72 ANGELS “In splendore lucis” for choir and saxophone quartet

YEAR: 2016


4 Sax (S/CT/A/T/Bar), Chor (SATB)

TEXT: 72 angels’ names (in Hebrew)

Internationale Musikverlage Hans Sikorski GmbH & Co. KG
Hire material:  Sikorski Musikverlage

Commissioned by Nederlands Kamerkoor with support by the Eduard van Beinum Foundation, Radiokören Stockholm, Cracow Singers, Chorverband Steiermark – Vocalforum Graz, Collegium musicale Tallinn, CHOREOS Osnabrück and Zürcher Sing-Akademie und Collegium Vocale zu Franziskanern Luzern

With special thanks to Bruce Weinberger

3 November 2016, Amsterdam, Muziekgebouw aan’t IJ
Nederlands Kamerkoor – Raschèr Saxophone Quartet – Peter Dijkstra (conductor)

72 Angels is an expansive work for mixed choir and saxophone quartet. It is structured in the form of 72 prelude-evocations and an epilog: “Amen.” Each prelude sets one of the 72 names derived through an arcane interpretation of Exodus 14:19-21. Angelic beings, spiritual guides, higher energies or messengers are a common theme throughout many belief systems in human history. In addition to the concept of angels shared by the Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, there are the Devas and Apsara of Buddhism and Hinduism, the Amesha Spenta, Fravashi and Yazatas of Zoroastrianism, to name a few.

As with my Requiem: Ode to Peace, the intent for 72 Angels is to focus on that which is shared among different cultures in their religious, spiritual, esoteric and mythological traditions. I wish to put emphasis on that which unites us through shared connections. These 72 evocations celebrate all angels in all their multifaceted variations. In essence, 72 Angels is a long, intense prayer, full of passion and hope. Perhaps exodus continues today within every one of us, as we break away from our bondages of limited preconceptions and prejudices. The sound of the saxophone quartet is limitless in its color and expression. It contains the ancient raw power of the shofar; it evokes the wildness of beasts; it can imitate powerful trumpets or delicate woodwinds; it brings forth the somber sound of a church organ or a mystical glass harmonica.  [Lera Auerbach]

It is said that the waters were divided upon Moses’ invocation of the “explicit name,” found encoded in the descriptive verses in Exodus 14:19-21. It is composed of 216 letters and divided into 72 three-letter sequences. The 72 three-letter sequences are revealed when the three verses are aligned one above the other and read boustrophedonically: the first from right to left, the second from left to right, and the third from right to left. In Hebrew, each of the verses is comprised of 72 letters. The names are then read from right to left, and vertically from top to bottom. El ( אֵל†) or Yah ( יָה†) are added to the sequences to form the names of 72 angels.

While these 72 names are sourced from Kabbalah, an ancient tradition of study and exegesis of the Old Testament, they could be interpreted as an origin for the modern concept of angels shared by the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

The Hebrew alphabet has no vowels. Pronunciation was learned verbally from generation to generation and varied according to regional dialects. Transliterations to other languages approximate the sounds to the target language.