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Václav TOMÁŠEK (1774-1850)
Piano Concertos: No. 1 in C, Op. 18a (c.1803-05) [24:08]; No. 2 in E flat, Op. 20b (c.1803-05) [27:11]
Jan Simon (piano)
Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra/Vladimír Válek
rec. Czech Radio Studio No. 1, Prague, a21-23 March 2005, b23-25 March, 5 April 2006. DDD
SUPRAPHON SU 3819-2 [53:33]

Pure delight from Prague! Tomášek was the teacher of the perhaps better known Voříšek (1791-1825) and is best known for his Eclogues. His set of these, Op. 66, is on a fortepiano recital on Olympia by Chris Seed, OCD689 – for which I should own up to writing the booklet notes! Tomášek was also friend of the great and good in music – he entertained Berlioz, Paganini, Clara Schumann and Wagner when they visited Prague. Jarmila Gabrielová makes a convincing case for the ‘rehabilitation’ of Tomášek’s music in her learned booklet note, and on the strength of these two concertos it is hard to disagree.
Aged thirty when he composed these two works, Tomášek reveals the influence of both Mozart and the young Beethoven. The years 1803-5 as date of composition is essentially a guess; it was premiered in the 1806/7 season, that much we do know. The first movement is marked ‘Allegro con brio’, and perhaps Válek could have given the piece a brighter start. There is also a very slight feeling of crowding to the recording, but there is no hiding the fact that Tomášek’s seemingly effortless invention leads to a most comfortable experience. Perhaps the trumpets at the very close of this movement are a touch vulgar, though.
The piano writing of the central ‘Tranquillo’ is highly ornamented. This is a dream, a seamless flow of gallant ideas before the unbuttoned finale rounds the work off. Simon’s articulation is very fine here, very neat - he is a pupil of Ivan Moravec, which probably had something to do with this!
The Second Concerto was never published, unlike its predecessor. There are two surviving mss, one of which (the earliest) is missing the beginning of the first movement, while the second (fragment) seems to imply a certain amount of reworking going on. Luckily it is a reworking of the missing part of the earlier MS, so put the two together and you get a working concerto. This concerto feels grander and more ceremonial than the First. However, the first movement threatens to sag – the level of invention seems less than in Op. 18.
No such problems with the ‘Adagio ma non troppo’. This movement is as much, if not more, of a miraculous outflowing as its parallel number in the earlier work. Some clouds do darken the horizon here, but they are duly chased away by the ever-so-jolly finale.
A classy issue, and a very valuable one in repertoire terms at that. We need to hear more Tomášek.
Colin Clarke


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