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The French Horn Unwound

Tom Service unwinds the 12-foot metal tube that is the French horn to discover its atavistic appeal for three centuries of composers, from Handel to Ligeti and beyond.

The French horn, elemental and atavistic, noble and heroic, has long held a special place in composers' affections. Just think of the horn writing of Bach and Handel, at once earthy and sophisticated, the concertos and chamber music of Mozart, the horns of Beethoven symphonies! Not to mention Schumann's supercharged Konzertstuck for four horns, or the central role the horn plays in Wagner's epic Ring - and in the orchestra of Brahms, Strauss and Mahler. And then there are today's composers...

Tom Service unwinds this 12-foot metal tube to discover its continuous appeal over three centuries with the help of natural horn virtuoso Anneke Scott and self-confessed French horn superfan Oliver Knussen, whose very personal concerto for the instrument was inspired by family and friendship, as well as the great horn writing of the past.

David Papp (producer).

Available now

29 minutes

Music Played

  • Julian Anderson

    Imagin’d Corners

    Performer: City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Performer: Sakari Oramo.
    • NMC.
  • François-Joseph Gossec

    Symphony in D Op. 13 No. 3 Rh 41 'La Chasse' (1st movement)

    Performer: Concerto Köln.
    • Capriccio.
  • Igor Stravinsky

    The Firebird

    Performer: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Performer: Bernard Haitink.
    • Philips.
  • Johannes Brahms

    Horn Trio in E flat major, Op. 40 (1st movement)

    Performer: Teunis van der Zwart. Performer: Isabelle Faust. Performer: Alexander Melnikov.
    • Harmonia Mundi.
  • Denis King

    Galloping Home (Black Beauty Theme)

    Performer: London Symphony Orchestra. Performer: Stanley Black.
    • Pickwick.
  • Donald Swann

    Ill Wind

    Performer: Michael Flanders. Performer: Donald Swann.
    • EMI.
  • Jean‐Joseph Mouret

    Suite des Symphonies No. 2 (1st and 2nd movements)

    Performer: Le Trompes de France. Performer: Academy of St Martin in the Fields. Performer: Neville Marriner.
    • Philips.
  • George Frideric Handel

    Io seguo sol fiero (Partenope, HWV. 27, Act I Scene 13)

    Performer: Early Opera Company. Performer: Christian Curnyn.
    • Chandos.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Horn Quintet in E flat, K.407 (1st movement)

    Performer: Teunis van der Zwart. Performer: Marc Destrubé. Performer: Staas Swierstra. Performer: Emilio Moreno. Performer: Albert Brüggen.
    • Glossa.
  • Joseph Haydn

    Symphony No. 92 in G major 'Oxford' (3rd movement)

    Performer: Freiburg Baroque Orchestra. Performer: René Jacobs.
    • Harmonia Mundi.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven

    Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67 (4th movement)

    Performer: Vienna Philharmonic. Performer: Carlos Kleiber.
    • Deutsche Grammophon.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Aprite un po'quegli occhi (Le nozze di Figaro, K.492, Act 4)

    Performer: Lorenzo Regazzo. Performer: Concerto Köln. Performer: René Jacobs.
    • Harmonia Mundi.
  • Carl Maria von Weber

    Oberon Overture

    Performer: The London Classical Players. Performer: Sir Roger Norrington.
    • Erato.
  • Robert Schumann

    Konzertstuck for four horns, Op. 86 (1st movement)

    Performer: Roger Montgomery. Performer: Robert Maskell. Performer: Gavin Edwards. Performer: Susan Dent. Performer: Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique. Performer: Sir John Eliot Gardiner.
    • Archiv.
  • Johannes Brahms

    Horn Trio in E flat major, Op. 40 (3rd movement)

    Performer: Teunis van der Zwart. Performer: Isabelle Faust. Performer: Alexander Melnikov.
    • Harmonia Mundi.
  • Johannes Brahms

    Brahms: Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68 (4th movement)

    Performer: Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique. Performer: Sir John Eliot Gardiner.
    • SDG.
  • Richard Wagner

    Das Rheingold (beginning)

    Performer: Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele. Performer: Pierre Boulez.
    • Philips.
  • Richard Wagner

    Siegfried's horn call (Siegfried, Act 2)

    Performer: Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele. Performer: Pierre Boulez.
    • Philips.
  • Richard Strauss

    Ein Heldenleben

    Performer: Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Performer: Daniel Barenboim.
    • Erato.
  • Gustav Mahler

    Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor (3rd movement)

    Performer: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Performer: Sir Simon Rattle.
    • Warner 5574242.
  • Richard Strauss

    Horn Concerto No. 2 in E flat major, AV.132

    Performer: Barry Tuckwell. Performer: London Symphony Orchestra. Performer: Istvan Kertesz.
    • Decca.
  • Benjamin Britten

    Serenade for Tenor, Horn & Strings, Op. 31 (Prologue)

    Performer: Dennis Brain. Performer: New Symphony Orchestra. Performer: Sir Eugene Goossens.
    • Australian Eloquence.
  • Oliver Knussen

    Horn Concerto

    Performer: Barry Tuckwell. Performer: London Sinfonietta. Performer: Istvan Kertesz.
    • Deutsche Grammophon.
  • György Ligeti

    Hamburg Concerto (3rd movement)

    Performer: Marie Luise Neunecker. Performer: Sibylle Mahni. Performer: Simon Breyer. Performer: Thomas Bernstein. Performer: Ozan Çakar. Performer: Asko Ensemble. Conductor: Reinbert de Leeuw.
    • Warner.
  • Julian Anderson

    Imagin’d Corners

    Performer: City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Performer: Sakari Oramo.
    • NMC.
  • Thea Musgrave

    Horn Concerto

    Performer: Barry Tuckwell. Performer: Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Performer: Thea Musgrave.
    • Lyrita.
  • Gustav Mahler

    Symphony No. 7 (2nd movement)

    Performer: Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Performer: Claudio Abbado.
    • Deutsche Grammophon.

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