Songs of Love & Destiny
West meets East through Culture and Music
Italian Embassy Cultural Center ; New Delhi, Loreto College, Kolkata ; Consulate General of Italy in Kolkata & Culture Monks present Songs of Love & Destiny : a concert of songs of Rabindranath Thakur arranged for piano by Alain Daniélou performed by Francesca Cassio (vocals) and Gloria Campaner (piano)
Venue : Loreto College, Park Street, Kolkata
Date : January 18, 2020
Time : 6 pm – 7:30 pm
Songs of Love and Destiny by Rabindranath Tagore and Alain Daniélou
The transcription for voice and piano of this selection of Tagore’s works was a desire of the Poet himself to bring his work closer to the more customary melodies and styles of the West. The seed of this project, therefore, was born from a request of the Poet to Alain Danielou during the several meetings they had in Shantinikentan between 1932 and 1938.
Their meeting was a true encounter between East and West and thanks to the influence of the great Poet, Daniélou made it his vocation to disseminate Indian culture in its many forms, through his publications and cultural projects.
In the preface to the publication of Trois Melodies de Rabindranath Tagore, Daniélou said “the musical component of his works was what he considered most precious. Based on his desire to establish greater understanding between people, he wanted his Songs to become known outside India and performed by non-Indian interpreters. I was able to complete the project that the great Poet had spoken of so
often, and while he was still alive, I had already started to translate and transcribe some of his songs”. It took many decades to produce the Eighteen Songs of Love and Destiny which were rarely performed by Western artists due to the difficulty in comprehending the works. In 2007—the centenary of the birth of Daniélou—
the duo Francesca Cassio/Ugo Bonessi initiated a detailed and comparative study of the Indian sources, manuscripts and other publications of Daniélou and gave a debut public performance of the integral version of the Eighteen Songs of Love and Destiny in various Italian cities.
They later visited India and Bangladesh where they gave performances in Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, and Dhaka, receiving much acclaim both from scholars and admirers of the great Poet’s work. The recordings of Cassio and Bonessi were published by the Visva Bharati University founded by Tagore in collaboration with the Harsharan Foundation/FIND.
The selection of these melodies is performed by two internationally established artists such as Francesca Cassio (vocals) and Gloria Campaner (piano).
Introduction to the Arrangement of the Tagore Songs for Voice and Piano
By Alain Daniélou
Like the ancient poets of Greece, India or Iran, Rabindranath Tagore viewed poetry as something that had to be sung. He composed each of his poems with a tune that is proper to it, conceiving the words and melody at the same time. Almost every morning, he would call one of the musicians from the school of music he had founded and would sing to him the poem he had composed the day before and perfected during his long night vigils and at the inspiring hour of dawn. Poems and tunes were jotted down by the musician, using Bengali syllabic notation. Many thousands of songs were transcribed in this way. The tune was then learned by the pupils at the school and performed with improvised accompaniment in the usual Indian style. One instrument gives the tonic and its fifth and the others follow the phrases of the melody, sometimes with a shift of tempo that forms a sort of formula. The accompaniment aims at creating a sound background that supports the melody of the poem.
The musical part of his work was the one to which Rabindranath Tagore was most attached. Given his ideas on the need to establish greater understanding between peoples, he much desired that his songs should be known outside India and sung by other singers too.
It was in order to realize this dream, of which the old poet often spoke to me, that, while he was still alive, I undertook to translate and transcribe some of his songs. In these transcriptions, the melody is exactly as the poet created it. I noted it down from his own performance of it. My notation was thus more detailed than the Bengali notation, which indicates only the theme, without nuances or accents, and with only part of its embellishments.
For the accompaniment, I felt that a true transcription for western instruments could not recreate the atmosphere of Indian accompaniment, so I sought to transpose it into another system, attempting to establish a sound background that would provide the effect of Indian accompaniment, but in a more western idiom.
These transcriptions with their piano accompaniment have been played several times at the Shantiniketan School of Music and have received the full approval of the Vishva Bharati Committee for Music, of which I was long a member, which deals with everything concerning the poet’s musical work.
The songs of Rabindranath Tagore have played a major role in the development of music in Bengal. We hope that these transcriptions will give foreign musicians some idea of the highly peculiar emotional climate created by uniting melody and words in the poetic works of Rabindranath Tagore.
