Song Offerings

(1985)

by Jonathan Harvey

Description
soprano and chamber ensemble of 8 players
Contributors
Tagore R (Author)
Duration
17
Genres
Solo Voice, Mixed Chamber Ensemble
Text
Rabindranath Tagore
Instrumentation
fl(=afl).cl - pno - string quintet (db=crot)
Languages
English
Commission
Commissioned by Spectrum
First Performance
22.3.85, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London: Spectrum/Rosemary Hardy/Guy Protheroe
Availability

Score 0-571-50980-0 on sale, parts for hire

Programme Notes
Song Offerings was commissioned by Spectrum. The poems from Tagore’s Gitanjali that have been chosen for Song Offering are amongst the most intimate that I know. In them a woman is heard finding a secret voice, a secret communication expressing through her love for a man, a ‘lord’, a god (each of these) something so deeply personal it has been hidden from all. It is her essence and its dissolution into the divine, the One beyond duality. This ‘beyond’ calls to her in the form of an adorable figure with all the features of a lover. In the first Song she is drowsy with sleep, having waited for him all night, yet wishes for sleep so that he alone may be the one to awaken her - the dream, the unconscious connecting with his appearance, an appearance befitting a manifestation of another world. In the second Song she sees him reflected in the ecstatic beauty of light, flowers, butterflies and laughter. In the third Song she sees him in her own soul, the mirror of his delight. In the ‘union of two’ his love and hers become one: the erotic image is a classic mystical metaphor. But beyond this, in the fourth Song, she acknowledges the half-hidden truth that only complete loss of self, figured in the awesome invocation of Death, can unite her totally with her enlightenment. The journey is followed in the music by a steady rise in the first Song, an upbeat to the other Songs, leading to C above middle C. From the focal place, which occurs at the beginning of the second Song, the music expands outwards either side. In the last (fourth) Song this is especially clear as the lulling strings gradually mirror symmetrically out to the highest and lowest possible notes, to dissolve into the edges of space. The words of Song Offerings are translations from the original Bengali by Tagore himself. Jonathan Harvey

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