Here we have three
ballades, a habanera, a tango suite
and a czardas; a case of ‘song and dance’.
This makes for a well chosen, contrasted
and unusual selection. Such a pity that
the Holbrooke saxophone concerto (circa
1927) does not appear. It would have
fitted well with the ‘song and dance’
What an impressive
composer is Marseilles-born Henri
Tomasi. I have sung his praises
before. His 15 minute Ballade (1938)
for alto saxophone and orchestra has
a lullingly lovely andante -
rather like a cross between Ravel's
Infanta and Butterworth's Shropshire
Lad. The Gigue darts and
dances away hysterically sprinting and
effervescent provoking a few thoughts
about Holst's St Paul's Suite with
a French Mediterranean accent. Kerkezos's
suave and gamin playing turns the lights
up. The grand and scintillating final
statement, at 13.40, sounds part Hollywood
and part St Tropez. Although there are
three sections to the Ballade they
are not separately tracked here. The
Ballade was written for Tomasi's friend
Marcel Mule. Its 'plot' is a reflection
of a poem about a tragic clown. The
poem, quoted in full in the notes, is
by Suzanne Malard, Tomasi's wife. There
is more to Tomasi than this but the
Ballade, by itself, is a memorable gem;
a natural as a display piece for Young
Musician of the Year competitions.
The effervescing Tomasi
Ballade compares with the often
typically sombre and miasmic Frank
Martin Ballade (also written
in 1938 but for Sigurd Rascher). The
piece brightens for a brief central
interlude at 5.00 but still retains
a very grim jaw-set and, kicking over
the traces, ends extrovert too.
Tango and saxophone;
never mind the bandoneon, the sax seems
made for the tango and its related mood.
The assembled Piazzolla suite
is in seven separately tracked episodes.
There is a shadowy Preludio,
a winged athletic Bachian Fuga and
Fugata and a grave Misterio
with solo viola. Oblivion
features a Nyman-like ‘raindrop’ piano
figuration and a sentimental song. Adios
nonino gives vent to aggression
and populist big band sentiment.
The Ravel is
an arr by Hoérée of a
sleepily nondescript Habanera (not
the one from Rapsodie Espagnole)
and is over almost before it began.
Interesting to have and hear but no
The Dragatakis Ballade
muses like Goossens' By the Tarn
(a disregarded gem) reflective under
rather dark skies. A winning piece.
Czárdás was clearly
written by a man of the theatre with
the grand gesture coming as second nature.
The dreamily sinuous Lassu section
uses a melody that sounds like Lara's
Theme from the Dr Zhivago music.
The Friss episode is a volatile
mercury fuse complete with percussive
effects hit off the body of the instrument.
It is totally in keeping with the tradition
and is topped off with a final exultant
shout from everyone.
The Dragatakis and
Itturalde are world premiere recordings.
from the mercurial mastery of the Tomasi
to the songful Dragatakis to the exuberant
Czardas and the predominantly Protestant
sobriety of Martin to the tango world
of Piazzolla. Very attractive.