by Erik Bergman

Biblical Tales for Vocal Quartet and Instrumentali

Empty sheet

Erik Bergman


Fennica Gehrman


Aggadot is scored for vocal quartet and five instrumentalists and was commissioned by the Joensuu Festival for performance there in 1995. It is based on episodes from the Old Testament and the Apochrypha: David, the lamentations of Jeremiah, and Judith. The four vocal parts - soprano, contralto, tenor and bass - sing some words in Hebrew which outline the subject matter of the three movements. They are also asked to produce various kinds of onomatopoeic sounds, wailings and shouts of joy, sprechstimme and sprechgesang.

According to the biblical account David was a shepherd who was later proclaimed king of Israel. In the first movement of the work David consoles King Saul, who is sitting in melancholic reflection. In the second scene of the movement we come across David along with Saul's daughter Michal, whose hand Saul has given to David in marriage. The two young ones sing a love duet.

In the lamentations of Jeremiah the four vocal parts join together in improvised lamenting and prayers in which they beseech the Lord to have mercy on Jerusalem and the people of Israel.

In the third movement we hear the lament of Judith in the night as the Persian general Holophernes stands with his army at the city gates. She prays for courage and strength and departs for the camp with the intention of foiling Holophernes' plans. She enters the great general's tent and succeeds in charming him into drinking too much wine. He eventually falls asleep in a drunken stupour. Then Judith is filled with the strength that she prayed for and beheads Holophernes with his own sword. She sneaks back to the city and relates what has occurred. When the Persian soldiers find out that Holophernes is dead panic spreads in their midst. But the Israelites are overjoyed that God has save them through Judith. They rejoice and thank and praise the Lord. Amid this ecstatic atmosphere one may hear not only shouts of joy but also thunderous percussion and the jingle of tambourines and triangles which the happy folk are beating with their hands.

The instrumentation includes flute, clarinet and bassoon. The clarinetist doubles on bass clarinet and the bassoonist on double bassoon. The two percussionists make use of drums of several kinds, as well as cymbals, gongs and twntam, and vibraphone, marimba and flexatone.

© Erik Bergman (Fennica Gehrman)


sopr, alto, ten, baryt, fl, cl+bcl, bsn+cbsn, 2perc


Vocal and Choral Works



Opus no.

op. 129


Old Testament and the Apocrypha


Riikka Hakola, soprano, Lilli Paasikivi, mezzo-soprano, Tom Nyman, tenor, Petri Lindroos, bass, ensemble, cond. Gustav Djupsjöbacka, Joensuu Festival, June 21, 1995


1. David, 2. Kina' shel Jeremiahu (Lament of Jeremiah), 3. Jehudith (Judith)

Commisioned by / dedications

Commissioned by the Joensuu Festival

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