One of the most important aspects of playing the horn is having a characteristic horn sound – after all, other instruments can play higher, lower, louder, softer, more quickly, or even more slowly than the horn, but none can sound quite like the horn (maybe that’s why Robert Schumann called the horn the “soul of the orchestra”). For younger students to develop a good, characteristic horn sound, it’s important that they have good horn sounds in their ears, and that’s why I’ve put together this list of French horn recordings!
This list is not complete, and there are many excellent horn soloists and sections that I haven’t listed here, but these are all a good start. These links take you to either Arkivmusic.com, Amazon.com or iTunes.
I’ll be adding to all of these lists from time to time, so check back regularly. If you have anything you’d like me to add, drop me a line!
Solo French Horn Recordings:
- Radek Baborak – on iTunes – Former principal horn of the Berlin Philharmonic, now horn soloist. He’s done some very good recordings of little-performed or recorded repertoire. Some of his solo recordings include:
- Hermann Baumann – on iTunes – Former principal horn of several German orchestras including the Dortmunder Philharmoniker and the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra. He has a large library of solo recordings, including:
- All 4 Mozart concertos – Arkiv, (older recording) or Amazon(newer recording) or iTunes (older)
- Both Haydn concertos – Arkiv
- Gliere concerto, Dukas Villanelle and Saint-Saens Morceau – Arkiv or Amazon
- R. Strauss concertos 1 and 2 – Arkiv or Amazon
- Solo works for horn and piano – Arkiv or Amazon
- A collection of most of his solo repertoire (and a majority of the solo rep for horn!) – Telemann, Haydn, Mozart, Gliere and Strauss concertos, as well as numerous other works for horn and orchestra and horn and piano – Amazon
- Dennis Brain – on iTunes – Probably the first major, internationally-known horn soloist. His (recorded) sound is not particularly my favorite, and the recording quality is definitely low by modern standards, but his musicality is apparent despite these drawbacks.
- Dale Clevenger– on iTunes – former principal horn of the Chicago Symphony, Dale doesn’t have many solo recordings (although he does have many recordings made during his long tenure with the CSO), but he does have a couple of solo CDs.
- Anthony Halstead– on iTunes – One of the most successful and well-known performers on the natural horn. If you’ve not ever heard the natural horn (or not heard it done well), this is well worth your time!
- Philip Myers – on iTunes – Current principal horn of the New York Philharmonic. Much like Clevenger, he hasn’t recorded a tremendous volume of solo CDs, although he can be heard on many NY Phil recordings.
- Michael Thompson – on iTunes – Former principal horn of the Philharmonia Orchestra in Britain, Michael Thompson is a well respected soloist, orchestral player, and a pedagogue. He’s also put up a great masterclass of some of the most important fundamentals for horn players.
- Barry Tuckwell– on iTunes – One of the most prolific horn soloists in recent years, he was principal horn of the London Symphony before embarking on a long solo career. His list of solo recording is quite long and the diverse, but some of his better known recordings are:
- His Art of Barry Tuckwell CD has a wide variety of solo works from different periods – Amazon or iTunes
- All 4 Mozart concertos (he’s actually recorded them more than once!) – Arkiv or Amazon or iTunes
- Both Strauss concertos, along with some other of Strauss’ work for solo horn – Arkiv or Amazon
- Lots of Baroque and early-Classical horn concertos – several of which are quite virtuosic – Arkiv or Amazon or iTunes
- Radovan Vlatkovic – on iTunes – Former principal horn of the Berlin Radio Symphony, Radovan has many excellent recordings, although some are quite difficult to find.
Ensemble French Horn Recordings
- American Horn Quartet – A group of four Americans living and working in European orchestras. They have recorded classical concertos for horn quartet, as well as arrangements and original works with the NY Phil horn section.
- The London Horn Sound – 32 of London’s very best horn players got together to record a variety of arrangements – from Mozart, to Wagner, to Queen, this CD has just about every genre covered.
- The Vienna Horns – Similar to the London Horn Sound, the 9 horn players in the Vienna Philharmonic/Vienna Opera recorded arrangements of John Williams, James Horner, Mahler, Schumann, and more. And all on single F horns!
Orcchestral French Horn Recordings
You can find these orchestras (as well as quite a few others) over at the Arkivmusic Performer's Page.
- Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra – Founded in the late 19th century, this is generally considered one of the best orchestras in the world. They are self-governing, and the entire orchestra votes for the hiring of both music directors and individual musicians. The horn section all use the same model of horn – an Alexander 103, a medium-belled, brass, double horn.
- Chicago Symphony Orchestra – Founded in 1891, the Chicago Symphony has had a long history and tradition of excellent brass playing. Many notable horn players and teachers have played in this group, including Phil Farkas, Dale Clevenger, Chris Leuba, David Krehbiel, Max Pottag, Lorenzo Sansone, Gail Williams, and many, many more. The horns in this section are usually brass, medium- or medium-large-belled “Geyer-style” horns (with the change valve after the 3 “main” valves), a common massed-produced version of this horn is the Yamaha 667, and custom versions are made by Steve Lewis, Dan Rauch, Keith Berg, and many others.
- Cleveland Orchestra – Founded in 1918, Cleveland is commonly considered one of the top 5 orchestras in the US. This is due, at least in part, to the conductor George Szell, who was music director from 1946-1970, and was known as a very demanding taskmaster who would lash out at players for the slightest (perceived) error or mistake. The Cleveland section plays almost exclusively on the Conn 8D – a large belled, nickel silver horn known for it’s darker, rounder, sound.
- London Symphony Orchestra – Founded in 1904, this orchestra is one of the most often heard in the world – thanks to their constant touring and recordings of both famous orchestra works and scores for movies, TV, and radio.
- New York Philharmonic Orchestra – Founded in 1842, the New York Phil is the oldest symphony orchestra in the US. Under the direction of music director Leonard Bernstein (1958-1969), the orchestra rose to prominence thanks to Bernstein’s televised Young People’s Concerts and an extensive recording library. Until the late 1990’s and early 2000’s the NY Phil horn section played almost exclusively on the Conn 8D, however, since the principal horn Phil Myers switched to a Schmid horn, many (but not all) of the other section members have also experimented with the smaller bell throat, yellow brass instruments.
- Philharmonia Orchestra– Founded in 1945, the Philharmonia has incorporated the Austrian and German influence from some of its early conductors (mainly Arturo Toscanini, Richard Strauss, Wilhelm Furtwängler, and Herbert von Karajan) into its English-trained musicians. Based in London, it is one of the most-recorded orchestras in the world, spanning genres from classical, to movies, TV, and even video games.
- San Francisco Symphony Orchestra – Founded in 1911, the San Francisco Symphony has been gaining much more exposure in the past 30 years, thanks in part to its music director Michael Tilson Thomas. The orchestra recorded with Metallica in 1999, and recently finished its (excellent) recordings of all 9 of Gustav Mahler’s symphonies.
- Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra – Founded in 1842, the Vienna Philharmonic draws all of its personnel from the Vienna State Opera. Doggedly clinging to tradition, the horn section of the Vienna Philharmonic plays exclusively on single F pumpenhorns (also called Vienna horns), which are closer in design to a natural horn than a traditional single F (or double) horn. The oboe, clarinet, and timpani are also different than the instruments used in other orchestras. They also generally prefer to play music written before 1900 due, in part, to the traditional nature of many of their instruments.