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Los Angeles Times, March 2005

"Milhaud...brings a flavorful Provencal quality to his score that is the last word in hospitality. These are tunes you simply don't want to stop."

Jerry Dubins
Fanfare, March 2005

"...a quiet, contemplative, devotional work, though it does have its boisterous outbursts and joyous moments, too..." "...deeply heartfelt and moving..."
"...very beautifully done."
"The Prague Philharmonic Choir is especially effective."
"The Czech Philharmonic, being one of the world's great orchestras, is always top-notch; and Gerard Scwharz, for whom I have the highest regard, conducts this score as if he's known it all his life."
"Once again, Naxos, in conjunction with the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music, has come up with another winner. Strongly recommended."

John Guinn
The Oakland Press, March 2005

" eloquent manifestation of the depth of Milhaud's own faith."
" intriguing work from first note to last, sonic proof of the value of the Milken Archive."

Andrew Achenbach
Gramophone, January 2005

UK Naxos Quotes December 2004

"Gerard Schwarz and his forces warm to Milhaud's inspiration and their fervent efforts have been cleanly captured by the microphones. Rewarding; comprehensive annotation, too."

Rob Barnett
MusicWeb International, October 2004

"Mme Madeleine Milhaud, the widow of Darius Milhaud, said of Milhaud’s Service Sacré that "It is a work of love, it is the voice of a creature communicating with his God ... I hear that when I hear the Service Sacré".

Milhaud was born in Marseilles. He was widely travelled and spent time in London and Brazil amongst many other places. In the L’kha Dodi of the Service Sacré, written many years afterwards, one can hear the influence of Rio’s street festivals. The surrender by France to the Nazis in 1940 saw Milhaud depart France and move to the USA. There he spent his last 34 years prolifically productive to the last. His final work was Ani Maamin, premiered at the Carnegie Hall in 1975 by the Brooklyn Phil and other forces including the soprano Roberta Peters all conducted by Lukas Foss.

This Naxos CD is the premiere recording of the complete version of the Service Sacré. Naxos have done well by Milhaud’s memory and the generation of listeners who will now be able to hear this estimable devotional work. The vocal parts, especially the solo here sung by Yaron Windmueller, are more touched with Jewish ethnic accents than the orchestral line; take the Va’anahnu (tr. 16) as an example. The orchestral style is a sort of mélange of Copland (tonal), Roy Harris (listen to Mi Khamokha at tr. 4 and tr. 23), Vaughan Williams (Dona Nobis Pacem), Tippett (A Child of Our Time) and Randall Thompson. It is not tough but neither is it bland. The Vaughan Williams ‘edge’ can be heard in the barbaric splendour of S’u Sh’arim, the athletic healthy brusqueness of Returning the Scroll to the Ark and the dancing restfulness of K’dusha. Must be coincidence but the explosive version of Mi Khamokha at tr. 23 sounds astonishingly similar to the colossal tectonic upheavals of the Icelandic composer Jón Leifs. At tr. 26 the folk magnificence of the little march gesture points surely towards French pastorals in the composer’s native Provence and further afield to Joseph Canteloube’s Auvergne.

Rabbi Rodney Mariner has an appealing and plaintively reassuring voice in the spoken Kaddish (tr. 18), Prayer and Response (tr. 8) and The Law of the Lord is Perfect (tr. 13). The orchestration around him is perfectly judged by Milhaud and by the Naxos engineers.

This is a work which has the facility to grip your affections. Of course there is at least one other Sacred Service. Bloch’s Avodath Hakodesh is certainly more exotically flavoured but in the various performances I have heard (the composer’s and the one recorded in the late 1970s by Chandos) strikes me as hard-going and not consistently inspired. By contrast Milhaud’s Service Sacré is singable, speaks directly and accessibly to all and is memorable. I wonder whether the proximity of the end of the Second World War also added intensity.

This is very cleanly and athletically recorded ... producing an open impression. The artists are excellent. This should do very well. I happily recommend this disc of a major devotional work.

The Sacred Service is presented with the settings for the Friday evening liturgy, which were composed after the work's commission and premiere at Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco."

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