Horn Repertoire Week 11: The Valved Horn in the Later 19th Century


Continuing forward in horn history, some of our best, most characteristic horn literature (especially orchestral) dates to the second half of the nineteenth century. The main reading this week looks at the big picture of those years.

The ways composers treated the horn varied wildly in this time frame. From the article linked above, I love this quote of Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakoff in relation to his early works. He recalled,

Of the fact that chromatic-scale brass instruments had already been introduced everywhere, Balakireff’s circle had no inkling then, but, with the benediction of its chief and conductor, it followed the instructions of Berlioz’s Traité d’Instrumentation regarding the use of the natural-scale trumpets and French horns. We selected French horns in all possible keys in order to avoid the imaginary stopped notes; calculated, contrived, and grew unimaginably confused. And yet all that would have been necessary was a talk and consultation with some practical musician. However, that was too humiliating for us. We followed Berlioz rather than some talentless orchestra leader.

Heldenleben-snipWe have a lot of ground to cover this week and actually, those taking the live class know, we are spreading last week and this week over three weeks of classes as we have the time. Besides standard solos like Strauss 1 we need to cover orchestral works by composers including Dvorak, Strauss, Bruckner, and Mahler! Important music that we don’t need to rush through.

Turning back to solos, there are a number of works in my list of standard solos (here) that we will briefly look at more closely. As time allows we will also be looking at some early 20th century works that fit closely with our discussion including in particular the Dukas Villanelle. With respect to that work there are two more short readings to scan before the class discussion.

Continue in Horn Repertoire Course

This is week 11 of a fourteen week course in horn repertoire, the second semester of a broad overview of horn repertoire, performance, and pedagogy. The introductory article is here, and the series is presented for the educational purposes of our readers.

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