Mailbox

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This week in Mailbox: Old reception reports; Mailbox tune; 18th century Czech music; new series of ABC of Czech. Listeners quoted: John McMillen, Parag Mehta, Larry Cohen, USA; Thomas Zahn, Czech Republic; Sonya van Zoest, Netherlands.

Hello and welcome to Mailbox, Radio Prague's letters programme. As every Sunday we're here to read from your letters and answer your questions.

First of all, here is an e-mail from John McMillen from somewhere in cyberspace. He sent us this question:

"I was going back through some old records and discovered a reception report for Radio Prague dated 1986. I realize that was 20 years ago, but do you have the ability to confirm this report?"

Thank you for that interesting e-mail but I'm afraid we cannot confirm such old reception reports as we have no way of verifying what actually was in our programme on that day so long ago. But of course, we are happy to send you QSL cards for your current reports. You can send them the old-fashioned way to our postal address, Radio Prague, 12099 Prague or to english@radio.cz. Also if you go to our website, www.radio.cz, you will find a reception report form there which you can fill out and it will get straight to us.

On a different note, Larry Cohen from New York, USA, has this question.

"Can you please do me a favor? The other night I was listening to your station on my Grundig Shortwave and you were reading the correct answer to the question about the cuneiform writing decoder from your country. You used a little music theme and it is 'driving me buggy' as we say here because I can't remember the song. It is a modern song... sounds like synthesized music with a very very very catchy rhythm. Can you please give me the name of the song? My friend, Roger Chambers (who wrote in with a correct answer and you read his letter on the air) says that it is part of your mailbag theme song. PS: It is the same feeling that you get when you want to sneeze but you can't!"

The answer is to this question is simple: The Mailbox theme tune is Manu Chao's song "Bongo Bong".

And staying with music, Parag Mehta from Massachusetts sent us a query regarding a Mailbox competition question from last year - about the 18th-century composer Frantisek Kotzwara, the composer of "The Battle of Prague", a sonata for solo piano. Mr Mehta wrote this:

"Hello! I am an avid fan of Czech classical music and I visit your radio website very often. This is with regard to the Kotzwara Battle of Prague mentioned at your website. I have found another old manuscript copy at the Australian library website which attributes the Battle of Prague to Brixi. I personally believe this was written by Brixi but could anyone there confirm this? On another note, I would certainly love to hear some of Kozeluh's piano music in the future if possible."

This is perhaps a question for a specialised historian. The Czech encyclopaedias I used were quite certain as to who the author was and so was the Czech Radio recording of the "Battle of Prague" we played last year. Not that the internet is a totally trustworthy source but the manuscript from the Australian library you mention is actually the only result produced by Google, which attributes the sonata to Frantisek Xaver Brixi, another 18th century Bohemian composer. Another one says the piece is attributed to both Kotzwara and Brixi. On the other hand, some 300 results mention Kotzwara, spelled in different ways, as the author. If there are doubts as to who composed the "Battle of Prague", they obviously are not widely known.

As to the second part of Parag Mehta's e-mail, Leopold Kozeluh, a less-known 18th-19th century Czech-born composer has not been featured on Radio Prague, at least not in recent years. So to give you a taste of his music, let's listen to the 4th movement of his Sinfonia francese in A.

Now, to change the subject, Thomas Zahn who listens to us in the Czech Republic sent us his reaction to last week's episode of the ABC of Czech about grass.

"I come from a place where we also kept our lawns as green and well manicured as possible. But I honestly never thought of this in terms of language. It was quite nice to read your essay, and think for a moment about British lawns and our own wilderness. I especially liked the phrase that you used to illustrate the similarities and differences "When I was young, even the grass was greener".

Thank you for that comment. Let me just remind you that the ABC series now running is a repeat from 2003 but as of the new broadcast season, we'll be running a brand new series.

Last week I encouraged you to tell us something more about yourselves in your reception reports, such as where you listen to us and so on. Meanwhile we got a letter from Sonya van Zoest from Amsterdam. She says she listens to us in her apartment on the 10th floor in Amsterdam. She took up shortwave listening in 1995 and she "just loves this hobby - listening to the world". Sonya even sent us a photo of herself sitting at her receiver.


We always like to know more about who our listeners are and where you are around the world. We appreciate all your letters and comments on our broadcast. Please keep them coming to english@radio.cz or Radio Prague, 12099, Prague, Czech Republic. That is also the address for your competition entries. And our competition question is the only remaining item on today's agenda in Mailbox:

"Which person who was born and lived in what is now the Czech Republic has been dubbed the 'father of genetics'?"

You have until the end of March to send your answers to us. There is a prize waiting for the lucky winner. That's all for now, till next week - bye-bye.