Instruments of The Orchestra, Part 13: The French Horn

This is a curious instrument because it is neither French nor a Horn. From WHENCE did the name came? Who knows? One thing is for certain, though; it is one of the loveliest sounding instruments in the orchestra because it can be mellow, yet biting in its timbre. Writing this entry reminds me of my days in Music and Art High school: my first girlfriend was a French horn player. She was my official coach for entrance into the wonderful world of kissing. Haven't you heard that brass players are excellent kissers because of the embouchere they have to use to play their instruments?:) Remember in my last entries that an embouchere (pronounced EM-Boo-SHER) is the method of positioning one's lips in order to produce a sound. Anyway, a French Horn is tuned either in Bb or F. It is also the second highest instrument in the brass family; naturally, the trumpet is the highest. I like scoring it in a number of ways. For quick, playful passages I like a few eight notes, sixteenth notes and variations. What automatically comes to mind is Richard Strauss' "Till EulenSpiegel". There is a famous French Horn passage that is considered to be a classic and is a major theme of the piece. Also, Mozart wrote the Five Horn Concertos which are definitive explorations of the instrument. How about that French Horn solo in the Beatles' "For No One" ? The French Horn has a great, expressive power in slow passages as well. Here are a few recommendationw for further listening: (a) Poulenc's "Elegie" (b) Richard Strauss' "Horn Concerti" (c) Brahms' "Horn Trio" Go to your nearest library, take out these musical treasures and enjoy! A note for Star Wars fans: did you know that ewan MacGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi) plays this instrument?:) BKT A second note: Dennis Brain, the principal Horn player for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the time of the legendary conductor, Herbert Von Karajan, was scheduled to appear at a Beatles recording session but was unfortunately killed in a car accident. He is also known for popularizing the instrument in the twentieth century and came from a family tradition of Horn players! BKT

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