A Guide to Testing Horns

Francis Orval

I have learned from various manufacturers and dealers that most people buy a horn by relying on first impressions or their "feeling" about a horn. I think that this is a dangerous system and many players end up buying a "dud" when the problems could have been found out before the purchase. The most common problems I have come across are:

1. A horn with a good sound but bad intonation.
2. A horn with good intonation but a bad sound.
3. Bad notes (harmonics) that "hid" during the testing.
4. The buyer's idea that "I have to adjust to the new horn."


The first step in testing a new horn is to know what you want. What type of sound do you want to hear and what type of metal produces the sound you like most? What type of resistance is necessary in a horn for you to play your best? How much weight can you hold? A stopping valve and a cut bell add perceptibly more weight to a horn and of course a triple is heavier.

These and many more questions should be considered before going to the "store" or especially before ordering a specially made horn. Also, you must decide on the importance of each one of these factors.

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As If Your Life Depended On It.

Michael Meckna

Aspiring performers are naturally curious about those who have become superstars. Do they practice long hours or were they born with a gift, or both? Did they make it to the top through perseverance or luck? Or is it simply a matter of knowing the right people?

The secrets of success are both surprising and predictable, as revealed by a dozen or so of the the top twentieth-century horn soloists. Their advice is a wonderful blend of what to do and what not to do. Beyond scales, lip slurs and mouthpieces, they also have much to say about the mental and spiritual aspects of musical performance.


The proverbial New City tourist who asked how to get to Carnegie Hall was told to "practice," but most of us want more detailed directions. Barry Tuckwell says that the secret of horn playing success is the same as for success at anything - hard work and concentrated practice, and he is echoed by his British colleague Ifor James , who urges students to learn to enjoy practicing for long stretches of time.

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The Horn

Keith McCaughin

for Hella and Hermann Baumann

One horn announces birth and death,
Heralds joy and strife,
One horn that sings with living breath,
One horn that sings with life.

The alphorn sounds and trees resound,
Emerging life draws air.
The hills in blissful prayer abound,
The hills in blissful prayer.

The shofar blares with youthful dares,
Maturing egos soar,
Oh taste the fruit Olympus bears,
For those who dare explore.

The conch shell blasts and life is past,
Subsiding spirits fail,
As storm wracked souls below deck massed,
Across the chasm sail.

One horn then blazes joyful praises,
"Life will never cease,"
Reechoing canonic phrases,
"Live in love and peace"

One horn announces birth and death,
Heralds joy and strife,
One horn that sings with living breath,
One horn that sings with life.

Originally published in THE HORN CALL Vol. XI No. 2.

Hella Baumann, wife of Hermann Baumann, died on the 14th of June, 1997. The funeral was on the 20th of June at the Evangelical Kirche am Markt in Essen-Kettwig. She is survived by her husband, Hermann, four children, and seven grandchildren.

Her classic lecture presented during the XIIth International Horn Workshop, "The Horn as a Symbol," is published in THE HORN CALL Vol. XI No. 2.

The Possum Photo

possum.jpg"PLAYING POSSUM"
Photo: Jane Steig Parsons

Originally published in
The Horn Call Vol XI No.2?

IHS Commisions a Major New Work

Beyond Autumn, a critically acclaimed work by Joseph Schwantner.

William Scharnberg

(Excerpted from the original article which appeared in the pdf November 1999 issue of The Horn Call)

Jospeh Schwantner

An important ten-year project has finally come to fruition and it is with great pleasure that I was asked to review the premiere of the first major concerto commissioned by the International Horn Society. The courage of the officers and members of the IHS Advisory Council over the course of the past decade, any one of whom could have bailed out on this project, should be lauded. It was a great gamble, but with the International Horn Society's mighty financial and artistic bow and Joseph Schwantner's true compositional arrow, we have hit the bull's-eye!

Thursday evening, September 30, 1999, in the Eugene McDermott Concert Hall of the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Hall in Dallas, a beautiful building designed by I. M. Pei, an audience gathered for a performance by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, including the premiere of Beyond Autumn: Poem for Horn and Orchestra by Joseph Schwantner. Also on the menu were Haydn's Symphony No. 82 and Tchaikowsky's Symphony No. 2, wisely programmed to contrast the premiere and afford the orchestra a good amount of rehearsal time on the difficulties of the new concerto. The soloist was Gregory Hustis and the conductor, Andrew Litton.

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