About this Recording
8.550393 - Horn Concertos

French Horns of the Czech Philharmonic

The horn has a long and honourable history, by some subsumed into the trumpet family and by others accorded proper independence, based on the original material from which the instrument was made, recalled in its name. The horn has enjoyed a useful career as a signalling instrument, whether for watchman, foresters, soldiers or postilions. It developed as a concert instrument, with the parallel developments of instrumental music and the orchestra in the seventeenth century and as an occasional solo instrument in the following years. Originally the horn was confined to the notes of the harmonic series, its fundamental note depending on the length of tube employed. The limitations this imposed were largely removed in the nineteenth century by the invention and development of the valve horn and later the double horn, the latter obviating the use of changeable crooks for different keys.

Georg Philipp Telemann, godfather to Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, son of Johann Sebastian Bach, was held in rather greater esteem than the last during the early years of the eighteenth century. Descended from a family with long traditions in the Lutheran church, he enjoyed the kind of general education that was denied to Johann Sebastian Bach, himself the child of a family of mere musicians. After a varied early career, that included a period at the University of Leipzig, where he established the Collegium musicum that Bach was later to direct, he occupied a position of some importance in Frankfurt and in 1721 moved to Hamburg as director of music in the principal city churches. Two years later Leipzig sought his return, but had to make do instead with Bach. Telemann remained in Hamburg until his death in 1767, when he was succeeded by his godson. As a composer he was astonishingly prolific, providing music for professional and amateur, sacred and secular use. The Concerto for Three Corni da Caccia, reconstructed by Edmond Leloir, with its second movement entrusted to the solo violin, is characteristic of his facility as a composer.

Vivaldi rivals Telemann in fecundity, if not absolutely in variety of composition. Born in Venice, he spent the greater part of his life in intermittent employment at the famous Ospedale della Pieta, an institution that trained a selected band of female pupils to a high degree of musical proficiency, providing an attraction for tourists and for the citizens of the Serene Republic. Vivaldi was among the most remarkable violinists of his time, although some visitors found his technical proficiency a source rather of wonder than of pleasure. He was ordained priest, but for reasons of health did not celebrate Mass, although his strength allowed him to perform on the violin and to busy himself as a composer and as a director of operatic performances in the theatre in Venice, and elsewhere. The Concerto in F Major for Two Horns and Strings is one of two such compositions, reminding us of his constant use of two horns in F in remarkable scoring in many of his fifty or so operas.

George Frideric Handel, like Telemann, enjoyed some advantages of birth. His elderly father was a barber-surgeon in princely service and Handel spent a year, at least, at the University of Hallé, before leaving to make a career for himself as a musician in Hamburg, Italy and finally in London, where he spent the greater part of his life, at first as a composer of Italian opera and then as the creator and chief exponent of English oratorio. In style he remained Italian, neglecting the more demanding contrapuntal complexities of which Bach showed such mastery in favour of a more immediately popular style of writing, in compositions that were to dominate the world of English music for generations after his death in 1759. His surviving compositions include three concertos for two wind groups and strings. One of two such works in F major is here included.

Leopold Mozart again belonged to a family that transcended the workman-like world of Bach. He was born in 1719 in Augsburg, the son of a book-binder, and after a good general education in his native city moved to Salzburg as a student at the Benedictine University, intended for the priesthood. Matters turned out rather differently, and he soon left the University to join the musical establishment of the ruling Archbishop, later reaching the position of Vice-Kapellmeister. His own career was largely sacrificed to the interests of his son Wolfgang, to whose education he devoted himself, once he realised the boy's remarkable talents. His final years brought some disappointment in this respect, when the young Mozart, in 1781, broke with the Archbishop and settled in independence in Vienna. Leopold Mozart remained in Salzburg until his death in 1787, four years before that of his son.

Leopold Mozart's compositions include a number of works of an overtly entertaining kind, a category into which the Sinfonia da Caccia falls, with its depiction of hunting. The sense of humour shown here is comparable to that heard in the Peasant Wedding, with its bagpipes and hurdy-gurdy and other elements of village rejoicing, a mood that Wolfgang Mozart echoed only once, in the year of his father's death, with his Musical Joke, for a village band. The Sinfonia da Caccia makes use of a degree of realism that has a long enough musical history, particularly when it comes to the illustration of the field of battle or the hunting-field. Mozart's Sinfonia opens with the huntsmen's call, to which is soon added the sound of guns. The work follows the general course of a conventional symphony, ending in a lively reminiscence of the opening.

Bedřich and Zdenĕk Tylsar
The brothers Bedřich and Zdeněk Tylsar are the leading exponents of a long Czech tradition of French horn-playing. Both graduated at the Janáěk Academy of Musical Arts and after winning several prizes in prestigious competitions in Europe became members of the acclaimed Czech Philharmonic Orchestra.

František Vainer
František Vainer was born in 1930 and studied violin and conducting at the Prague Conservatory. Having conducted at the opera the theatres of Ostrava and Usti he was appointed in 1974 conductor of the National Theatre in Prague. In 1979 he was appointed principal conductor of the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra.

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