A Profane Cantata by Henri Tomasi
for narrator, men’s choir and orchestra
text by Albert Camus
The world premiere in 1966 of Retour à Tipasa, based on an admirable text by Albert Camus, bore witness to a sort of reconciliation between a man ‘in revolt’ and the world: ‘In the midst of winter, I finally learned that within me dwells an invincible summer.’
A delicate, almost impressionistic page, with a poignantly faithful tone and coloring, seeing that the hymn to light that concludes the piece does not expunge the shadows and bitterness of injustice, cruelty and torture.
Le Monde, 4 May 1985
A composition that achieves a most subtle balance between music and text. Henri Tomasi has refused the prestige and seduction of song in order to preserve the full significance of Camus’ idea: walking through night towards the sunlight. However, to the starkness of the simple spoken word, he has added the supplement of an orchestra that is alternatively insistent, dark, teeming with life, and bathed in light; and the presence of men’s voices that begin as a simple background sound (humming) and build until they reach an ample, magnificent chorale that expresses the essential with, ‘O Light! O vibrant light!’ The creation was a huge success, proving that the public, in Marseille and elsewhere, is delighted to rediscover the work of this composer who has been unfairly ignored since he left us.
L’Humanité, 9 May 1985
The music of Retour à Tipasa is sublime. It echoes the text perfectly. It is the sea, the mountains, the sun. It feels the text, as if by a stroke of good luck, and the good luck in question is called Henri Tomasi: an extraordinary composer indeed.
Interview, Nice-Matin, 14 November 2000