Brüchle and Janetzky’s “A Pictorial History of the Horn” Part 3

This is the third and final post in a series devoted to Kulturgeschichte des Horns (A Pictorial History of the Horn), by Bernhard Brüchle and Kurt Janetzky. You can view Part 1 and Part 2 by following the links. The first image is a set of horns from a Russian horn ensemble, a very unique type of horn choir.  Here’s some background from the text.

The “Russian horn music” was considered a kind of world wonder, and what is also wonderful, is what occurred to Johann Anton Maresch, the czarist court musician and leader of an (originally) sixteen-member horn group, when the Empress Elisabeth of Russia ordered him in 1751  to reform the imperial hunting music and to organize a new horn corps.

He hit upon the idea of having simple single-tone copper horns constructed, pitched like organ pipes, and of fitting out a larger team of musicians with them. Each one of these pitiable hornists had now nothing more to do, than to blow only the single tone of his horn whenever it was supposed to be sounded in the piece being played. The greatest difficulty naturally consisted in the razor-sharp attention to all of the rests. One can imagine how much patience and drill were necessary, in order to train 30 to 40 young huntsmen, until they were able to perform faultlessly difficult pieces with rhythmically complicated tone figures or fast passages. [p. 208]

“Twenty-one Russian Horns” (p. 209)

Next is a funny little caricature from the mid-19th century. According to the description, this picture is “Horn virtuoso Pohle, the first horn in the premier performance of Robert Schumann’s Concertpiece for Four Horns and Orchestra. Lithograph after a drawing by his cellist colleague C. Reimers, Leipzig, ca. 1845” (p. 230)

One of the most interesting photos in this collection is the “Radius French Horn.”

Radius French Horn by John Callcott (1801-1882), London

It is tuned to the key of B-flat. Through the selective connection of the pointer-shaped, telescopelike, extendable tube in the middle, the following additional keys can be produced (clockwise): C, B alto, F, D, A, B, A-flat, E, D-flat, G, E-flat, and G-flat.

Upon attaching the radius arm, a valve is depressed, which opens the new air passage. [p. 246]

To close out this series here is a mural from the late 19th century.

“Hans Thoma (1839-1924) Musical Ensemble, Oil mural in the beer-restaurant ‘Zum Kaiser Karl’ in Frankfurt am Main, 1887, detail” (p. 258)

The images in this series are only a fraction of those contained in A Pictorial History of the Horn, and any horn student or enthusiast could certainly learn quite a bit about the history of the instrument just by perusing this volume.  However, there are some weaknesses to the book, as the eminent musicologist Mary Rasmussen (1930-2008) notes in this review from the Music Library Association’s Notes, Second Series, Vol. 35, No. 2 (Dec., 1978), pp. 320-322.

I find two things disturbing about Briichle’s and Janetzky’s Kulturgeschichte des Horns: the price, which is currently about eighty dollars and, with the ever-faltering dollar, doubtless increasing daily; and the title, which, at least in its German version, implies interpretation, scholarship and breadth of inquiry which is in fact not present.  [p. 320]

Rasmussen goes on to point out some of the scholarly failings found in A Pictorial History of the Horn, namely a lack of depth in the authors’ research.

As for the authors’ claim (page 15) that “all of those sources were thoroughly exhausted which, in our estimation, contributed to the presentation of an objective picture of the horn down through the ages”-their search was apparently not as comprehensive as they thought it was. The iconography/iconology of the horn in western Europe from the Middle Ages on is much more varied than this collection of hunting, post horn, and Russian horn band pictures would lead one to believe. [ibid., p. 321]

Despite these criticisms, Rasmussen does have some praise for the book at the end of her review,  stating that “These reservations aside, Kulturgeschichte des Horns is an impressive volume, and one which should bring many hours of pleasure to those who can afford to own it.” (Ibid., p. 322)  For those interested in further iconography of the horn, I highly recommend Mary Rasmussen’s Musical Iconography, an excellent resource with tons of information on the horn and other instruments.

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