Brahms, Academic Festival Overture, 3rd Horn

This week I’m subbing on third horn with the Shreveport Symphony, for a program that includes Brahms’s Academic Festival Overture, Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 (Vadim Gluzman, soloist), and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8. There’s some great horn writing on the entire program, but I’ve been spending most of my practice time for this concert with the Brahms as there are a couple of brief solos and several other important passages for the third horn. Here’s a look at some of them (all four horn parts are available on IMSLP). *All excerpts are for Horn in E.

In the first big tutti section the third horn carries the melody, along with the strings and woodwinds.

Next is a chorale section with the woodwinds.

The next section contains a favorite passage for audition lists (and not just for third horn auditions).

Listening to several recordings on hornexcerpts.org, you’ll hear varying interpretations of the solo at m. 147, often with a ritard going into m. 149.  The third horn finishes an imitative section begun by the clarinet a few measures earlier. The passage at m. 181 can be quite fast, and I’ve actually had success using T12 for the written high G. It just seems to give me a little more facility going down to the written F and E afterwards. This passage is actually doubled by the violas.

Next is a section marked “gestopft,” although as John Ericson points out in this article at Horn Matters, Brahms was probably not asking for a brassy stopped horn in the modern sense, but something more akin to the handstopping used on the natural horn.

And last is another brief solo, doubled in the oboe. The difficulty with these kinds of solos is to pick up the line where the previous voice(s) left off, carry the tune for a couple of measures, and then pass it along seamlessly to the next voice.

It’s a great piece, and I’m looking forward to playing it – along with the Bruch and Dvořák – this week.

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