Horn History + Historical Performance Practice

See also Hunting Horn


Original manuscript of W.A. Mozart’s Concerto for Horn in Eb major, K. 495 From the Morgan Library. In color.


National Music Museum
The NMM is located in Vermillion, South Dakota, and has a stunning list of collections of every kind of musical instrument, including horns.


Metropolitan Museum of Art: Brass instruments

Wikipedia article on the Horn - general characteristics, history, types of horns, repertoire, horn players, photos of horns.

Ancient Brass Instruments History to 1600

Hunting Horn in France (1600-1700)

Crooks and Hand Horn

Modern Valve Horn


Lituus - article by Mike Diprose + links on this horn ancestor

Corno da Tirarsi - 72 p. paper (2010; downloadable pdf) by Olivier Picon on the mysterious instrument that J.S. Bach asked for. Read also the intro by Mike Diprose “Return of the Corno da Tirarsi” on the site “10 Jaar De Barokensemble Swaen”. (Thanks to Michael Helman for the link).

Brandenburg Mini-Documentaries - online 3-part documentary about the Bach Brandenburg Concertos - great horn playing of #1 on period instruments (Anneke Scott is one of the players).

Forging Art and Science: The Rise of Brass Instruments in Medieval Art Music as a Result of Advancing Metallurgy - pdf file of a paper by J. Greg Miller

Google - Horn History - This come under the I Didn't Know Google Could Do That Dept. Content is a timeline: 1) a graph at the top showing the number of hits (i.e. "French horn history" + a year) that the search turn up by year, and then each hit (below) - text+link - is given below ordered by the earliest year first. It's not that the content is that good - it's completely scattershot - good, bad, and unusual - it's that Google could put something like this together, in exactly 0.22 seconds. And: you can ask for more information or different displays. You can ask for more images. Or more text. You can ask for the Google Wonder Wheel, which shows "French Horn History" in the center of a circle with lines going out to related subjects (which are links), to wit: french horn valve, french horn bell, french horn harmonic series, horn concertos, mouthpiece, brass instrument; on the right side in a narrow column are links on horn history. Or you can ask for standard view, just links. But the timeline is very cool. As Doctor Johnson said about a dog walking on its hind legs, it's not that it's that good, but it's amazing that it's happening at all. Organizing the links by year is very slick; we can sort out the relevant links for ourselves...

Selected Horn History Resources - bibliography by John Ericson


Dick Martz – Horn Collection
Dick Martz collects historical horns, and displays beautiful photos of his remarkable collection online. This is your chance to take a gander at what early Stoeltzel valves looked like, Vienna horns, many varieties of old piston valve horns, and many more, plus a great bibliography,


C.F. Schmidt - Dick Martz's article on this famous and influential horn. A Schmidt uses a piston F/Bb change valve: a bit awkward, but very fast.

History of the Horn - a collection of links, part of "Horn Player's 'Where to Find'"

The Modern Valve Horn - article by Horn Central

Nodal Venting on the Baroque Horn - article by Richard Serphinoff

Baroque Music Performance: Authentic vs Traditional - not specifically for horn, but of interest to all musicians

Ornamentation - Wikipedia article; see also: Baroque ornamentation (Dolmetsch); Trill

A Brief History of Horn Evolution - part of Tom Bacon's Cyberhorn Museum (check out the rest of the site!)

Antique Sound Workshop Guide to historical instruments; Historical Brass Instruments (modern makers of historical brasses)

Instruments of Mass Seduction II - Article on horn history, repertoire, and players by Frederick Kirshnit on Concerto.net.

A Brief History of Brass Instruments
A good short history by trombonist David Wilken of the U of North Carolina.

Early American Brass Makers, book by Robert Eliason

Natural Horn Businesses - Links to natural horn makers, etc., courtesy of Early Music Chicago.

The Horniman Museum of London includes a considerable collection of historical musical instruments. A search for "horn" turned up 50 results. Depicted are (without names here - go to the site to see what each is called...) some of the interesting pieces in the collection:


The Horn in Bach's Vocal Works

The Solo Works for Horn of Franz Strauss
A timeline by John Ericson, from a presentation at the 35th IHS workshop.

