• Brian Elias
  • L'Eylah (1984)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

Commissioned by Susan Bradshaw and Richard Rodney Bennett

  • 2pf
  • 22 min

Programme Note

L’Eylah - to transcend, to be above - is dedicated to the memory of my sister, Toya. The title comes from the Kaddish, an ancient Aramaic doxology in praise of God, the author of life and peace, temporal and eternal. The Kaddish, now traditionally a mourner’s prayer, puzzled me when I first began to understand it, for it did not mention death, but spoke only of life and peace, of a greatness that transcends, that is 'beyond any blessing or song that we can utter'. In the same manner that the words of the Kaddish are not ‘for’ the dead but a pledge from the living, L’Eylah is not a dirge, requiem or liturgical work. Rather I intend it to be a work of celebration and an affirmation of things that endure, a sanctification of life, which is the literal meaning of the term ‘Kaddish’.

L’Eylah is performed without a break and lasts approximately twenty-two minutes. The form is that of a large-scale rondo (in five sections) with an introduction and coda. The choice of this form was inspired by the fact that the Kaddish is repeated several times in the course of many different services. The music itself is influenced and coloured throughout by the melody of a Middle Eastern love song which I knew in my childhood as a lullaby. The song is one sung to a lover as he departs on a long voyage. Fragments of this melody are often ‘pre-echoed’ in the course of the work and much of the harmonic emphasis originates from it. The melody is quoted completely only once, towards the end of the work.

The introduction which opens L’Eylah is substantial, followed by the first section of the rondo ' very slow and still, directly opposed to the rapidity of the introduction. Much of the impetus of this slower music is derived from the metres of the Kaddish. The next section (first episode) begins quietly and gradually brings back elements of the introduction. The increasing speed and dynamic is interrupted by a second statement, much condensed, of the slow music. A third and final statement of the slow music, even more condensed, leads into the brief coda. As a synthesis of the principal ideas of the introduction and first section of the rondo, the coda finally unites the two extremes presented by these ideas.

L’Eylah was commissioned by the BBC from the 1984 Proms. The BBC Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Edward Downes gave the first performance at the Royal Albert Hall on 30 August 1984.

Brian Elias