The History Of The French Horn Essay

, Research Paper

In Prehistoric times, the bell was pointed forwards above the head. It was

used to make a lot of noise in battle. It could only produce one or two

notes. Around the 1600s, shells and animal horns used for signalling,

particularly in hunting. These were gradually replaced by metal instruments

which were made longer in order to get more notes to give more

complicated signals. As they increased in length, they were coiled up to

make them easier to handle and to use on horseback. They called them cor

de chasse, trompe de chasse, corno da caccia, jagdhorn or parforce horn.

They were only used outdoors. In 1963, they began to use horns indoors

for special effects in an opera by Rossi. They were used separately from the

rest of the orchestra because of tuning problems and because they were

played very crudely. In between 1640 – 1700 Horns were gradually

accepted into the orchestra, but were still usually only for special effects

and often used on their own. Many aristocrats engage horn players in order

to keep up with French fashion and send their servants away to learn how

to play the “French horn”. In 1690 they began to make horns in Austria

and Bohemia specially for playing in orchestras. It was called a Waldhorn,

to distinguish it from a hunting horn. It is wider and has a more mellow

sound. In 1720, crooks were developed for horns to put them into

different keys. Before this, horns were made in different keys in one piece,

so a set of complete instruments was needed to cover all the keys used. For

lower keys, 2 systems were used – either several shorter crooks were added

to each other to make up the extra length of tubing or one long length of

tubing was coiled up. The second system was easier for the player but more

expensive as one crook was needed for each key. Around 1740, hand

stopping was “invented” by Hampel, allowing scales and chromatic notes to

be played over nearly the whole range of the instrument. Hampel did not

invent hand stopping but perfected a technique that had been used before

by many brass players to correct out of tune harmonics. Horn players

divided into two types – Corno secondo (who were expert in the use of hand

stopping in the lower register and in big leaps where the harmonics are

further apart) and Corno primo (who were expert in the high register where

there is not much need for hand stopping). Each type of player used a

different mouthpiece (large cup-shaped for corni secondi and small and

shallow for corni primi). From 1790 – 1870 Omnitonic horns developed,

incorporating crooks for all keys in one instrument, usually with some

sliding mechanism to select the appropriate crook. There were problems

with the mechanisms and with air leakage and these instruments do not

seem to have had any real influence on the way composers wrote. In 1830 ,

composers still wrote basically for natural horns, but increasingly added

notes only available on horns with one or more valves. In 1830 valves were

invented. In 1832 rotary valves were developed. In1898 the first double

horn in F and Bb was built. This was developed to give the characteristic

warm tone in the middle register and safety in the high register needed for

the increasingly difficult parts.As with most new developments, there was

some resistance to using double horns as the sound on the Bb side was

reckoned to be inferior. From 1900 – 1945 narrow bore “French”

instruments gradually replaced by wider bore “German” models to give

more weight of sound in the orchestra (trombones and tubas also develop

along the same lines). In 1960 the triple horn in F/Bb/F alto developed.


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