• David Blake
  • In Praise of Krishna (1973)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by Alexander Goehr for the Music Theatre Ensemble with funds from the Arts Council

  • fl(afl)2(bcl)hnhpstr(1.0.1.1.1)
  • soprano
  • 24 min
  • David Blake
  • trans. E.C. Dimcock Jnr., Denise Levertov
  • English

Programme Note

Songs from the Bengali for soprano, flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, horn, harp, violin, viola, cello and double bass.

I wrote this piece at the invitation of Alexander Goehr for performance by Mary Thomas and the Music Theatre Ensemble at a BBC invitation concert in Leeds in March 1973. The actual composition took place between December 1972 and February 1973. I first read the texts in a volume of the same name, a collection of translations by Edward Dimock and Denise Levertov. These religious poems of the Vaishnava sect use a traditional way of treating the love story of Krishna and Radha - the literary devices, the language, the sequence of events, all have been used many times, analogous, perhaps, to the many poems in Chinese beginning 'Since you, sir, went away', written in imitation of and homage to the poet Hsu Kan.

Not being a religious person, I responded mainly to the extremely powerful sensuality of these poems, the beautiful language and imagery and I devised a sequence which takes the form of a short drama, all expressed in the first person by the beautiful cow-herd girl, Radha.

The instrumental introduction is a description of the translators' preface to their edition:
'Above the highest heaven is the dwelling place of Krishna. It is a place of infinite idyllic peace, where the dark and gentle river Yamuna flows beside a flowered meadow, where cattle graze; on the river's bank sweet-scented trees blossom and bend their branches to the earth, where peacocks dance and nightingales call softly. Here Krishna, every-young, sits beneath the trees, the sound of his flute echoing the nightingales' call.'

Radha sings of her love, the ensemble describes their lovemaking, Radha, successively suffers jealousy, expresses her absolute oneness with the god, her sorrow at his absence and joy at his return. Her final consummation, both physical and spiritual is expressed to the music of the opening and she croons and hums her joy, finally converging into unison with Krishna's flute.

© David Blake

Listen

In Praise of Krishna: No. 1. As Water to Sea Creatures
In Praise of Krishna: No. 2. With the Last of My Garments
In Praise of Krishna: No. 3. I Brought Honey and Drank it Mixed with Milk
In Praise of Krishna: No. 4. Let the Earth of My Body be Mixed with the Earth
In Praise of Krishna: No. 5. O My Friend, My Sorrow is Unending
In Praise of Krishna: No. 6. When my Beloved Returns to My House
In Praise of Krishna: No. The Moon has Shone Upon Me

Discography

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