On the Reicha Horn Trios, and an Epic Recording

- - Please visit: Wichita Band Instrument Company - -

Among the works out there for three horns, certainly the 24 horn trios Op. 82 by Anton Reicha (1770-1836) stand above the rest. Reicha is well known today among wind players for his woodwind quintets, but these trios for three natural horns in E-flat are true standards of our literature.

While I know some people make a lot of use of these, I have only read these a few times over the years. I started looking at them again this summer as I knew I would have new trombone and tuba colleagues at Arizona State (Douglas Yeo and Deanna Swoboda), and an arrangement by Orrin Olson of ten of the Op. 82 trios caught my eye at the IHS symposium. Reading it with them I could tell the arrangements work fine but are geared toward a tenor trombone. As my new colleague Douglas Yeo is a bass trombonist I thought I needed to look at this a bit deeper to see if there were a better voicing possible by choosing the trios carefully.

In my files I have several versions of the Reicha trios and I found the version of all 24 published by Kenneth C. Henslee to be the most useful. Looking them all over for range I came up with this tactic, that I read horn I in C and the trombone and tuba read 2nd and 3rd horns down an octave, and I also then looked at the 2nd horn range to see which ones sat a bit lower, top note no higher than written F. From there I chose a set of the following numbers, 8, 11, 12, 15, 22, and 23. We will perform the set in January, and they really do sound very nice in the new voicing.

As to recordings, after first looking at these Douglas Yeo pointed me toward a recording that is epic and one that I was not familiar with. It was released in 1999, which was a time frame when I was not buying many recordings, but thankfully this one is still available. This recording is by the Deutsche Naturhorn Solisten on natural horns. Having played a good bit of natural horn (with a E-book out now too) this is a very impressive recording. The following is a sample of the recording from YouTube (direct link here).

The website deutschenaturhornsolisten.de at present redirects you to naturhorn.com, where you can find the CD for sale here, and there are other sources. A great recording of great literature for three horns!

Finally, these trios should not be confused with his other set of similar trios, his 12 trios Op. 93 for two horns and bassoon. These are also well worth playing and generally similar in character, but for a slightly different ensemble.

UPDATE: For a video of our ASU performance (horn/bass trombone/tuba) of a set of five of the trios see this article.

University of Horn Matters