Excerpts of BBC Third Programme
Broadcast 23.7.1955 Pre-recorded 6 & 11.7.1955

Lecture recital on 'The Early Horn'

This transcription is by courtesy of Dr Stephen Gamble.

Dennis Brain, * Neill Sanders(hr), ** Jacqueline Delman(sop), Haydn Orchestra conducted by Harry Newstone,
*** Clifton Helliwell (piano and continuo)
Britten Serenade : Prologue played on 1818 Raoux hand-horn
Mozart Concerto No.1 in D K.412 played on 1818 Raoux hand-horn
Mozart Mozart Fragment from Concerto in E K.494a(K.Anh98a) (first performance in modern times)
Anonymous Two Hunting Calls (from a 17th-Century Cor de Chasse Treatise) *
Mozart Duet for Two Horns in B flat K.487/12 *
Bach Cantata No.208 'Was mir behagt' for soprano, 2 horns, continuo *, **, ***
Handel Minuet from Water Music *
Vivaldi Concerto for 2 horns No.1 in F PV.320 *
Rosetti Finale from Concerto in E flat
Schubert Auf dem Strom for soprano, horn, and piano, D.943 **, ***

This is the BBC Third Programme. We are now broadcasting a programme about the Early Horn and its music introduced by Dennis Brain who plays the solo horn parts himself with Neill Sanders, 2nd horn, Jacqueline Delman (soprano), Clifton Halliwell, harpsichord and piano and the Haydn Orchestra, conductor Harry Newstone.

Performance: Dennis Brain plays a 17th-century hunting call, which Etienne Nicolas Mehul (1763-1817) used in his Chasse de Jeune Henri Overture, 1st on a garden hose pipe, 2nd on an 1818 hand horn, and third on an Alexander

The instruments that you have just heard range from 1818 up to the present day - in fact - from the sublime to the ridiculous. The first being the most modern and cheapest, the second an old French hand horn with the date 1818 and floral pattern inscribed on the bell; the third being my usual everyday instrument, an Alexander. In case you are curious about the first example, the reason is simple: that I have included it to show that on any tube containing a column of air a series of notes determined by nature can be produced and as that fact is almost the point of this programme, it is not inappropriate that one should begin with a common or rather garden object (which I imagine has not been broadcast before) a hosepipe. Here it is again:

Performance: Dennis Brain plays a hunting call on the hose pipe.

Even though the notes are more out of tune than a more normal instrument, the ratio between them is the same: this ratio is called the harmonic series, though the term "upper partial" is perhaps more accurate. Only these notes can be produced by the correct application of one's own air stream passing between the lip muscles in tension on an instrument without valves, such as a hand horn, bugle, etc., or hose pipe. Here is the Series:

Performance: Dennis Brain gives the harmonic series

As you will have heard, the notes get closer together as one gets higher and in the top octave a scale is possible though somewhat out of tune to our ear today.

Performance: Dennis Brain gives the top octave

A modern application of this technique (that is playing the harmonics as they come and not correcting the intonation as one can with the hand) occurs in Benjamin Britten's Serenade where the player is directed to use the out of tune notes to give a particular natural colour and atmosphere to the setting of the Six Poems. Here is the Prologue from the Serenade which I shall play on my 1818 hand horn.

Performance: Dennis Brain plays the Prologue from Benjamin Britten's Serenade

The horn must have been played that way two hundred years ago. Here are two hunting calls of the late seventeenth century, taken from A French Method for Trompe or Cor de Chasse, which deals not only with the emission of sounds but also gives a dictionary of hunting terms on articles describing the art of hunting as well as the ailments of hounds.

Performance by Dennis Brain and Neill Sanders of two 17th-century hunting calls.

Here is a later and more sophisticated approach to a pair of horns: the last movement of Mozart's Twelve Duos. These Duos are interesting in that in some of the movements, i.e., up to the twenty-fourth harmonic, that is G above top C not specifying a crook to be used which is just as well, though it has led to the belief that they may have been written for Bassett horns.

