The Deadliest Horn Part


I was recently given a copy of volume 1, number 1 (February, 1971) of The Horn Call and in it there is a most interesting item on a work that proved deadly for the first horn.

Max Hess tells a most interesting story about Friedrich Gumbert [sic] and Oscar Franz:

“In the first performance of the Rhine Journey the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra’s first horn, Gumbert played it on a single F-horn. Oscar Franz had come over from Dresden where he too was a first horn player in that city’s former Court Orchestra. Dresden still felt itself superior to a civic orchestra like the Gewandhaus, and for Herr Franz to deign come into Leipzig for the performance was in itself slightly unusual.

The performance went well, and afterward Gumbert said to Franz, “Don’t worry, for your chance will come too, because no doubt Dresden will be playing this before long.” In a very short time this indeed came to pass, and Franz had to perform it. With the “setting-in” embouchure he used it must have been quite a chore. At any rate within a very few days he passed away.

One can only surmise that the physical exertion as well as the nervous strain upon the man in this particular situation may have had its effect.”

The teller of this sad tale, Max Hess (Principal Horn in Boston and Cincinnati), was one of three prominent students of Freidrich Gumpert who emigrated to the United States and were leading players of their generation, the other two being a bit more familiar to modern readers, Anton Horner (Philadelphia/Curtis) and Max Pottag (Chicago/Northwestern). This article will lead you to more on their teacher Gumpert, and I have more from Oscar Franz here. The portrait at right is of Oscar Franz.

As an aside, the IHS has back issues of the vast majority of every issue of The Horn Call still available! Check their website for more information.

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