The first two prayers in this folio, Untaneh Tokef and Uv’shofar Gadol, occur at an emotional high point in the service and are deserving of music that reflects their solemnity. It is true that one may find many settings for solo voice which aptly convey such sentiment but the choral sound is one which adds an elegant majesty to this high point in the Musaf Service.
Hayom T’am’tzeinu has a history of joyous musical expression which some feel does a disservice to the text. The setting here seeks to express the elation of the moment without denigrating the magnificent prose.
The reason that the English text of the fourth setting is primary and the Hebrew words secondary is because it is felt that the piece would also serve well as an anthem for communal interfaith services. If used in this manner the English words will be easy to follow.
The short English introductory paragraphs to the first three settings are by Rabbi Max D. Klein and are taken from his Seder Avodah: Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (1960). Scholar and poet, he was the longtime rabbi of Congregation Adath Jeshurun in Elkins Park, PA. While the language will seem archaic to some, the words beautifully describe the prayers with a majesty of their own.