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František Ignác Antonín TŮMA (1704-1777)
Sonata a quattro in A minor [5:43]
Partita a quattro in D minor [13:24]
Sinfonia a quattro in B flat major [10:31]
Sinfonia a tre in B flat major [10:29]
Partita a tre in C minor [14:02]
Sonata a quattro in E minor [11:03]
Sonata a tre in A minor [4:58]
Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Alessandrini
rec. October 2006, Auditorio de Gonfalone, Rome
NAÏVE OP30436 [70:25] 
Experience Classicsonline

František Tůma is one of those interesting figures who seem to embody, musically speaking a key period of transition in the history of music. He was
born in Kostelec nad Orlicí, where his father was organist. In all probability the younger Tůma studied at the Jesuit Seminary in Prague, where his teachers would have included 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. We know for certain that Tůma later (from 1722) studied with Fux in Vienna. He went on to become kapellmeister to Count Franz Ferdinand Kinsky, High Chancellor of Bohemia who had probably been responsible for making it financially possible for him to study with Fux. On the Count’s death in 1741, Tůma went on to work for the dowager Empress Elizabeth, widow of Charles VI, as musical director of her private chapel and court composer. He held these posts until 1750 and, until choosing to spend his last years in a monastery in Geras, he continued to live in Vienna.

As Rinaldo Alessandrini observes in his notes to the present CD, “the most striking feature of Tůma’s instrumental writing is undoubtedly the heterogeneity of styles”. His training with Fux, and his earlier, youthful musical experiences - in which we should probably include the influence of his father’s example - made him thoroughly competent in the quasi-Bachian use of counterpoint and fugue. But his ears and mind were open to newer, more ‘modern’ influences too. If, in some movements, one hears echoes of Bach and Fux one also hears elsewhere some more distinctly galant movements and more than a few Italianate elements too. Vivaldi was in Vienna at the end of life and Tůma would assuredly have been familiar with his music much earlier than 1740 – as well as with that of many other Italian masters, both in person and on paper, as it were.

Out of all this comes some music which eludes most of the easy categories of modern music historians and which produces some of its best effects by juxtaposition – the heterogeneity of which Alessandrini speaks. Not everyone will like Tůma’s eclecticism but I have to say that I find it exciting and stimulating. Much as I admire the work of Rinaldo Alessandrini, I am not entirely sure that he here proves himself the ideal interpreter of Tůma. Some of these works – particularly the two sinfonie – seem to cry out for larger forces than the two violins, one viola, one cello, one double bass and one theorbo which, along with Alessandrini’s harpsichord, constitute the Concerto Italiano on this recording. One misses the fuller string sound which the music seems to invite -  indeed require. Nor does Alessandrini always seem to come up with quite the elegance that Tůma’s more proto-Haydnesque passages seem to demand. Where Alessandrini triumphs is in the more obviously ‘baroque’ and, more particularly, the most quintessentially Italianate movements. Much of Alessandrini’s conducting of Italian baroque works over the last few years has been genuinely revelatory – it has uncovered qualities in the works undiscovered by most previous interpreters but genuinely present in the scores and wholly appropriate in a modern period-instrument performance. But here, it is as if the Alessandrini ‘manner’ has been imposed upon material to which it isn’t always fully appropriate; has been ‘applied’ and added rather than being a process of revealing what was there and awaiting discussion. Alessandrini responds so much more forcefully to the Italian dimensions of Tůma’s music than he does to what one might call its more Germanic elements. For this reason the readings don’t quite do full justice to the creative stylistic tensions inherent in the music. An important tensional balance has been tipped a little too fully in one direction. Until Alessandrini and others came on the scene we didn’t always realise how much earlier German and English interpreters had made the great Italian baroque composers speak with a northern European accent. Now, in a kind of reversal, Alessandrini has made a Czech who worked in Vienna sound like a native Italian.

These remarks are meant only to suggest that Tůma presents some genuinely difficult problems of interpretation and musical style and that Alessandrini can’t be said to have solved them definitively. What I do not want to deny is that this CD makes for exciting and fascinating listening; indeed, I have never heard a performance directed by Alessandrini that wasn’t exciting. Those of us who think that Tůma is a composer who hasn’t yet had his just deserts can (and surely will) enjoy the present disc, without believing that the final word has yet been said.

Glyn Pursglove



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