Listen: Songs of Bathsheba

"Against thee have I sinned,"
Songs of Bathsheba

"For three nights," Songs of Bathsheba

"The dead child shall not come back," Songs of Bathsheba

Finale, Songs of Bathsheba

From the archival recording of the world premiere, performed by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Twyla Robinson, soprano, under the direction of John Nelson.

Shohat radio interview

A short clip of Gil Shohat talking about his "emotional approach" to music, courtesy of 98.7WFMT Chicago

For information on performing this work or obtaining a perusal score, please contact SDG.



Both at home and abroad, audiences and critics alike regard the youthful Gil Shohat as one of the leading Israeli musicians of his generation. Forbes magazine, together with all three of Israel’s major newspapers (Yedioth Aharonoth, Ma’ariv and Ha’aretz) have declared Shohat to be “The most important and influential personality in classical music in Israel.” In June 2009, the French government named him a Knight in the prestigious Order of Arts and Letters.

A sizable proportion of Shohat's music has been devoted to Jewish subjects, and his musical style  tends to look to the past. Though he studied with such post-World War II avant-garde composers as Luciano Berio, “In my heart I was always loyal to the pre-avant-garde” — that is, pre-World War II music by composers like Stravinsky, Gershwin, Scriabin and, especially, Ravel and Debussy.

Shohat is the composer of nine large-scale symphonies, ten concertos for various instruments, three operas, various oratorios, cantatas, solo vocal pieces, and dozens of chamber and piano pieces, as well as the performer of more than 80 concerts a year worldwide, both as a conductor and pianist.

Most of Shohat’s compositions are published by the CASA RICORDI Editions.

For a complete biography, visit Gil Shohat's website.

Songs of Bathsheba

Gil Shohat
Songs of Bathsheba

Mixed chorus (SATB), soprano soloist & orchestra
DURATION: 50 minutes
TEXT: story of King David and Bathsheba (II Samuel), poetry by Shin Shifra (translation by Shirley Kaufman) and Psalm 51
Oratorio based on the tragedy of King David and Bathsheba.




World Premiere
April 2005
Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
Twyla Robinson, soprano
John Nelson, conductor
Marcus Center for the Performing Arts
Milwaukee, WI

The Old Testament story of King David and Bathsheba has all the elements of a Greek tragedy: the king beds a beautiful woman, arranges to have her husband killed in battle, and then repents in great sorrow. The woman’s child dies after seven days, but she later gives birth to the great King Solomon.

When Soli Deo Gloria commissioned Israeli composer Gil Shohat to write a work based on this story, he decided that he wanted to present the narrative from the perspective of both characters. Shohat asked Israeli poet Shin Shifra to write the Bathsheba text (which was translated into English by Shirley Kaufman), to which he added the Hebrew text of Psalm 51, David’s confession and prayer for mercy.

Upon first reading of the libretto, conductor John Nelson was initially struck by the bitterness of Bathsheba’s words. After further reflection, he identified this as part of “the libretto's spiritual core: when mingled with the grace, forgiveness, and redemption David sought in his Psalm, the visceral angst of the Bathsheba prose becomes even more real, effective, and in the end, beautiful.”

  Gil Shohat

In the end, the juxtaposition of these two texts—the part of Bathsheba sung by the soprano soloist, and the voice of David sung by the choir—combined with Gil Shohat's dramatic writing, made for a powerful emotional expression that met with great approval from the Milwaukee audience at the world premiere performance. Songs of Bathsheba was commissioned in memory of Jody Nordlof.






" A powerful new work by a brilliant young composer … Shohat is a young man with something to say—and it´s worth hearing. He has created a vivid, moving, powerful, and (most important) memorable vehicle for conveying the message that melodic beauty and emotions like love, hatred, jealousy, and remorse are timeless … He speaks with his own resonant voice. He also makes no apology for writing in a rich, direct, melodic, late-romantic style. The audience at both the premiere and the following night´s repeat responded to it with spontaneous, vocal enthusiasm."—Lawrence Hansen, American Record Guide

A really beautiful work that I am sure will thrill many … the entire concert was exhilarating—we were all lifted up to a higher plane of musical joy. At times like this, music comes close to worship.”—Donald Vroon, American Record Guide

“The 'Song of Bathsheba' oratorio succeeds on its own cathartic terms, the big crowd was raucously smitten with it, and Shohat's undeniable skill can only be admired."—Tom Strini, The Milwaukee Sentinel

(See complete reviews posted on Gil Shohat’s press page.)