Henri Tomasi (1901-1971)
Henri Tomasi was born in Marseilles on 17 August 1901 of Corsican parents. His Mediterranean roots were the distinctive trait of both the man and the work.
In 1927 he won a Premier Second Grand Prix de Rome and a unanimous First Prize for conducting. He at once started a career as a conductor with the Concerts du Journal and also for one of France’s first radio stations, Radio-Colonial (1931). He became a member in 1932 of the contemporary music group TRITON, the Honorary Committee of which included Ravel, Roussel, Schmitt, Stravinsky, Bartok, Enesco, de Falla, Schönberg, and Richard Strauss. He abandoned his conducting career in about 1956 on account of the deafness that darkened the whole of his latter years and in order to be able to devote himself totally to composition. On 13 January 1971, while completing an a cappella arrangement of his Chants populaires de l’Ile de Corse, he died in Paris, a city that had always been a place of exile for him.
His output – about 120 opus numbers – is as abundant and diverse in the operatic and stage genres as in the symphonic domain. It was crowned, in 1952, with the Grand Prix de la Musique Française, and by the Grand Prix Musical de la Ville de Paris in 1960.
A “protean musician” according to Emile Vuillermoz, Henri Tomasi developed a language inseparable from Mediterranean civilization: sensorial, multi-coloured, a fabric of light and shade, vibrant with melodic warmth, extolling in turn the flesh and the spirit.