Busy December and Interesting Transposition

A while ago I mentioned that October was a packed month for me. Well, after a brief respite in November, December has arrived in full swing with lots of upcoming performances.  I’m looking forward to all of this playing, but I have had to be especially efficient in my practicing to make sure I have everything ready to go for this month.  Here’s a rundown of what’s happening.

In addition to these performances there are the usual final exams to be graded, brass juries, and a performance with an ad hoc orchestra at a large church in Shreveport, LA.  The Rapides Symphony concert was this past Sunday afternoon, and went very well.  In addition to several traditional holiday  selections, we played Mozart’s Overture to The Marriage of Figaro, and Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks. I was playing second horn on this concert, and had a great time.  There are some really nice parts in the Handel, and the first horn part in particular can be quite taxing.  RSO Principal Horn Rod Lauderdale did a fantastic job.

As I was practicing the part last week I noticed an interesting peculiarity, and it prompted some discussion in the horn section at the first rehearsal.  Looking at this excerpt from the second horn part (this part is downloaded from the IMSLP, but the orchestra’s parts had the same peculiarity), do you notice anything unusual?  Hint: The part is for Horn in C.

Notice the key signature?  A bit odd for Horn in C, and considering that the whole piece is in the key of D major, one would expect the horn parts to be for Horn in D.  This wasn’t a huge problem, but I did have to spend a bit more time working out the transpositions, as reading Horn in C with two sharps in the key didn’t quite lay under my fingers as well as regular C horn.  I’m not really sure how these parts ended up being printed in this transposition, and I’m positive that the original parts would have been written for natural horns in D.  In discussing this with the other horn players we came to the conclusion that this was most likely a publisher’s misguided attempt to put the parts in the “original” key – since the score was notated at concert pitch (C), they probably figured that the horn parts should be in C as well, regardless of the actual key of the piece.

Has anyone else out there encountered a similar situation with either this piece or others like it?  Can anyone offer an alternative explanation for notating the part in such a way?

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Yes, back in the early ’80s, with Betulia Liberata by Carissimi (I think it was). Denis Arnold had put the score and parts together from the original, and declared that the horn parts as he’d transcribed them were what was in the original score. It made a simple task a lot harder. I forget what key the piece is in (as well as who wrote it).


It’s coming back to me. I’m thinking now that the composer was Jomelli. By ‘original score’, I mean ‘manuscript’, or at best original printed edition.


december is busy! at least you don’t have to worry about stocking up on reeds! yes, santa’s workshop is going full swing 😛


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