French horn (from German Waldhorn – “forest horn”, Italian corno, English french horn, French cor) – a brass wind musical instrument of a bass-tenor register. It came from a hunting signal horn; it entered the orchestra in the middle of the 17th century. Until the 1830s, like other copper instruments, it had no valves and was a natural instrument with a limited sound scale.
Among its closest neighbors, brass instruments, the horn stands out for its particularly melodious, velvety and warm timbre, and its thoughtfully lyrical sound. Its distant predecessor was a hunting horn, as evidenced by the name itself: translated from German “horn” means “forest horn”.
Hence the first impression of the sound of the horn is associated with the listener with unlimited distances, nature, forests and fields. But the horn is also characterized by courageous, dramatic colors, they remind of the other side of the life of an ancient instrument, which in the Middle Ages gave a signal to the start of knightly tournaments. The hunting horn was held upright. On it it was possible to play only 14-15 sounds.
It turned into a natural horn in 1750, when the musician from Dresden A.J. Hampel lowered the instrument’s bell and, when playing, began to put his hand into it, raising or lowering the pitch of natural sounds. Then, at the beginning of the 19th century, a valve mechanism was adapted to the instrument, which made it possible to play the entire scale on the horn. The modern horn is a metal tube rolled into a circle more than 3 m long with many curls.
French Horn (About French Horn)
In the center of the circle is a valve mechanism that regulates the length of the air column and lowers the height of natural sounds. The left hand of the artist lies on the three keys of the valve mechanism. Additional 4th and 5th valves greatly facilitate the executive process. Air is blown into the instrument through the mouthpiece.
On an ordinary horn, the player can make a number of sounds of a natural scale.
The missing sounds of the diatonic scale and chromatic are obtained by means of a hand put in playing the lower, more expanded part of the instrument (mouth). Such sounds are called closed sounds. With a high horn structure, the length of the tube is shorter, with a low one it is longer. The most commonly used horns: F, E, Es.
To change the structure of the horn, they use additional bent tubes, which extend the horn tube and are called machines or crowns. Not every horn can take all notes of natural scale. The lower the scale of the horn, the more notes are available.
On a horn with three pistons or with cylinders, the player can get the full chromatic scale, without closed sounds. The horn belongs to the category of transposing instruments, i.e., its part is written in fret C, and is played in the fret in which the horn is tuned.
The sounds of the horn are hazy; they are noble, melodious, poetic. Of all the brass instruments, the horn has the mildest sound character. This instrument is one of the essentials in a symphony orchestra.
J. Haydn and V. A. Mozart became the founders of the classical concert for solo horn and orchestra.
In the scores, they emphasized the lyrical melodiousness of the horn, its ability to convey complete humor and enthusiasm for images.
In a sonata for French horn and piano, L. Beethoven revealed the heroic principle in the sound of the instrument, and he then singled it out in symphonic works. In Russian classical music, beginning with M.I. Glinka, the sound of the instrument was brought closer to the human voice, to the melodious utterance of musical phrases.
Soviet composers, inheriting the classical traditions, interestingly and inventively used the horn in their work. A concert for horn and orchestra by R. M. Glier enjoys great popularity among performers around the world. S. S. Prokofiev, D. D. Shostakovich, A. I. Khachaturian addressed the multi-color tool palette.
French Horn (About French Horn)
The French horn is used in symphony and wind orchestras, and also as an ensemble and solo instrument.
Currently, it is mainly used in F (in the Fa system), in brass bands also in Es (in the E-flat system). The range of the horn for the actual sound is from H1 (si controctavas) to f² (fa second octaves) with all the intermediate sounds in the chromatic scale. The notes for the horn are written in the treble clef a quint above the actual sound and in bass – a quart below the actual sound without key marks. The timbre of the instrument is somewhat rough in the lower case, soft and melodious on the piano, light and bright on the fort – middle and upper.