Henri Tomasi (1901-1971)
Concert Champêtre

I - Ouverture; II - Minuetto; III - Bourrée;
IV - Nocturne; V - Tambourin

Henri Tomasi stands alongside Ravel, Debussy, Messaien, Satie and Les Six as one of the most innovative French composers of the twentieth century. He embraced a range of musical styles from Gregorian Chant to jazz and from traditional song to serialism, and as an orchestrator is widely considered to be in the league of Ravel and Debussy. Having left his native Provence to study at the Paris Conservatoire, he was taught composition by Paul Vidal and conducting by Vincent d'Indy. Indeed, had it not been for a serious accident in 1952 that cut short his then-blossoming career as a conductor, he would not have had the time to devote to many of the significant compositions he produced in later life.

By far the majority of Tomasi's compositions are programmatic; his sources of inspiration range from classical and contemporary literature to contemporary history (cf. the Symphonie pour le Tiers Monde and the Chant pour le Vietnam (both composed 1968)). Furthermore, many of his compositions, including perhaps his best-known, the Requiem pour la Paix (1945), were directly inspired by his religious beliefs: at the beginning of the Second World War, Tomasi withdrew from 'human madness' («la folie des hommes») and entered the novitiate of the Monastery of Sainte-Baume, near Marseilles.

The Concert Champêtre is one of a fine tradition of works from the inter-war years that rework themes from early music (the mediaeval and renaissance periods) with contemporary accents and tonal colours; perhaps the father of this genre is Stravinsky's Ballet Pulchinella (1919). In his trio, Tomasi recalls the France of the early Renaissance with a blend of ecclesiastical plainchant and chivalric pomp.

"Only music can reach the inexpressible, for it is part of the Divine Being. While most of the other arts are content with interpretation, music is capable, itself, of creating something from nothing." Henri Tomasi

© 2000 The Arethusa Ensemble