Three Songs from Gitanjali

for soprano, string quartet and tabla

Naresh Sohal

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for soprano, string quartet and tabla

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£10.49
£59.99
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Composer Naresh Sohal
Year of Composition 2004
Duration ca.20'
ISMN 9790570683611
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Instrumentation 2 Violins, Viola, Violoncello, Soprano, Tabla
Categories (all composers) ,
Catalogue ID ce-ns1tsfg1

Notes

I

If it is not my portion to meet thee in this my life
then let me ever feel that I have missed thy sight –
let me not forget for a moment, let me carry the pangs
of this sorrow in my dreams and in my wakeful hours.

As my days pass in the crowded market of this world
and my hands grow full with the daily profits,
let me ever feel that I have gained nothing –
let me not forget for a moment, let me carry the pangs
of this sorrow in my dreams and in my wakeful hours.

When I sit by the roadside, tired and panting,
when I spread my bed low in the dust,
let me ever feel that the long journey is still before me —
let me not forget for a moment, let me carry the pangs
of this sorrow in my dreams and in my wakeful hours.

When my rooms have been decked out and the flutes sound
and the laughter there is loud, let me ever feel that I have not
invited thee to my house –
let me not forget for a moment, let me carry the pangs
of this sorrow in my dreams and in my wakeful hours.

II

Obstinate are the trammels, but my heart aches
when I try to break them.

Freedom is all I want, but
to hope for it I feel ashamed.

I am certain that priceless wealth is in thee,
and that thou art my best friend, but I have not
the heart to sweep away the tinsel that fills my room.

The shroud that covers me is
a shroud of dust and death;
I hate it, yet hug it in love.

My debts are large, my failures great,
my shame secret and heavy; yet when I come
to ask for my good, I quake in fear
lest my prayer be granted.

III

Have you not heard his silent steps?
He comes, comes, ever comes.
Every moment and every age, every day and every night
he comes, comes, ever comes.
Many a song have I sung in many a mood of mind,
but all their notes have always proclaimed,
“He comes, comes, ever comes.”
In the fragrant days of sunny April through the
forest path he comes, comes, ever comes.
In the rainy gloom of July nights on the thundering
chariot of clouds he comes, comes, ever comes.
In sorrow after sorrow it is his steps that press upon
my heart, and it is the golden touch of his feet that makes
my joy to shine.

Naresh chose to set these poems in the original Bengali, though he was not fluent in the language. He said:

‘I have made many settings of Tagore’s poems, but always in their English translation. This time I wanted to have a go at the original language. Because Bengali has Sanskrit roots, someone like me can hazard a guess at its meaning. But I am grateful to the Tagore Centre UK, especially Mr. Amalendu Biswas, their chair, for their help making a transliteration of the text from Bengali to Hindi, so that I could grasp the subtleties.

What was really interesting about working in Bengali was that it has rhythm which the English translation lacks. As the instrumentation that I was given for this commission, which came from the Spitalfields Festival, includes a tabla, it obliged me to set the poems in some tonality (the tabla being a fixed-note tuned instrument) with some rhythm.

The first and the third song use the string quartet and tabla but the second song is without tabla. The second song is much more sombre than the other two. Tagore’s poetry is mostly lyrical and expresses yearning for the Divine. These three poems represent different stages of hopefulness about achieving unity with the Divine Being, the last being totally positive.’

At the work’s premiere in 2004, the first song had to be encored at the request of the audience.

Commissioned by Spitalfields Festival for Sally Silver and the Dante String Quartet.

First performed by them with Sanju Sahai, tabla, 15th of June 2004, Shoreditch church, London.

Words: Three poems in Bengali from ‘Gitanjali’ by Tagore. The text for the soprano is transcribed in the Roman alphabet, to assist performers who are not fluent in Bengali. English translations are included. German translations are available from the website of The LiederNet Archive.

A version of this work for soprano, tabla and strings is also available.