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Famous Horn Concertos

Updated on September 2, 2012
One Page of Mozart Orchestral Score
One Page of Mozart Orchestral Score | Source
Photo of French Horn
Photo of French Horn | Source
Second Photo of Horn
Second Photo of Horn | Source

The Majestic Horn

You can see and hear performances of these famous compositions by visiting

Famous Horn Concertos - the so called “French Horn” is one of the most beautiful and majestic of all musical instruments. However, the term “French Horn” has become somewhat obsolete, because, as I read once in an orchestration book “nowadays, there are just as many horns made in France as they are in England, Germany, Austria, as well as other Northern European countries.

Wagner loved the horn very much. Since much of Wagner’s music dramas (a Wagnerian term - librettos really, though Wagner never made reference to his works as being librettos, musical, theatrical, or operatic, but rather all four of these forms rolled up into one....) are based on Nordic and Germanic Legends (Peoples of Northern Europe - e.g. Dutch, English, Germans, Icelandic, Scandinavians, etc...), the horn’s serious and noble tones can be representative of the Baltic Sea region; additionally, the horns can also produce rough notes which can be associated with tough qualities we sometimes associate to Vikings and Goths - all of the above are potential characters in Wagnerian narrative....

The horn is more exclusive than the other instruments I’ve previously written and discussed in my “famous concertos” series. As a result, the horn is not as popular with the public as the violin, piano, clarinet and a few other musical instruments I've discussed.

Another instrument which requires transposition. Horns in F, as they typically known, makes reference to the fact that in order for a Horn to play the note F, you must write a C on the score. The horns are transposed a perfect 5th. If the strings are playing C, in order for the horn to play C, you must write the note G on the score. I’m not going to get into a discussion of transposition. If you’d like to learn more about this topic, read my “Famous Clarinet Concertos” article to get a better insight into this matter.

Mozart - Four Horn Concertos
These four concerti are considered to be amongst the most famous ever written for the instrument. No. 1 in D major, No. 2 in E flat, No. 3 in E flat, and No. 4 in E flat. Chromaticism was near impossible on the horn, so if the concerto was written in the key of E flat major, the horn would be pitched to play the E flat major scale, with no chromatic runs. Even a genius like Mozart had a difficult time making these compositions interesting. Nevertheless, the horn has always been revered in legends and the public, especially of his day, loved these horn contertis.

Schumann - Konzertstuck for Four Horns and Orchestra
This is one of Schumann's underrated composition, yet innovated nonetheless. Schumann wrote the work in 1849 and it has become a staple of the horn repertoire. The work is in four movements and lasts approximately 20 minutes or so.

Richard Strauss - Horn Concerto No. 1
Strauss has been considered one of the greatest German composers of all times. His status is quite high - up there with Schumann, Wagner, Mahler and a few others. So you ask yourself, why this piece? Strauss’ father was a horn player and he may have composed this piece in an attempt to impress “dear old dad?” Additionally, Strauss took horn lessons from his father and he played the instrument pretty well. All said, the work is loved by horn players from all walks of life, if for nothing else, because it’s there!...

Final Thoughts:
As I stated before, the horn is a lovely and beautiful instrument. Nevertheless, just like the clarinet, concertos are rare. All said, there are some horn solos in symphonies and other orchestral compositions that are almost to die for. (e.g., slow movement of the Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony has a beautiful horn solo)


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    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Hi Derdriu, and thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. It's always a pleasure hearing from you.

      The Mozart horn concertos are simple, yet lovely...

      Take care


    • profile image

      Derdriu 5 years ago

      John, It's particularly Mozart's D major horn concerto that I love!

      Respectfully, and with many thanks and all the votes, Derdriu

    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Hi Ruchira, and thanks so much for stopping by and commenting - always great hearing from you.

      Ditto...that's why you see that most people in the brass section (trombones, trumpets, horns, tubas, etc) are typically large, or, muscular type of individuals - mostly men - you rarely see women in the brass section. Additionally, the horn is such a noble and melodious that horn players think it's an insult to be grouped with the loud brass; nevertheless, the horn is a brass instrument no two ways about it.

      Take care and enjoy your day


    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 5 years ago from United States

      Great hub, John.

      I would love to play the horn but I am told that my breathing skills should be good 'cause it requires a lot of energy from the lungs to push and play.

      Working on the capacity of my lungs and will be handling this majestic musical instrument one fine day :)

      voted up as useful and interesting

    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Hi Chris, and thanks so much for stopping by.

      Wow...I've been in love with Brahms' concerto and, especially with the slow movement since I was a teenager. You're so righ "to die for," but then what of Brahms isn't?...

      Take care and thanks again


    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 5 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      As always John, you write a great hub here on one of my favourite topics. The French horn is a lovely instrument and it has featured in some memorable music.

      One, that I can think of, is the second piano concerto of Brahms. The first bars are truly "to die for".

    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Hi Vellur, and thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

      Yes, the Mozart concertos are quite lovely....

      Take care


    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Hi Mhatter99, and thanks so much for stopping by.'ve made a great point. ---And, speaking of Wagner, he even created the so called "Wagner tuba" which I believe is some sort of horn---correct me if I'm wrong---don't know the whole story....

      Take care and enjoy your Labor Day


    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 5 years ago from Dubai

      Interesting hub on horns, enjoyed reading. Great horn solos.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Good work on this. Thank you. Say horns, I personally am drawn to the antiphonal horns of Gabrieli.

    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Hi Audrey, and thanks so much for stopping by and commenting - always a pleasure!

      I do love the Mozart concertos as well and they're quite popular with the public.

      Take care and enjoy the rest of your weekend


    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      Beautiful hub John--Personally, I love the Mozart horn concertos and I am lucky enough to live across the street from a horn player --have a great weekend! Sharing!