Surprisingly, given his considerable historical importance and
the quality of his best work, this seems to be the first time
that the music of František Ignác Antonín Tůma has made an
appearance on the pages of MusicWeb International.
born in Kostelec nad Orlicí, where his father, Václav Hynek
Tůma was active as an organist. The younger Tůma
probably studied at the Jesuit Seminary in Prague, where one
of his teachers would have been Bohuslav Matěj Černohorsky
(1684-1742), the widely travelled organist and teacher, with
whom both Gluck and Tartini also studied, and who was a major
influence on the development of music in Bohemia. Tůma
later studied with Fux in Vienna. He went on to become kapellmeister
to Count Franz Ferdinand Kinsky, High Chancellor of Bohemia,
and to work for the dowager Empress Elizabeth, widow of Charles
occupies, almost to perfection, the transitional space from
Baroque to Classical. To listen to it is to be reminded at
times of Fux, at other times of early Haydn, at times of Vivaldi,
at times of the Mannheim school. Now and then the results
are awkward, but more often than not there is an attractive
stylistic complexity and tension to the music.
The most substantial
work here is a fine setting of the Stabat Mater - one of several
that Tůma wrote. It is a quiet and restrained setting,
essentially meditative in nature and often very beautiful
in its attention to details of the text, as well as being
full of subtle counterpoint. The setting of the first two
verses is particularly beautiful, and emotionally expressive
without the slightest overstatement at “contristatam et dolentem”.
In verses 3 and 4 there is some exquisite writing for the
solo soprano and at “Pro peccatis suae gentis” in verse 7
the lower voices are deployed very beautifully. Loveliest
of all, perhaps, is the a cappella setting of “Vidit suum
dulcem natum … Dum emisit spiritum”, though there is heartbreaking
poignancy at “Et mi tibi sociare…”. With its closing fugue,
this is a fine, assured piece of work, moving and intelligent,
a persuasive expression of spiritual empathy.
In the Partita
in C minor one has a greater sense of Tůma’s position
at a threshold of stylistic change. There are echoes of Vivaldi
and anticipations of Haydn. The whole is slightly odd, taken
as a whole, but has some attractive moments. The settings
of the Loreto Litanies are more consistent in style, belonging
to Tůma’s ‘older’ manner, and though relatively unambitious
pieces they impress by their use of counterpoint in a way
that never detracts from the prayerfulness of their texts.
The three pieces
by Samuel Capricornus are, on the face of it, odd partners
for the music of Tůma, belonging as they do a period
some seventy five or a hundred years earlier. Actually they
provide a point of reference by which one is able to appreciate
the stylistic evolution which Tůma represents – as well
as being well worth hearing in their own right. Capricornus
was a cultured man, well read in theology and philosophy,
who worked at various times in Reutlingen, Pressburg, Vienna
and Stuttgart. He had an extensive familiarity with Italian
music and there are affinities with the tradition of Monteverdi
in these three sacred pieces, not least in some of the phrasing
in his ‘Dixit Dominus’ or in parts of the attractive ‘Magnificat’.
He is a composer of whom we ought to hear more.
The Prague Madrigalists
– the name seems to refer both to the eight singers and the seven
instrumentalists that we hear here – are an accomplished group
of performers and Pavel Baxa is evidently a clear-sighted musical
director. They are responsible for a valuable CD which throws
light on two neglected figures in the Bohemian tradition.