“Extra” Horn Part on Respighi’s Pines of Rome

In a few weeks the Monroe Symphony Orchestra will perform Ottorino Respighi’s Pines of Rome, a piece full of brilliant, virtuosic writing for the winds and brass. There is already a great article on Horn Matters on the subject of the “Buccine,” or off-stage brass parts in the 4th and final movement, but there is also another, lesser known “extra” part for the 1st horn.  I’m not sure exactly when or why this came about, but over the years a tradition has developed of playing a modified 1st horn part in the 1st movement (“The Pines of the Villa Borghese”) between rehearsal numbers 1 and 2. The original 1st horn part in these measures looks like this (Copyright 1925 G. Ricordi, renewed 1969, excerpt here used under the auspices of Fair Use).

This line is a skeletonized version of the melody in the cellos, English horn, and bassoon. Sometimes conductors will ask the 1st horn to join in playing the entire melody, which looks like this.

As you can see, there are quite a few more notes in this added part, which I assume is meant to reinforce the cello and woodwind voices. Though I’m not strictly opposed to this idea, it’s important to realize that it will definitely result in a different tone color than the one originally intended in the score. The tricky part for the horn player is playing this agile line (quarter note = ca. 84-92) without dominating the other voices. If you ever perform this part, there are some great alternate fingering options to consider on the double horn, and a good case to be made for the descant or triple horn. I’m seriously considering playing this part (but not the other movements) on a descant horn – not because it is particularly high – but because the lighter tone of the descant horn might blend better with the other instruments, and because of the added fingering options. At any rate, if you perform this piece be prepared to play both the original and the insert in the 1st horn part.  If you aren’t provided with an insert but are asked to play the full melody anyway, simply track down a copy of the English horn part, which is in F.

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hey cool post! we’re doing Pines of Rome this weekend! W-S Symphony plus the youth orchestra side-by-side…going to bring my earplugs!! i never knew about that horn part, and i also wonder how that tradition got started. get a musicologist on that asap!


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