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Brilliant compositions for horn and strings

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791): Quintet for violin, horn, two violas and violoncello in E Flat Major, K. 407   16:54
1     I. Allegro   6:17
2   II. Andante   6:38
3  III. Rondo. Allegro   3:48

Jan Václav Stich-Punto (1746-1803): Quartet for horn, violin, viola and violoncello, Op. 18, Nr. 1   17.35   WORLD PREMIERE
4    I. Allegro maestoso   7:25
5   II. Adagio   3:33
6  III. Rondo con variazione. Andantino   6:28

Jan Václav Stich-Punto: Quartet for horn, violin, viola and violoncello, Op. 18, Nr. 2   14:37   WORLD PREMIERE
   I. Allegro moderato   7:43
8   II. Adagio. Lento   2:44
9  III. Tempo di Polacka   4:00

Jindřich Kolář, French horn
members of the Pražák String Quartet Vlastimil Holek, violin, Josef Klusoň, viola and Michal Kaňka, violoncello
Libor Kaňka, viola (1 - 3)

Total time 49:26

      Jan Václav Stich (1746-1803) was born on the Bohemian estate of the count Thun. His lord soon discovered his exceptional musical talent and let him start learning to play horn when Stich was ten years old. After seven years of studies in Prague, Munich and Dresden Stich returned to the count´s services, but promptly he escaped so that he could perform as an independent musician. Escapee, he was appearing under the name of Giovanni Punto. His reputation of an excellent player was preceeding him all over Europe. By his virtuosity he won over the aristocratic audience in Mainz, at the Bishop's court in Würzburg, in Frankfurt, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, as well as the court of Charles Philippe d'Artois in Paris, later King Charles X, and London where he was engaged as a pedagogue. He is supposed the only virtuoso who was able to perform the most difficult horn concertos by W. A. Mozart at that time.

      Jan Václav Stich-Punto was not only a virtuoso horn player, his composing activities were important, too. Apart from technically demanding concertos for his instrument he also composed 24 quartets for horn and strings (Op. 1, 2, 3 and 18). In all these compositions that contain features of top Classicism with an expressive romantic colour in slow movements, technical demands join invention of the Czech musical bent, so much appreciated in the l8th century.

      Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) recognized Stich's playing expertise himself when he came across him in Paris. He first dedicated him the horn part in the Concerto symphony for four wind instruments and orchestra, K. 279 b, in 1778. Although Mozart composed most of his music for horn on impulse of his Salzburg friend the hornist Joseph Ignaz Leutgeb in fact, he is assumed to address his most difficult horn concertos to Stich-Punto. In the Quintet in E Flat Major for violin, horn, two violas and violoncello, K. 407, Mozart used just economically the fanfare characteristics of horn and he paid more attention to the cantilena and melodic imitations. Thus he defined the new position of the horn which became typical of the music of the l9th century.

      Jindřich Kolář (l959) finished his studies of the French Horn playing in l984 with Zdeněk Tylšar, the famous horn player and the most important representative of the Czech French Horn School. From l987 Jindřich Kolář was engaged as the first hornist at the National Theatre Opera Orchestra, since 1999 he is a member of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. He cooperates with the chamber orchestra Solistes Européens of Luxemburg on concerts and recordings. He has recorded several horn solo pieces at the Czech Radio and participated at the CD recording of virtuoso horn sextets, RKM 0005. He appears as a solo player with symphony orchestras and with the Czech Philharmony Chamber Orchestra. In 1999, he performed as a soloist in Japan.

      The violinist Vlastimil Holek (l953), the violist Josef Klusoň (l953) and the cellist Michal Kaňka (l960) graduated from the Prague Academy of Music. All of them are members of the famous Pražák String Quartet which is in demand throughout the world. The Pražák Quartet, one of the most distinguished chamber ensembles, was established in l972 by students of the Prague Conservatoire. Apart from concerts in important music centres around the world, they dedicate themselves to recordings: Czech Radio, Supraphon, Panton, Orfeo, Ottavo, Nuova Era and Harmonia Mundi - their recording of Schoenberg and Berg won the Diapason Prize. The violist Libor Kaňka (l958) is a graduate of Prague Academy of Music, too. As a member of the Martinů String Quartet he participated in many tours all over Europe. Recently he has been a member of the Virtuosi di Praga chamber orchestra.


