Even though it feels like one of the strangest Spring semesters just ended, it’s already time for students (and teachers) to start getting geared up for the upcoming Fall.
I know that in my own teaching, there were lots of things that I wanted to cover that I just ran out of time for. One of the things that I like to cover toward the end of the Spring (for my more advanced students) are common orchestral excerpts for the French horn.
However, in the hopes of maybe putting some content out there that’s useful to both my students and others, I’ve decided to share some of my favorite excerpt resources.
Online Excerpt Resources
This is probably the most well-known resource for French horn orchestral excerpts online there is.
HornExcerpts.org used to be its own website (created by Daren Robbins as a doctoral dissertation project), but a few years ago it came under the management of the International Horn Society. It can still be accessed by non-IHS members though.
It consists of 46 of the most popular orchestral excerpts from the orchestral literature, with the appropriate sheet music excerpted from the original horn part. In addition to the sheet music, each excerpt also features several different orchestras playing the highlighted excerpt.
While having the sheet music and audio clip on the same page is convenient, I find that hearing several different orchestras performing the same excerpt back-to-back is a great way to become familiar with the fundamental style(s) of a composer/piece.
It’s not only a great way to hear an excerpt in its immediate context, it’s also a great way for younger players to become familiar with lots of excerpts in a short amount of time.
Although the text on this site is entirely in German, it’s relatively easy to navigate even if you don’t speak German.
If you visit the Probespiel landing page, the right-hand column has links to navigate to music for “hohes” (high) horn and “tiefes” (low) horn auditions. This is generally how auditions are divided in Germany – rather than for a specific position. There’s also a separate page for 2-horn audition excerpts (“für 2 Hörner”).
One of the great things about this resource, is instead of using the actual part (like HornExcerpts does), these excerpts have been re-engraved using some sort of music notation software. This means that some things are much easier to read (Don Quixote, for example).
There are no audio clips provided, but there are lots of excerpts that don’t normally appear on American audition lists, as well as quite a bit of opera.
Which leads me to..
Another site that started as a dissertation (this time by Ericka Grodrian), this one focuses on the very-underserved topic of horn operatic excerpts.
This project must have been a massive undertaking, with the challenges that come with getting some of these opera parts! This site features excerpts from 32 operas, sometimes only a single excerpt, but others have quite a few excerpts. It’s worth noting that some of these operatic excerpts (Rossini’s Barber of Seville, or the famous horn calls from Wagner’s Siegfried) also commonly appear on orchestral auditions.
Like HornExcerpts, this site contains not only parts from the original parts, but also recordings. This is even more beneficial than for symphonic excerpts, since it can be very time consuming to find a 30-second excerpt in a 2-hour (or more!) opera.
Orchestral Excerpts Books
If you prefer paper resources, there are a few good horn excerpt compilations worth looking into. The two most common books are:
Like the sites above, these only provide excerpts from various works, and often include even less context than the parts shown on HornExcerpts or HornOperaProject.
However, they do provide some nice stylistic and interpretation advice for each piece and excerpt, so if you’re unfamiliar with the differences between Brahms and Beethoven, these books can give you a few helpful pointers. Due to copyright issues, it is missing some rather important things (no Strauss or Shostakovich), but they are still valuable to have as a resource.
If you’re serious about excerpts, though, there’s one book that far outshines the others.
This has to be the massive Thompson Edition – Orchestral Repertoire for Horn.
This collections features over 1,000 pages of complete parts, and many pieces contain both the Horn 1 and Horn 2 (and sometimes more) parts. This collection just can’t be beat by other books when it comes to comprehensiveness.
If you’ve got a good printer (or read music on a device), though, there’s one other option.
Digital Excerpt Collections
These collections include all complete parts of all the works on each CD. This makes these useful both for auditions and if you’re hired to play 7th Horn on Mahler 1 and you want to look at the part ahead of time.
Each CD collection contains lots of music and is only about $15-$20. For example, volume 1 contains all parts to the following works:
- AUBER Fra Diavolo Overture
- BEETHOVEN Symphonies 1-9, Piano Concertos 1-5, Violin Concerto, Overtures (36 works)
- BELLINI Norma Overture
- BERLIOZ Symphonie Fantastique, Benvenuto Cellini Overture, Roman Carnival Overture
- CHERUBINI Medea Overture, Anacréon Overtures
- DONIZETTI Daughter of the Regiment Overture, Don Pasquale Overture
- MENDELSSOHN Symphonies 1-5, Piano Concertos 1-2, Violin Concerto, Elijah, Hebrides Overture, Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture and Incidental Music, Ruy Blas Overture
- SCHUBERT Symphonies 1-6, 8, 9, Fierrabras Overture, Rosamunde Overture
- WEBER Symphony No. 1, Clarinet Concerto, Euryanthe Overture, Der Freischütz Overture, Oberon Overture
Check out all of the Orchestral Musician Collections here.