Notice of Henri Tomasi on the ballad for saxophone and orchestra


Composed in 1938, the Ballade was created on March 25, 1939 in Nantes, performed by Marcel Mule under the direction of Marc Vaubourgoin. It has three movements: andante, jitter, blues. It is freely inspired by a poem from Suzanne Malard :

“Sur un vieux thème anglais, long, maigre et flegmatique
Comme lui, Un clown raconte son histoire spleenétique
A la nuit ;
L’ombre de son destin, le long des quais, zigzague,
Et le goût
De mégot qu’en sa bouche ont pris de vieilles blagues
Le rend fou…
Fuir son habit trop large et sa chair monotone
En n’étant,
Entre la joie et la douleur, qu’un saxophone
Hésitant !
Son désespoir au fond d’une mare sonore,
Coule à pic,
Et le clown se résigne à faire rire encore
Le public !”


Notice from Henri Tomasi

“If the clown is represented by the melancholic” English theme “of the introduction, his spleen is expressed, on the saxophone, by a tender and lyrical melody followed by a brief digression of tormented character leading to the nostalgic return of the initial theme. Then, suddenly, the soloist begins a lively Scottish-type dance, engaging in frenzied gambols, interrupted here and there by warm melodic puffs, and the two key words of the poem – joy and sorrow – are in fact the the decisive element in the composer’s approach, and in organizing the conflictual contrast, the driving force of the action.The clown’s despair will still be expressed in a blues whose heavy drama is accentuated by the relentless scansion of the timpani. “desperation that falls” is transmuted into an unbridled revival of Scottish dance, leading to an alluring coda. “

This ballad gave rise to a choreographic creation under the title of “ZIPPY” at the Festival de Bordeaux in May 1966, according to an argument of Jacqueline Cartier.