Alain Daniélou’s arrangements for voice and piano of the eighteen lyrics he selected from the Rabindra Sangeet, the corpus of songs composed by Rabindranath Tagore on his own lyrics, are admirable for their great uniformity of style, despite the considerable expressive differences of the various pieces. The qualities of transparency, lightness and his structural use of silence stand forth throughout the score.
The piano always introduces the first musical phrase, as often occurs in the German lied tradition, or the French mélodie, but as soon as the voice appears, the piano effaces itself with a sometimes disarming discretion, as though attempting humbly and courteously to sustain Tagore’s majestic and profound poetry.
About the performers
Francesca Cassio is Professor of Music at Hofstra University (NY), and since 2011
Dr. Cassio holds the Sardarni Harbans Kaur Chair in Sikh Musicology,the first academic position of its kind in the United States. M.A. and PhD in Ethno musicology from the University of Rome, in affiliation with the Benares Hindu University, Dr. Cassio lived in India for several years where she received training in Indian vocal music by Ustad Rahim Fahimuddin Khan Dagar, Pandit Ritwik Sanyal, Dr. Girija Devi.Senior disciple of Bhai Baldeep Singh, the 13th generation exponent of Gurbani kirtan parampara,Dr. Cassio has also studied the Rabindra Sangit repertoire under the guidance of Smt. Pramita Mallik and Dr. Reba Som, undertaking an ICCR research project on the Tagore songs transcribed for voice and piano by the French musicologist Alain Danielou. Author of a monograph on dhrupad, her essays are published (in Italian, French and English) in edited volumes and international academic journals. Over almost thirty years in the field of Indian music, Dr. Cassio performed, recorded and lectured in India, Bangladesh, Europe, Canada and the United States.
She is regarded by critics and public as one of Italy’s most interesting young pianists. The Los Angeles Times praised her “extremely deep musicality, remarkable fluidity, nuancing and sense of style which put her in the ranks of pianists with exceptional qualities”. Since her stage debut at the age of 5 and at 12 with the Venice Symphony Orchestra she has earned more than 12 first prizes in national and international competitions around the world. She’s laureate of the Paderewski International Competition in Los Angeles, the IBLA Grand Prize in Sicily & New York, the XI Concours International de Musique de Maroc in Casablanca, the Pro Europa Prize in Freiburg and in 2014 she was the first female Italian pianist ever awarded by the Borletti- Buitoni Trust in London.
Campaner’s career as a soloist and chamber musician has led her to perform with some of the world’s most prestigious orchestras and festivals. Since her successful 2010 Carnegie Hall debut she has concertized across the globe, including Armenia, China, Easter Island, Europe, India, Israel, Japan, Latin America, Lebanon, Myanmar, South Africa and the U.S. Recent highlights include collaborations with Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana (Lugano), Nagoya and Seoul Philharmonic Orchestras, the English Chamber Orchestra, the Vilnius Philharmonic, and appearances at London’s Cadogan Hall, Salzburg Mozarteum, Paris’ Salle Cortot, Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome and Tokyo Kioi Hall.
Campaner is also known for her versatility and interest in innovative performance. She has collaborated with renowned jazz and contemporary musicians, as well as with dancers and modern choreographers, visual artists, DJs and electronic music producers.
Her debut CD featuring solo piano works by Schumann and Rachmaninov was released by EMI in 2013; in 2017 she recorded Rachmaninov 2nd Piano Concerto with Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai Orchestra and M° Valcuha (Warner). Her last Cd project dedicated to Schumann Kinderszenen and Piano concerto in A min was released in Autumn 2018 (nomination ICMA 2020).
Campaner was named ambassador for Culture in 2011 for the European Program: Piano Reflect de la Culture Europenne, and she was awarded an artistic medal by the President of Italy in 2015 during the celebration of International Women’s Day.
In 2018 she has been appointed artistic director of the Associazione Musicale Bellini in Messina and ‘Guest Piano Professor’ at Mandela University in Port Elizabeth (South Africa).
About Loreto College
Founded in 1912, Loreto College is a women’s college affiliated to the University of Calcutta. It was the first college in West Bengal to be assessed by NAAC. It was awarded the highest rating of five stars in 2000.
Loreto College aims to develop high academic standards and inculcate values of leadership, commitment and selfless service.