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Orchestral Tales: the horn

Paolo Pietropaolo

If you take the most famous solos for a given instrument of the orchestra, you’ll find a vivid character emerges — a character with a magical story to tell. That’s the idea behind Orchestral Tales, Season 3 of the award-winning Signature Series.

To hear the horn’s tale, click on the Soundcloud play button below. Follow along with the pop-up comments to find out what composition is playing, or scroll down for a complete list.

Read more about the horn’s characteristics below.


Orchestral section:


Patron instrument of:

Heroines, optimists, fearless leaders.

Horn-like fictional characters:

- Daenerys Targaryen, from Game of Thrones.
- Xena the Warrior Princess.

1 horn clip to watch before you die:

One of the most exhilarating, uplifting moments in all music is the conclusion of Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, when he asks the entire horn section to stand up and play as loud as they can. Guaranteed to give you chills:

3 immortal horn moments in pop culture:

1. The horn fanfare in the opening credits of the original Star Trek TV series.

2. The Rolling Stones, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, horn solo by Al Kooper.

3. The Beach Boys, “God Only Knows”, horn solo by Alan Robinson.

1 reason to play the horn:

You get to play some of the most soaring, epic music ever written in the history of the universe.

Famous hornists you should know about:

- Sarah Willis (who stars in the Mahler video above).
- Dennis Brain.
- Vincent DeRosa, Hollywood studio musician.
- John Entwistle, from the rock band the Who.
- Philip Farkas.
- composer Gunther Schuller.
- Franz Strauss, father of the composer Richard Strauss.
- Barry Tuckwell.

Pieces heard in The Horn’s Tale (in order of first appearance):

- Weber: Overture from Oberon
- Saint-Saëns: Piano Concerto No. 1, first movement
- Holst: “Venus” from The Planets
- Sibelius: Symphony No. 5, first movement
- Johann Strauss, Jr: The Blue Danube
- Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf
- Mahler: Symphony No. 7, second movement
- Dvořák: Symphony No. 9, first movement
- Wagner: “Siegfried’s Rhine Journey” from Götterdämmerung
- Wagner: “Haha! Da hatte mein Lied mir was Liebes erblasen” from Siegfried
- Schumann: Konzertstück, first movement
- Richard Strauss: Don Juan
- Dvořák: Symphony No. 9, fourth movement
- Brahms: Symphony No. 1, fourth movement
- Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5, second movement
- Stravinsky: Finale from The Firebird
- Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake
- Stravinsky: “Ritual Action of the Ancestors” from The Rite of Spring
- Mahler: Symphony No. 3, first movement
- Beethoven: Symphony No. 3, fourth movement
- Sibelius: Symphony No. 5, third movement
- Mahler: Symphony No. 1, fourth movement
- Courage/Goldsmith: Theme from “Star Trek

Meet all of the instruments.