The Heart of the Orchestra

This term is going to be good. Sibelius, Mussorgsky, Dvorak, Elgar, and a threat of Wagner’s Mastersingers overture – what’s not to love!

I recently made some discoveries: the French for a French Horn is ‘cor’. One notable composer wrote that “The French Horn is the heart of the orchestra” The English translation of ‘cor’ is ‘heart’. Last night at rehearsal, with one of the new horn players alongside me, we were rehearsing Finlandia by Sibelius. It has two passages that demonstrate ‘being at the heart of the orchestra’.

Apart from the opening blasts from the brass, there’s a section where all the brass have the dynamic instruction ‘cresc. possible fff’. In English that means: ‘It’s impossible to blow this loud enough’. A challenge – but frightening. I wonder if the public liability insurance will cover damage to the stained glass windows?

Later, Finlandia retreats into a truly melodic section of great beauty on strings and woodwind. Part way through there are three bars and a bit (repeated four bars later) of horns that you will not notice (bum notes excepted). They are a simple descending passage in perfect harmony. They add depth and texture to the piece and demonstrate the true genius of the composer.

At the third attempt, we got it right, looked at each other. And grinned. That’s what it’s all about – making music.

David Worsley

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About rogerpinnock

Chairman of Ashford Sinfonia
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One Response to The Heart of the Orchestra

  1. Bendgo says:

    Which notable composer said that about the horn? I remember reading it was Richard Strauss, but I can’t remember definitively. I’ve been looking lately for a verifiable source.

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