First performed by Lynn Griebling, soprano with the Capricorn Ensemble and Anthony Pay at the Purcell Room, London in November 1980
ELOGE, the French word for ‘praise’, is used in the plural form as the title of a set of poems written in 1909 by the great 20th century poet, Saint-John Perse. ELOGE is used to imply a panegyric in praise of the poet’s childhood in the West Indies. Although nostalgic, the poetry is vibrantly alive with its flow of bewildering images, and contemplation of the Past which becomes the Future, and therefore the Present, so swiftly. I have used the sixth poem of the set, and have preceded it with a poem by Jules Supervielle in strict sonnet form. This poem speaks of how we must face ‘certain death’, while promising ourselves ‘to the waves of the sea’. Once again the philosophical question of Time and Progress is tackled. The third poem used in ELOGE is also by Saint-John Perse and comes from ANABASE, written in 1922. Here, Saint-John Perse’s poetry describes how one civilization grows out of another; how order grows out of chaos. He is searching for unity in a seemingly disunited series of remembered images.
In ELOGE the tiny motive of a minor third plus a semitone is very prominent and so is the note ‘E’, which is central to the piece and functions as a kind of tonic. All the music is built from slowly-moving harmonic progressions and reflects and comments upon the texts.
ELOGE, which was commissioned by Capricorn with funds provided by the Arts Council, is scored for soprano and nine instruments. It consists of five movements which are played without a break.