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Famous Horn Concertos
The Majestic Horn
You can see and hear performances of these famous compositions by visiting www.youtube.com
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!...
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)