Henri TOMASI (1901-1974)
Requiem pour la paix (1945)
Fanfares liturgiques (1947)
Etre ou ne pas être (1963)
Jacqueline Mayeur (mezzo)
Michel Pastor (ten)
Didier Henry (bar)
Choeur Régional Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
Choeur Départemental des Alpes-Maritimes
Orchestra Philharmonique de Marseille/Michel Piquemal
rec Marseilles 8-10 July 1996
Henri Tomasi, trapped in a reputation as one of the finest conductors of
pre-Occupation France, was tragically liberated from his slavery by the Nazi
invasion. Cutting himself loose he first turned to sea voyages and then,
as a novitiate, to the Monastery of Sainte-Baume near Marseilles. This Requiem,
the Mass and a Symphonie in C, are all works of those 'retreat' years.
The idiom of the Requiem is
pellucid, tonal, pointillistic, suffused in
light, singable, touching - a truly lovely
work touched off by the wellsprings of those
who had died in the struggle for freedom -
the heroes of the resistance, and all those
who had died for France. It belongs to that
select band of works that trace a lineage
to the Fauré Requiem and can
be counted in company with Paul Paray's St
Joan Mass, the latter irresistibly recorded
on Reference Recordings. The Requiem is
meshed together by a number of recurrent gestures:
a brusque summonsing from the brass (rather
like Kenneth Alwyn's 633 Squadron),
a supplicatory solo violin and a Ravelian
swooning. The work was premiered in Paris
in the year after the liberation and in the
presence of General de Gaulle.
The Fanfares liturgiques is Holstian in mood with more than
a hint of one of those Whitman dead marches especially in the last movement.
This music has true nobility. Etre ou ne pas être is a much
later work rather hoarsely summoning up brooding resentment.
The notes are very thorough and sympathetic. Full texts are printed. The
recording is spectacular.
With the sole exception of the trumpet concerto, taken up by Wynton Marsalis,
Tomasi has had scant attention even in his own country. I hope that there
will be more CDs. We need a recording of the Symphonie du Tiers Monde
(in its African colonial background it echoes the disquiet of works such
as Joly Braga Santos's Fifth Symphony which is also troubled by the turbulence
shaking a proud colonial nation) and of the violin concerto.