TÝDEN (The Week)
1994, No. 18, "Scéna", p. 65, 'Music': 'Horn works of W. A. Mozart and Jan Václav Stich'
'Brilliant Compositions for French Horn and Strings', issued by the RKM is a welcome reminder of the glory of Czech music in the eighteenth century, when Bohemia earned the designation 'the conservatory of Europe' and when many Czech musicians were famous all over the continent. One of them was Jan Václav Stich-Punto, a horn virtuoso and author of many compositions for this instrument, a contemporary of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who composed for him. Thus it is natural that Mozart's Quintet for horn, violin, two violas and cello in E flat major (K. 407), is here preceded by two of the total of 24 quartets Stich wrote for horn and strings (Op. 18, Nos 1 and 2). The Mozart work provides a comparison for those by Stich and places them in the broader context of the high classical style. Both of the quartets are among Stich's best works of this type and present technical and interpretational challenges. The mature instrumentalists, middleaged and younger, perform all three compositions with a typically Czech musical sense, with natural phrasing, with witty details and at the same time with the slightly pensive quality that was one of the attributes for which Czech musicians were admired already in the Europe of the eighteenth-century. This is joyful chamber playing which reminds one of the forgotten world of family music-making, though on a virtuoso level as regards technique. The disc is somewhat of a family affair in other ways as well: the difficult horn part is splendidly dispatched by Jindh Kolář, brother of the disc's producer Richard Kolář, in collaboration with two members of the Kaňka family, cellist Michal and violist Libor, along with violinist Vlastimil Holek and violist Josef Klusoň.

The precisely-balanced sound of the recording is the work of Václav Zamazal. This musical bonbon evokes an atmosphere if cheerful relaxation, and in today's frenzied times it provides an idyllic return to a former world of certainty and beauty.

Dr. Josef Herman

'REVIEWS': 'Brilliant Compositions Brilliantly Recorded'
Near the end of last year the Prague label 'RKM: Stone Bell Series' issued a recording with the title "Brilliant Compositions for French Horn and Strings". Readers from Pilsen should not miss the fact that Jindřich Kolář has here recorded a quintet by W. A. Mozart (K. 407) and two quartets Op. 18, Nos. 1-2 by Jan Václav Stich (also known as Giovanni Punto), with a string ensemble consisting of Vlastimil Holek (violin), Josef Klusoň and Libor Kaňka (violas), and Michal Kaňka (cello).

Jindřich Kolář studied horn at the Pilsen Conservatory with Professor Jiří Žurek, and at that time already played with the ensemble 'Musica venatoria' as well as the Pilsen Radio Symphony Orchestra. He culminated his musical education by graduating in horn from the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague as a pupil of Professor Zdeněk Tylšar. Early on he was appointed to the important position of First Horn in the opera orchestra of Prague's National Theatre. However we see him elsewhere as well, for example in television broadcasts when he appears as a substitute with the horn ensemble of the Czech Philharmonic.

This recording of important compositions, demonstrating not only the virtuosic role of the instrument, which was the only one to become implanted in Bohemia during the times of Count Špork (in the seventeenth century), but also its songful melodic role, is managed by Kolář with mastery. The songful, velvety tone of the instrument is tempered in exemplary fashion, while the fanfare passages in Stich's pieces are rendered tastefully without departing from the overall conception not only of the composer but also of the interpretation thought out by the soloist. The cassette (0004-4-131) comes with detailed notes describing the historical fortunes of the great virtuoso and composer Jan Václav Stich, whose 250th birthday we shall honor the year after next. There are also extensive notes in Czech on the origin of the Mozart quintet, including explanation of its relation to the hornist J. I. Leutgeb. Less extensive are the notes in German and English, where the teacher Professor Žurek is not mentioned. This is a fault of the translation, as is also the lack of awareness that the horn, according to the wish of the International Horn Society, is no longer to be called French horn in English, but merely horn.

Dr. Milan Vach

RKM 004-2 131

Recorded on 12 - 14 July, 1994, at the evangelical chapel of Prague-Vinohrady
Recording director Václav Zamazal
Sleeve-note © Karel Šimek, Cover design © Luboš Šedivý, Cover photos © Jiří Macht, Pavel Horník
Producer Richard Kolář P 1994 by RKM Ltd., Komenského 112, CZ-252 28 Černošice
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