Joseph Meifred and the Early Valved Horn in France - by John Ericson (this is a name that is going to come up a lot in links to historical articles on the horn...)

The Natural Horn Today - excellent article by Jeff Snedeker.

History of the Horn Mute
Article by Nicholas Smith.


Vintage Mutes is an interesting site, a labor of love by Kid Dutch. “Mutes actually go back a long  way, maybe even to King Tut. The first mention in writing of mutes was in 1511, in Giorgio Vasari's biography of Piero di Cosimo,although the mute is such a basic principal it must have been in use for centuries before.  Monteverdi, in 1607 used mutes for the first time in a written musical score, in the Toccata preceding l'Orfeo.” Categories include Mute History, Mute Classification, Virtual Museum, Buy/Sell Mutes, Appraisal Services, Mute Manufactuers, Patents, Links, and more. Check out "Just Plain Weird Mutes" in the Virtual Mute Museum.


Russian Horn Capella - the unique Russian Horn Capella [band], where each instrument can only play one note, has been revived in Russia!

See also:

Russian Horn Bands - Musical Quarterly article - pdf (1st page free; pay for the rest)

18th Century Vuvuzelas: The Russian Horn Band - article by John Rice (pdf)

The Brass Players Museum - Antique brass instruments museum in Springfield, MA.

The History of Horn Playing in Los Angeles - courtesy of Howard Hilliard: photo gallery, audio clips, list of L.A. horn club repertoire.

The Stockholm Music Museum has a lot of good photos of antique instruments of all kinds, although you have to click on each item to view the photo.

Historic Instruments Worldwide - Tom Bacon's list of historic instrument collections


The Vienna Horn - a short history by Andrew Pelletier. The horn depicted is made by Czech maker M. Jiracek & Sons. Moosewood will make you an appropriate mouthpiece for your Vienna horn.

The Persistence of the Natural Horn in the Romantic Era - by Ken Moore. Thoughtful, well-documented study of the use of the natural in the later 19th century.

Elias Lewy and the First Performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony - article by Theodore Albrecht from the web site of the International Horn Society

The 19th Century Horn - a series of articles by the indefatigable John Ericson.

Berlioz on the Valved Horn - by John Ericson (excerpt from his treatise on orchestration)

Henri Kling and the Valved Horn in the Late 19th Century - John Ericson again

Oscar Franz and Richard Strauss on the Horn in the Late 19th Century - Ericson, John

The Double Horn and Its Invention in 1897 - J. Q. Ericson

A Bibliography of Writings about Historic Brass Instruments - compiled by David Lasocki, music librarian at Indiana University (and alumnus of The University of Iowa!)

On the Skill of the Viennese Brass Instrument Makers - article (pdf) by Jeremy Montagu


The omnitonic horn: read articles on it by John Ericson and Dick Martz.

Early Valve Design - by John Ericson

Early Horn Mouthpieces by Richard Seraphinoff

Edinburgh University Collection of Historic Musical Instruments. Not a big collection of horns, but some interesting photos. If you’re a natural horn maker, they’ll sell you measurements of the instruments.


Barry Tuckwell - French Horn Lesson Part 1 - YouTube video. A lesson in Horn History: conch shells, cow horn, alphorn, hunting horn, horn in the orchestra [B.T. plays Telemann Concerto - on the valve horn] . Italian subtitles! 9' 54"
Barry Tuckwell - French Horn Lesson Part 2 - continues the history lesson with demos: Inventionshorn, Beethoven Sonata (hand horn), Mozart No. 2 (valve horn), , 9' 38"
Barry Tuckwell - French Horn Lesson Part 3 - Mozart 2 (Mvt 2), Adagio & Allegro, Concerto Rondo 9' 45"
Barry Tuckwell - French Horn Lesson Part 4 - Concerto Rondo (cont'd), Mozart & Leutgeb, Mozart 1 I (valve horn) - complete with Mozart's comments (in the score), Mozart fragments, Bennett Sonata, 10' 01"
Barry Tuckwell - French Horn Lesson Part 5 - Britten's "Music for Tenor, Horn & Strings", Concert Rondo, 9' 03"