Introducing the Baroque Horn

So in Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.1, you’ll
find the the horn players of the OAE probably using the most primitive set up of any of
the ones the most primitive set up of any of the ones we use in the OAE. This is a new
instrument I’ve had made, it’s copied after an EichentopfI from Leipzig in 1738 – a
lovely copy made by Luke Woodhead. Although the instrument is is still quite long, it’s
actually quite a small bore and the bell is very small. One of the upshots of this is
that we don’t play with the hand in the bell like you would do in 19th century and in modern
French Horn music. This makes the horn make quite a direct, unfiltered sound. It also
has the effect that you can’t really correct the pitches very much and given that the natural
series of notes we have available to us is the following… *PLAYS HORN* As you can hear,
that natural series of notes is very widely spaced at the bottom and gets closer and closer
together at the top. So the options you have if you’re writing music that includes horns,
is that you can either write sort of very simple tonic fan fares in the middle register.
*PLAYS HORN* Or more intricate, complicated music if you write it high up. And Bach uses
both of these in the Brandenburg Concerto. *PLAYS HORN* So the shrillness and directness
and the sort of high tesitura of the Baroque horn is something that disappeared once players
started putting their hands in the bell of the instrument and that really ushered in
the modern era for the sound of the horn.