Horn Concertos

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French Horns of the Czech Philharmonic

The horn has a long and honourable history, by some subsumed into the trumpetfamily and by others accorded proper independence, based on the originalmaterial from which the instrument was made, recalled in its name. The horn hasenjoyed a useful career as a signalling instrument, whether for watchman,foresters, soldiers or postilions. It developed as a concert instrument, withthe parallel developments of instrumental music and the orchestra in theseventeenth century and as an occasional solo instrument in the following years.

Originally the horn was confined to the notes of the harmonic series, itsfundamental note depending on the length of tube employed. The limitations thisimposed were largely removed in the nineteenth century by the invention anddevelopment of the valve horn and later the double horn, the latter obviatingthe use of changeable crooks for different keys.

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

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

George Frideric Handel, like Telemann, enjoyed some advantages of birth. Hiselderly father was a barber-surgeon in princely service and Handel spent a year,at least, at the University of Halle, before leaving to make a career forhimself as a musician in Hamburg, Italy and finally in London, where he spentthe greater part of his life, at first as a composer of Italian opera and thenas the creator and chief exponent of English oratorio. In style he remainedItalian, neglecting the more demanding contrapuntal complexities of which Bachshowed such mastery in favour of a more immediately popular style of writing, incompositions that were to dominate the world of English music for generationsafter his death in 1759. His surviving compositions include three concertos fortwo 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-likeworld of Bach. He was born in 1719 in Augsburg, the son of a book-binder, andafter a good general education in his native city moved to Salzburg as a studentat the Benedictine University, intended for the priesthood. Matters turned outrather differently, and he soon left the University to join the musicalestablishment of the ruling Archbishop, later reaching the position ofVice-Kapellmeister. His own career was largely sacrificed to the interests ofhis son Wolfgang, to whose education he devoted himself, once he realised theboy's remarkable talents. His final years brought some disappointment in thisrespect, when the young Mozart, in 1781, broke with the Archbishop and settledin independence in Vienna. Leopold Mozart remained in Salzburg until his deathin 1787, four years before that of his son.

Leopold Mozart's compositions include a number of works of an overtlyentertaining kind, a category into which the Sinfonia da Caccia falls, with itsdepiction of hunting. The sense of humour shown here is comparable to that heardin the Peasant Wedding, with its bagpipes and hurdy-gurdy and other elements ofvillage rejoicing, a mood that Wolfgang Mozart echoed only once, in the year ofhis father's death, with his Musical Joke, for a village band. TheSinfonia da Caccia makes use of a degree of realism that has a long enoughmusical history, particularly when it comes to the illustration of the field ofbattle 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 ofa conventional symphony, ending in a lively reminiscence of the opening.

Bedřich and Zdenĕk Tylsar

The brothers Bedřich and Zdeněk Tylsar are the leading exponents ofa long Czech tradition of French horn-playing. Both graduated at the JanaěkAcademy of Musical Arts and after winning several prizesin prestigious competitions in Europe became members of the acclaimed CzechPhilharmonic Orchestra.

Frantisek Vainer

Frantisek Vainer was born in 1930 and studied violin and conducting at thePrague Conservatory. Having conducted at the opera the theatres of Ostrava andUsti he was appointed in 1974 conductor of the National Theatre in Prague. In1979 he was appointed principal conductor of the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Disc: 1
Sinfonia da Caccia for 4 Horns and Strings, 'Jagd
1 Vivace
2 Grave
3 Presto
4 Allegro
5 Larghetto
6 Allegro
7 Pomposo
8 Allegro
9 A tempo ordinario
10 Largo
11 Allegro
12 Vivace
13 Andante, piu tosto un poco allegretto
14 Menuett
15 Vivace
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