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LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Gedichte von Goethe; Sechs böhmische Lieder, Op. 71; Drei Gesänge, Op. 92
PERFORMER: Renata Pokupic´ (mezzo-soprano), Roger Vignoles (piano)


It was ‘return to sender’ as far as poor Schubert’s settings of his poetry were concerned; but Goethe warmed to his Czech contemporary, Václav Jan Krtitel Tomásek, declaring that his Mignon songs showed true understanding of his poetry. Tomásek’s Kennst du das Land – praised highly by Goethe – is not, alas, included in a nonetheless generous and revelatory recital of his Lieder, which includes 15 of his 41 Goethe settings.

This is a rare opportunity to judge for yourself if Tomásek is indeed unjustly neglected. His setting of Mailied hasn’t quite the spontaneous lift-off and exuberance of Beethoven’s; and for Rastlose Liebe, Tomásek lacks the sheer melodic impetus of Schubert. At times, Tomásek’s response to a poem’s metre and inflection can be a little earthbound – his Mignon setting of Singet nicht in Trauertönen (here called Die Nacht) compares unfavourably, for instance, with the poignancy of Hugo Wolf’s setting. And there is no real frisson factor in his galloping Erlkönig.


Tomásek’s settings then, as represented here, are uneven in quality. But his delightful, often salonesque, piano writing is palpably enjoyed by Roger Vignoles, and Renata Pokupic’s winey mezzo, whose slightly accented German and rolled ‘r’s has an apt flavour and timbre, especially for the six Bohemian songs. In many ways, these setting seem more substantial, more inventive musically – though Tomásek’s settings of Goethe’s Heidenroslein and Wanderers Nachtlied certainly bear comparison with those of Schubert. Hilary Finch