 (Abschluß der Ersten Niederschrift), 22. September 1938 (Abschluß der Partiturreinschrift)
FIRST PERFORMANCE: 4. Oktober 1938, am Vorabend von Jom Kippur, Los Angeles (Dir. Arnold Schönberg)
FIRST PRINT: G. Schirmer, 1938
SALES MATERIAL: Belmont Music Publishers: Bel 1027 (Partitur); Bel 1037 (Bearbeitung für Orgel); Boelke–Bomart: 12529
Dear Mr. Dessau:
I wrote "Kol Nidre" for Rabbi Dr. Jacob Sonderling [...] He will certainy also be able to tell you about it.
At my rquest the text of the "traditional" Kol Nidre was altered, but the introcudction was an idea of Dr. Sonderling's.
Whe I first saw the traditional text I was horrified by the "traditional" view that all the obligations that have been assumed during the year are supposed to be cancelled on the Day of Atonement. Since this view is truly immoral, I consider it false. It is diametrically opposed to the lofty morality of all the Jewish commandments.
From the very first moment I was convinced (as later proved correct, when I read that the Kol Nidre originated in Spain) that it merely meant that all who had either voluntarily or under pressure made believe to accept the Christian faith (and who were therefore to be excluded from the Jewish community) might, on this Day of Atonement, be reconciled with their God, and that all oaths (vows) were to be cancelled.
So this does not refer to business men's sharp practice.
The difficulty of using the traditional melody has two causes:
1. There actually isn't such a melody, only a number of flourishes resembling each other to a certain degree, yet without being identical and also without always appearng in the same order.
2. This melody is monodic, that is, is not based on harmony in our sense, and perhaps not even on polyphony.
I chose the phrases that a number of versions had in common and put them into a reasonable order. One of my main tasks was vitriolising out the 'cello-sentimentality of the Bruchs, etc. and giving the DECREE the dignity of a law, of an "edict". I believe I succeeded in doing so. Those bars 58 to 63 are at least no sentimental minor-key stuff.
I am very glad you like the piece. I am sure, too, that you see much of what I did for the main effect by means of laying a basis with the motives. I is such a pity that people like Saminski decline to adopt the piece for use in the synagogue, on ritual and musical grounds. I believe it must be tremendously effective both in the synagogue and in the concert-hall.
With kind regards, yours,
The Kabalah tells a legend:
At the beginning God said: "Let There Be Light."
Out of space a flame burst out.
God crushed that light to atoms.
Myriads of sparks are hidden in our world, but
not all of us behold them.
The selfglorious, who walks arrogantly upright,
will never perceive one;
but the meek and modest, eyes downcast,
he sees it.
"A light is sown for the pious."
Bischiwo Schel Malo Uwischiwo Schel Mato
In the name of God!
We solemnly proclaim
that every transgressor,
be it that he was unfaithful to Our People be-
cause of fear,
or mislead by false doctrines of any kind,
out of weakness or greed:
we give him leave
to be one with us in prayer tonight,
A light is sown for the pious, a light is sown for
the repenting sinner.
All vows, oaths, promises and plights of any
wherewith we pledged ourselves
counter to our inherited faith in God,
who is One, Everlasting, Unseen, Unfathomable,
we declare these null and void.
We repent that these obligations have estranged
us from the sacred task we were chosen for.
We shall strive from this day of atonement till
to avoid such and similar obligation,
so that the Yom Kippur to follow
may come to us for good.
All vows and oaths and promises and plights of
may come to us for good.
Rabbi + Choir:
Whatever binds us to falsehood
may be absolved, released, annulled, made void
and of no power.
Hence all such vows shall be no vows,
and all such bonds shall be no bonds,
all such oaths shall be not oaths.
Null and void be our vows.
We repent them.
A light is sown for the sinner.
We give him leave to be one with us in prayer