Encore: Tally-ho from an 18th century Bohemian

In this edition of Encore we find out how today's French horn differs from the horns of 18th century Bohemia, we have more from the composer who wrote a Requiem for Mozart, and we have some delightful choral music from a distinguished contemporary Czech composer.

The horns of Bohemia

We start today not so much with an "ahoj" as a "tally-ho" - with something firmly in the hunting tradition. Supraphon has issued a two CD set with a number of concertos for two and three horns, performed by brothers Zdenek and Bedrich Tylsar. Both were long-time members of the Czech Philharmonic and active as soloists, and these recordings cover several decades. Sadly Zdenek Tylsar passed away last year, and this CD is a fitting tribute to his life's work.

Particularly enjoyable - and with a strongly hunting flavour - is the Concerto for two horns written by the composer born Antonin Roessler (1746-1792), and who came to fame in 18th century as Antonio Rossetti. Now he is best known as Frantisek Antonin Roessler-Rosetti. He is best known as the composer of the Requiem that was played at Mozart's funeral mass in Prague. Though this recording is on a modern French horn, you can hear from the style of music that the horn at that time had not strayed far from its roots in the hunt.

The horn at that time was very different from what we know now. The "natural" horn was made of a single length of tubing which could only be played in one key, and the player manipulated pitch by variations in lip tension. They still do that today, but modern horns have valves which effectively change the length of the tubing, and hence the pitch, and so it can be played in all keys. And, interestingly, the modern horn is actually two horns, or lengths of tubing, one for low notes and one for high, joined together.

Another Bohemian composer featuring on this CD is Roessler-Rosetti's exact contemporary, Josef Fiala (1748-1816). Fiala is rather less well-known than Roessler and was one of the legions of Bohemian composers working in what is now Germany in the 18th century. The CD includes his Concerto for two horns, which has a beautiful, almost funereal slow movement.

Children's choirs sing Petr Eben

And now we turn to something very different, and quite delightful - music for children's choir written by the distinguished contemporary composer Petr Eben. A CD has been released featuring the choirs of the City of Prague Music School, known collectively as "Zvonecek" (little bell). It says on the sleeve notes that there are over 200 children, aged four to fifteen, in the various choirs. The standard is exceptionally high. The disk has been issued privately by the choir, but it is available through www.CDmusic.cz.

A trio of Czech trios

And we'll end with a quick mention of another very appealing CD. The Smetana Trio - Jitka Cechova, Jana Vonaskova-Novakova and Jan Palenicek - recently released a disk on the Supraphon label of piano trios by Dvorak, Martinu and Fibich - a trio of great Czech trios beautifully performed.

CDs reviewed in this programme are provided by Siroky Dvur