František Tůma. Andreas Scholl, Czech Ensemble Baroque / Roman Válek. © 2023 Aparté, a label of Little Tribeca


A Very Pleasant Discovery

GEOFF PEARCE recommends music by František Tůma

'... one wonders why Tůma is not more widely known.'


This disc comprises three motets, a sinfonia and a Dixit Dominus of the composer František Tůma (1704-1774), a Czech composer slightly younger than Zelenka. I had not heard of Tůma before, but I see there are some recordings of his, and some video clips. His music is very highly crafted, contrapuntal in the best traditions of seventeenth and early eighteenth century composers, and he was very highly regarded. Many later composers, such as Haydn and Mozart, used his liturgical works as models. He favoured the high baroque style, but also incorporated elements of the emerging style galant. The works presented here represent Tůma's compositions during the time of his service to Empress Elisabeth Christina. The album features a great line up of musicians, including Andreas Scholl, who is widely known and travelled.

The first work, Motetto de S Joanne Baptista (1743), is in three movements and lasts just over five minutes in duration. There is a central aria that is sandwiched between two choruses. It reminds me of Handel and Fux, and I am immediately struck at how well this small force of instrumental musicians and choir perform this music with clarity, elegance and grace. Andreas Scholl delights in the middle aria.

Listen — František Tůma: Non fuit vasti spatium per orbis
(Motetto de S Joanne Baptista)
(AP340 track 2, 0:00-0:45) ℗ 2023 Aparté / Little Tribeca :

Motettum de tempore (1750) is the next work. It is quite dramatic, and could easily be an excerpt from an oratorio or opera. It starts with a recitative, followed by a long aria, and then there is another recitative and another shorter da capo aria. Andreas Scholl shines and displays his very true intonation, gorgeous tone and considerable vocal dexterity.

Listen — František Tůma: O vera sincera amaena serena olympica pax
(Motettum de tempore)
(AP340 track 7, 0:00-0:50) ℗ 2023 Aparté / Little Tribeca :

This is followed by Sinfonia a quattro - as the title suggests, a purely instrumental work for strings and theorbo. This is the work on the disc that I believe displays the most of the style galant elements.

Listen — František Tůma: Andante (Sinfonia a quattro)
(AP340 track 9, 1:28-2:03) ℗ 2023 Aparté / Little Tribeca :

Motetto per ogni Tempo (1746) is the next work, and follows a similar structure from the second work on this disc. Again Andreas Scholl is featured as the soloist. The first aria is a long one at over eight minutes.

Listen — František Tůma: Quam magnificata (Motetto per ogni Tempo)
(AP340 track 12, 3:55-4:49) ℗ 2023 Aparté / Little Tribeca :

On hearing this movement, one wonders why Tůma is not more widely known. He is an absolute master and his music gives the satisfaction and has the depth of many of the other great masters of the period. The short final Amen features Scholl at his florid best.

Listen — František Tůma: Amen (Motetto per ogni Tempo)
(AP340 track 14, 0:00-0:36) ℗ 2023 Aparté / Little Tribeca :

The final work on this disc is Dixit Dominus (1743). This short work shows Tůma's fine writing for a larger orchestra, sound forces and a soprano, tenor and bass soloist. There is some effective trombone writing in the second movement, 'Tecum principium'.

Listen — František Tůma: Tecum principium (Dixit Dominus)
(AP340 track 16, 1:57-2:52) ℗ 2023 Aparté / Little Tribeca :

'Juravit Dominus' has a lot of variety within its three minutes, some quite arresting harmonies within the first section and an amazing section towards the end.

Listen — František Tůma: Juravit Dominus (Dixit Dominus)
(AP340 track 17, 2:08-3:04) ℗ 2023 Aparté / Little Tribeca :

'De torrente in via bibet' is for alto and organ, with continuo, so provides a reflective moment after the previous movement and the final 'Gloria' and its lovely and grand fugal section.

This was a very pleasant discovery for me and I think will appeal to a very wide section of listeners. The recorded sound is clear and sumptuous, and the quality of the performances is as good as you could possibly wish for. This is a disc I would certainly recommend.

Copyright © 30 December 2023 Geoff Pearce,
Sydney, Australia



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