musica Dei donum

CD reviews

František Ignác Antonín TŮMA (1704 - 1774): "Te Deum"

Czech Ensemble Baroque
Dir: Roman Válek

rec: June 16 - 20, 2022, Znojmo, St Michael's Church
Supraphon - SU 4315-2 (© 2022) (54'11")
Liner-notes: E/D/F/CZ; lyrics - translations: E/D
Cover & track-list

Missa Veni Pater pauperum; Sinfonia ex C; Te Deum

Romana Kružíková*, Pavla Radostová*, Tereza Válková, soprano; Monika Jägerová*, Lucie Kořínková, Iva Táborská, contralto; Jan Kožnar, Jakub Kubín*, František Sliž, tenor; Jan Faltýnek, Jiří Miroslav Procházka*, Martin Vacula, bass (*) soli
Richard Šeda, cornett; Karel Beránek, László Borsódi, Petr Jurášek, Marian Magiera, clarino, trumpet; Piotr Dąbrowski, Ondřej Sokol, trombone; Jakub Baran, bassoon; Vladimíra Grenerová, Michal Klas, Peter Zelenka, Eva Kalová, Daniel Podroužek, Veronika Svačinová, violin; Petr Mašlaň, cello; Matyáš Berdych, violone; Barbora Hulcová, theorbo; Marek Čermák, organ; Radek Tomášek, timpani

František Ignác Antonín Tůma was one of many composers of Bohemian birth who made a career outside their own country. Some made it as far as Italy, others found a position in Vienna, as was the case with Tůma.

He was born in Kostelec nad Orlicí in Bohemia and received his first music lessons from his father, who was an organist. He may have studied in Prague at the Jesuit seminary. Later he was probably a pupil of the organist Bohuslav Matej Cernohorský. Tuma was also active as a tenor and played the viola da gamba and the theorbo. At some time he settled in Vienna, where he became Kapellmeister to Count Ferdinand Kinsky, Chancellor of Bohemia, member of one of its leading aristocratic families, and Imperial envoy. He gave Tůma the opportunity to study with Johann Joseph Fux, the imperial court Kapellmeister. Fux had a substantial influence on Tůma's development as a composer, and made him a skilled contrapuntalist. When his employer died in 1741, Tůma entered the service of the Empress Dowager, Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (Charles VI's widow). He remained in her service until her death in 1750. He was rewarded for his service with a high annuity, which allowed him to continue his career as a free artist. In 1765 Empress Maria Theresa increased his pension. The way he was treated attests to the high esteem, in which he was held.

The disc under review offers first recordings of three works that have been written during the three periods of Tůma's life. The earliest is the Missa Veni Pater pauperum, the latest the Sinfonia ex C.

The Mass dates from 1736, during Tůma's time in the service of Count Kinsky. It was written for the Schottenstift, a Benedictine Abbey, founded in the 12th century in Vienna as a monastery for the Iroschotten, Irish monks who pursued a mission in Austria. Between 1733 and 1736 Tůma wrote at least seven masses for the Schottenstift. They reflect his skills in counterpoint, which he owed to his lessons with Johann Joseph Fux. All these masses have a festive character, as the scorings for two clarini (high trumpets), two trumpets, timpani, two violins and basso continuo show. The Missa Veni Pater pauperum was performed at several occasions during the 1740s and 1750s. The probably last performance is dated 1863. The work comprises the common parts, and each of them is divided into sections for soli, tutti or a mixture of both. Some sections of the mass were traditionally allocated to solo voices, and that is not any different here. The Christe eleison is for soprano solo - outstandingly performed by Romana Kružíková - whereas the Laudamus te is for alto and tenor, nicely sung here by Monika Jägerová and Jakub Kubín. The former is also the soloist in the Benedictus. Notable is the use of trombones at the opening of 'Et incarnatus est'. Several sections are fugal, such as the Crucifixus and 'Dona nobis pacem'.

The chronologically second work is the Te Deum. It was composed in 1745 for the Stift Wilhering, a Cistercian monastery in Upper Austria. The archive of the monastery includes the only known copy of this work. Thanks to its music-loving abbott the monastery had a large library of scores, among them a number of works by Tůma, and a large ensemble - in fact, for this work Tůma had a larger ensemble at his disposal than at the imperial court. This setting of the Te Deum was performed at Corpus Christi. Again, a late performance of this work is documented in the 19th century, in 1861, to be precise. It once again confirms what has been written above: that Tůma was held in high esteem, apparently not only by his contemporaries, but also long after his death. If one listens to these two vocal works (and his Requiem), that can hardly surprise. The Te Deum is a sparkling piece, a sequence of sections for soli and/or tutti, and opening with a solo for the timpani.

The Sinfonia ex C is the most modern work. Its texture points in the direction of the classical era. It is Tůma's only symphony of this kind: two allegros embrace an andante and a minuet with trio. The scoring is comparable with that of the mass: two clarini, two trumpets, two violins and basso continuo. It is likely that this symphony dates from the laast years of his life, after he had left the service of Empress Elisabeth Christine.

The Czech Ensemble Baroque is one of the finest in the Czech Republic, which has a very lively early music scene anyway. This is the second disc devoted to Tůma, and like the recording of the Requiem I already mentioned, it is entirely satisfying and convincing. The soloists are part of the ensemble, in line with the practice of the time, which did not divide a group of performers into 'soloists', 'choir' and 'orchestra'. This is how music was performed at the time: by an ensemble of singers and players, whose members take care of the solo parts. The members of this ensemble do so brilliantly. I like the energetic style of performing, and the dynamic shading on long notes, as well as the differentiation between good and bad notes. The instrumentalists are also excellent; the players of the clarini and trumpets deserve special praise.

Tůma is a really great composer, and this disc does him full justice.

Johan van Veen (© 2023)

Relevant links:

Czech Ensemble Baroque

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