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
A classy issue, and a very valuable one in repertoire terms
at that. We need to hear more Tomášek.
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