Performance by Dennis Brain and Neill Sanders, horns, of Mozart's Duo in B flat No.12 K.487

The horn doesn't seem to have been used in the orchestra until the year 1705 when the Hamburg composer Keiser wrote for it in his opera Octavia. It is almost certain that Handel, who was twenty that year, was present at the performance. Just eleven years later, Bach used two horns in his secular cantata Was mir behagt and this seems to be their first appearance in his music. Now why horn and trumpet players view the parts of Bach and Handel with a certain degree of diffidence is that before the advent of hand horn technique (of which more later) the only adjacent notes available were in the top octave and so for florid contrapuntal writing that top octave was almost the only part of the compass that could be used. The sustained playing of parts at that pitch pose a very great tension on the muscles of the lips and make such parts (even in these days) more difficult than almost any modern piece of writing as the difficulties are in no way solved with a modern instrument.

Performance of J.S. Bach: Cantata No.208 Was mir behagt for soprano, two horns and continuo. Dennis Brain, Neill Sanders, horns; Jacqueline Delman (soprano), Clifton Halliwell, continuo

[? missing speech link]

Performance of Handel: Minuet from Water Music. With Neill Sanders (horn), Haydn Orchestra, conducted by Harry Newstone

And now some music which I think has not been played before in this country - Vivaldi's Concerto in F for two horns - possibly the only work of its kind, though I believe there is one by Haydn. There are three movements, the middle being for cello and continuo whilst the horns rest. Next one I think.

Performance of Vivaldi: Concerto for Two Horns No.1 in F PV.320

We come to the works of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven, etc., and for these a slightly more advanced technique was used. By moving the hand across the bell from the normal position, the pitch of the note being played is lowered which means that it is possible to fill in the gaps, though the more closed the bell the more muffled the sound, as this demonstration will show.

Dennis Brain demonstrates the use of the hand in the bell. Note that he repeats exactly the notes demonstrated in the 1952 Anvil Film in the talk preceding the performance of the Beethoven Horn Sonata Op.17 with the pianist Denis Matthews

By filling in the gaps a complete scale in the middle register can be played - not faked - this was the legitimate method of playing until the advent of valves.

Demonstration of the filling in of the gaps in the middle register. Note that Dennis Brain repeats what he demonstrated in the 1952 Anvil Film with Denis Matthews, pianist, in the talk preceding the performance of the Beethoven Horn Sonata Op.17

Mozart's three Concertos in E flat are all fairly well known. The less known is his first in D. This is interesting for several reasons: it has only two movements. The solo part has a surprisingly small compass - except for one note - only one octave sounding A to A. In spite of its limitation (or perhaps because of it) in a suitable key for strings, the Concerto is very bright with some exciting fiddling in the first movement and a sombre mood in the second in which Mozart, for reasons unknown, uses a plainsong. I shall endeavour to perform this Concerto using a horn in D without valves and with a hand horn technique. You will notice how the quality of the notes varies.

Performance: Dennis Brain (horn), Haydn Orchestra conducted by Harry Newstone. Mozart Concerto No.1 in D K.412 played in an 1818 Raoux hand horn.

That Concerto dates from the year 1782. Amongst its virtues is its brevity but the great Mozart scholar Einstein thought that it was originally longer than that. There exists a fragment of a movement - in E major - which Einstein suggests is the missing slow movement. But E is not the relative key for a slow movement in D and the tutti suggests not a slow movement but the beginning of what might have been a very big concerto and this seems as good an opportunity as any for giving it its first performance.

Performance: Dennis Brain (horn), Haydn Orchestra conducted by Harry Newstone. Mozart Fragment K.494a (K.98Anha). First performance in modern times.

And there, alas, the manuscript stops. Although that movement could have been played on a hand horn, I used my modern instrument with valves which fills in the gaps in the harmonic series with good notes instead of muffled. Valves are simply a means of adding length of tubing and so giving the same series of notes in different keys which when combined give a complete chromatic scale throughout three octaves. Valve horns seem to have been first used orchestrally in Halevy's La Juive in 1830 though they had been invented quite a lot earlier to that.

Performance: Dennis Brain (horn), Haydn Orchestra conducted by Harry Newstone. Finale from Rosetti: Concerto in E Flat.

[?Missing speech link after Rosetti]

Performance: Schubert: Auf Dem Strom for soprano, horn and piano D.943. With Jacqueline Delman (soprano), Clifton Halliwell (piano).