Orchestral Horn Excerpts
A collection of horn excerpts presented as they appear in the original parts and performed in context by various orchestras.
Compiled and created by Daren Robbins.
Orchestral excerpt books, by their very nature, are an exercise in compromise. They offer in one convenient volume most of the excerpts that are asked for on orchestral auditions. They are affordable, portable, and readily available–almost any music store will have the standard books in stock. This makes them a great starting point in preparation for orchestral auditions. Yet, with all the convenience comes a host of shortcomings. They often omit important passages that are standard on auditions, and measures are often omitted from the beginnings and ends of the included passages. They are re-engraved so that they bear little visual resemblance to the original parts–line breaks occur in different places, multiple parts are sometimes combined on one staff, markings are differently positioned, and the spacing is different. There is also the matter of typographical errors that are seemingly inevitable in the re-engraving process. On some levels the visual differences can be advantageous–excerpt books are often easier to read than original orchestra parts. However, in concerts and auditions the parts are used, not the books; and "real life" situations like these are not a good time to experience the original parts for the first time.
The ideal solution is to study and practice from the original parts. That way you have all of the music, you can see the context in which the excerpts lie, and you're looking at what will likely be put in front of you at an audition. Until several years ago this required either buying individual parts from the publisher, an expensive proposition, or making bootleg copies, less expensive but time consuming. Fortunately, in 1995 David Thompson, principal horn of the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra, did a great service to all horn players by making available for purchase his collection of selected parts. The collection is titled The Orchestral Audition Repertoire for Horn: Complete and Unabridged and is available from www.thompsonedition.com. This collection is an invaluable resource and should be owned by any serious horn student with aspirations of teaching or performing. This volume remedies all the disadvantages of excerpt books, but necessarily ignores their primary advantage: convenience. It's over 1000 pages long and weighs nearly 10 pounds–not something that is easily toted to the practice room on a daily basis. Mr. Thompson wisely bound the pages in a three-ring binder making it easy to remove individual parts. But here again, you're losing a key advantage to excerpt books: an all-in-one volume.
In my doctoral dissertation at UW-Madison I have addressed the shortcomings of the various excerpt book formats and assembled an excerpt book that I believe to be the best possible compromise between the comprehensive but hefty Thompson Edition and the convenient but deficient and visually discrepant excerpt books. Along with this book, I have compiled a collection of audio recordings that contain several different orchestral performances of each excerpt. This website is the online version of my project.
For this project I have chosen 46 of the most frequently requested works on orchestral horn auditions based on lists in Douglas Hill's book Collected Thoughts on Teaching and Learning, Creativity, and Horn Performance (available from Amazon here) and Arthur La Bar's Horn Player's Audition Handbook, and reproduced the standard excerpts taken from the original parts. By doing this, I've provided the visual and typographical accuracy of the original part. I have attempted to include as many of the important passages of each work as possible, but unlike the Thompson Edition, this project is not an attempt to be comprehensive. I have included more passages than most of the standard horn excerpt books, but in some works (such as Ein Heldenleben) it would have been impossible to include all the important passages without reproducing the entire part, which lies outside the scope of this project. I have also tried to include enough material before and after each passage so as not to exclude music that might be requested on an audition, and to give the reader some context.
The most important and unique feature of this website is the collection of multiple audio recordings of each excerpt. I've chosen three to five recordings of each work so that different interpretations can be compared back-to-back at the click of a mouse. When choosing the recordings I tried to include as diverse a selection of performances for each excerpt as possible. I took into consideration playing style (e.g. Chicago Symphony vs. New York Philharmonic), nationality (American vs. European), and type of instruments played (modern instruments vs. period instruments). As I did with the printed excerpts, I've tried to include several measures of music before and after each audio excerpt to provide some context. However, students should note that this site should not be used as a substitute for listening to entire recordings, attending live performances, and studying the entire part. It is essential for a well-prepared horn player to be familiar with not only the excerpts, but also the role they play in the context of the entire movement or work.
I have also included several other features not found in other horn excerpt publications. One such feature is, when possible and appropriate, the inclusion of all horn parts for a given excerpt, even if not all parts are commonly requested on auditions. This will make possible the rehearsal of these excerpts as a full section when a full set of complete parts is otherwise unavailable. For example, only the 2nd horn part in Variation 6 of Brahms' Variations on a Theme by Haydn is commonly asked for on orchestral auditions, but the other three parts are equally interesting and important. I've included all four parts because I think it would be beneficial (not to mention fun) for a student learning the 2nd horn part to gather three other players and rehearse it as a section.
I've included as much information as possible about the location of the excerpts within the works to which they belong. I've given either measure numbers or locations in relation to rehearsal marks, and when possible I've given both. On this site rehearsal marks (either letters or numbers) are indicated by an underscore; for example, D or 12. It should be noted that numbers and rehearsal letters are not always consistent between different editions, and sometimes not even consistent between parts and the score. In Russian music the rehearsal letters I and J are interchangeable–different editions will use one or the other but never both.
The metronome marks I've included are those of the composers. In some cases the metronome marks appear in the score but not in the parts. I've included them here either way. The reader should be aware that composers' metronome marks are not necessarily indicative of standard performance tempi. This is most famously the case in Beethoven. Modern performances of Beethoven's works are often considerably slower than the metronome marks he indicates. One such example is the fourth horn solo in the third movement of the ninth symphony. Beethoven indicates a tempo of quarter = 60. Of the performances that are included on this site, the one that comes closest to this tempo is Roger Norrington's with the London Classical Players performing on period instruments (quarter = 56). The other three performances, done on modern instruments, range between quarter = 50 and quarter = 60.
This site does not make any claims to authenticity. In recent years publishers such as Bärenreiter have made available "Urtext" editions of several composers' works. These editions claim to more accurately represent the original manuscript than the older editions. However, for the purposes of this site I've included the older (and perhaps less accurate) editions because they are most likely what will be found in orchestra libraries and used in most auditions and performances.
I'd like to acknowledge some of the people who have helped me to make this project possible. The recordings were taken from several different collections besides my own. I'd like to thank Lin Foulk, Jeff Suarez, Abigail Pack, and the UW-Madison Mills Music Library for making their collections available to me. I'd also like to thank Steve Sundell and the Mills Music Library for use of the audio recording facilities. Thanks to the UW-Madison Orchestra department and the La Crosse Symphony Orchestra for providing many of the printed parts.
Finally, I'd like to thank Professor Douglas Hill and the UW-Madison horn studio for the encouragement they provided during this project. It is my hope that this site, as well as the printed book, will be valuable and worthwhile resources for my students and for other students to whom they can be made available.