The Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded in 1913 to Indian poet-philosopher Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941). The Nobel citation noted “his profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse, by which, with consummate skill, he has made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words, a part of the literature of the West”. These are some of the qualities that have touched an array of Australian composers, principally Raymond Hanson (1913-76), who first made contact with the Gitanjali as a 19-year-old when his sister, a missionary in India, sent him a volume of poems of Tagore. Hanson was thunder-struck by the “World Mind” behind the writing; he had found “his” poet. So too have younger Australians turned to Tagore’s world encompassingbent, often seeming outdated today.
This extraordinary recital by soprano Greta Bradman and her accompanist Leigh Harrold traverses Tagore’s world of philosophy and imagination in Australian music. Past the Indian-inspired thoughts of Judith Wright, in a glorious new cycle by resident composer Ross Edwards, to recent Tagore settings by young Indian and Australian composers. Interleaved with Greta’s items will be performances of another Hanson cycle by tenor Gregory Massingham and some of Tagore’s own songs (he wrote over 2,000 of them) by Heather Lee.