in defense of the French horn

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Allan Kozinn writes in "The French Horn, That Wild Card of the Orchestra" from the NYT (h/t: New York Magazine), that:

"Orchestral instruments don't come more treacherous than the French horn, either for the musicians who play it, or, when the going gets rough, for the listeners who find themselves within earshot."

Kozinn takes aim specifically at the New York Philharmonic, writing that it "has long been action central for horn troubles:"

"...its principal player, Philip Myers, is wildly inconsistent, and the rest of the section is also accident-prone. [...] ...he cracks, misses or slides into pitches often enough that when the Philharmonic plays a work with a prominent horn line, you brace yourself and wonder if he'll make it."

I'd like to say "Ouch!" on behalf of Myers and his section-mates. When the horn is played correctly, I side with Aaron Copland:

"If there exists a more noble sound than eight horns singing a melody fortissimo in unison, I have never heard it." (What to Listen for in Music, p. 75)

but even when played poorly, I don't think that a note-cracking horn player is any more aurally offensive than a barking trumpet, a squawking clarinet, a blatting trombone, or a screeching violin. Anyone who has thrilled to a majestic Mahlerian horn sound--or even a decent John Williams score--can appreciate Copland's sentiment. (To give an idea of my fondness for the French horn, I once interrupted a fellow movie-goer during a showing of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom to exclaim, "My god, listen to those horns!")

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methinks you doth protest too much...

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on August 13, 2008 10:41 PM.

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