Copyright week, part IV: So where can you legally obtain horn excerpts from Shostakovich 5?


Perhaps cramping your creative enterprise as a horn player is the fact that some music is not actually in the public domain and likely won’t ever be public domain during your lifetime.

At this point an aside is appropriate. While it is now out of print, I included one Shostakovich 5 excerpt in the original version of my high horn book. The licensing fee for that excerpt was a flat rate, and there was a similar fee to be paid to the publisher of the Ravel Piano Concerto in G excerpt also included in the book. The total cost reached into four figures, and as a result I don’t know if I ever made any money on that book. But I did offer to buyers a legal source for these excerpts.

Turning to IMSLP for a little more context, they note that the music of Prokofiev, Shostakovich, and Stravinsky was once in the public domain but in 1995 returned to being copyright protected. The money quote from their article: “In fact, the music of these three composers was public domain before URAA § 514 restored copyright in 1995.”

Looking again at Shostakovich 5 and horn resources specifically, I have settled on this text in my article on excerpt books:

A note on legally obtaining excerpts from Shostakovich 5. This popular work, frequently asked on horn auditions, was in the public domain in the west for many years but the copyright was restored in 1995 and upheld in a case that went all the way to the United States Supreme Court in 2012. Any new or newly revised excerpt publication (since 1995) will need to fully comply with copyright law for this or any other work under copyright (such as for example some works of Ravel that are frequently asked on auditions), including paying significant fees to the copyright holder accompanied with the required copyright notices with the music.

Turning to your options for legally obtaining this excerpt today, among “old standard” horn excerpt publications the LaBar book, Thompson Edition, volume 2 of the Chambers excerpt books, and volume 2 of the Pottag excerpt books contain legal versions of Shostakovich 5 (with Pottag not including the critical low horn excerpt). All of these were published prior to 1995. Among newer publications, the Randy Gardner low horn book and the Eli Epstein book contain legal versions of Shostakovich 5 complete with proper copyright notices indicating they paid the appropriate fees to the copyright holder. There are “other sources” out there, but if it was published after 1995 and does not have the copyright notice published prominently with the excerpt it has in fact been published illegally, be it a print or an online publication. Some may argue differently, but the fact is that there is no “fair use”** for excerpts of copyrighted musical works in books that are for sale or for online publications that reduce in any way the value of the copyrighted work to the copyright holder.

Directing this final comment toward horn teachers out there, it is up to each of us to set a good example for others in regard to copyright law. For this reason I would particularly commend and recommend the use of the Gardner and Epstein sources for study of Shostakovich 5, they are completely legal and follow the spirit and letter of current copyright law.

[**”Fair use” was discussed in part III.]

I know of at least one printed publication dating to after 1995 that contains Shostakovich and Ravel horn excerpts which appear to me to not be legal, as no copyright notices are included of the type I was required to include in my high horn publication. But, as noted in the long quote above, there are clearly legal sources out there, including recent sources. We at Horn Matters highly recommend their use. Set the right example and insist on supporting the good guys who follow the rules.

The series will close with a few thoughts on dissertations and more.

Continue to conclusion of Copyright Series

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