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.

Brüchle and Janetzky’s “A Pictorial History of the Horn” Part 2

This is the second in a three-part series devoted to selections from Kulturgeschichte des Horns (“A Pictorial History of the Horn”) by Kurt Janetzky and Bernhard Brüchle (English translation by Cecilia Baumann).  You can check out the first part here. In this part we’ll be looking at images from the 18th and early 19th centuries.  As in Part 1, simply click on the images to view them up close.

First is a “Waldhorn of Adam Buchschwinder, Ellwangen, 1745 Key: ~A-flat” (p. 101)

Next is an “Inventionshorn with six couplers by Carl Gottlob Schuster, Neukirchen ca. 1800” (p. 165)

Third is “‘Holding the Horn,’ a lithograph by Pointurier from an anonymous French method book for horn, ca. 1830” (p. 176) It is interesting to note how consistent (roughly) right hand position has remained in the last 180 years.

And finally here is a very nice color portrait of Frédéric-Nicolas Duvernoy (1765-1835)

Anonymous portrait, oil on canvas

Duvernoy was one of the most reknowned instrumental soloists of the Paris Opera, as well as professor and first solo hornist at the Conservatory [Plate VIII, between pp. 176-177]

That’s the end of part two.  In part three we’ll wrap things up with some images from the later 19th century,  as well as a review of the book by musicologist Mary Rasmussen.

Brüchle and Janetzky’s “A Pictorial History of the Horn” Part 1

As a visual learner, I really enjoy looking at pictures of various horn designs and images of horns throughout history.  Besides the internet, one of my favorite resources for these images is Kulturgeschichte des Horns (“A Pictorial History of the Horn”) by Kurt Janetzky and Bernhard Brüchle (English translation by Cecilia Baumann). Published by Hans Schneider in 1976, this unique book is now out of print, but occasionally a used copy will show up on Amazon. If you happen to see a copy for sale and it won’t bankrupt you, go ahead and buy it as it really is a neat book.  Fortunately, our university library owns a copy, as do many other libraries I’m sure. This three-part series of posts will be devoted to some of the images found in this book. As you read through this post, you can click on the images to view them at a larger size. In the Foreword, the authors spell out the purpose of this volume.

The sole purpose of a work such as this should be to present the horn in a clear and faithful manner through pictures and words, concentrating on that which is essential.

With this end in view, then, we have striven to make a judiciously limited, painstaking selection from among the countless pictures, reports, letters, and other documents collected over the years with the true zeal of the enthusiast. It is our intention that this book should serve to provide the reader with a practical, comprehensive, but above all visually impressive picture of the horn. No one should be forced in a didactic way to any preconceived view; rather, it should be left to the reader to experience the horn on his own and form his own image of it. [p. 13]

In this first post we’ll look at images from ancient times up through the Renaissance.  First is the ubiquitous conch horn.

Quoting from the text, this is a “Shell of a tropical marine gastropod (genus Murex). The tip is broken off to form a crude blowing hole. Length: 17cm. Found in the Antilles (Hatiti)” (p. 21) Check out the website Lark in the Morning for details on purchasing your own conch horn.

Next is the Scandinavian luur.  Here’s some more information on the Luur, again quoting from A Pictorial History of the Horn.

During the past century a number of horn-like instruments, which usually belonged together in pairs, were found in the western Baltic area, especially in Denmark, but also in Iceland, Sweden, Mecklenburg, Pomerania, and Hannover. These were the lurrs of the Nordic Bronze Age, which, perhaps as early as the second millennium B.C. (possibly, however, not until more recent times), sank into the bog and were amazingly well preserved. All have in common a perfectly conoidal S or question-mark form curing either to the left or to the right. The slightly conical, thin-walled tube, three to four meters long, was cast out of bronze in separate pieces with admirable craftsmanship and artistically fitted together with decorative ring clamps. [p. 32]

“One of the two luurs of Tellerup on the island of Fyn (Denmark), a horn from the Nordic Bronze Age (5th period)” (p. 33)

Next is the oliphant.  Here is a brief description of this ancient type of horn, courtesy of Brüchle and Janetzky.

The oliphants, which were artistically carved from hollowed-out elephant tusks, were the hunting horns of medieval knighthood. The first pieces came to Europe from Byzantium at the end of the tenth century, and their ownership or use was for centuries the unlimited privilege of the high nobility. As [sic] signalling instruments their capability was modest; usually they produced only a single tone, but sometimes two, or in rare cases, at most three tones. The legendary range of its sound was usually greatly exaggerated with the intention of making the strength of the blower seem more heroic. [p. 65]

“Oliphant from Southern Italy (Salerno), ivory, 11th century.” (p. 63)

The last image for part one of this series is by the Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528).

“Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) ‘Battle between Tritons and Nereids’ Pen-and-ink drawing, 29.2 x 38.2 cm” (p. 22)

If you enjoyed these excerpts from A Pictorial History of the Horn, see if your local library has a copy – it really is a fun read. Check back soon for Parts 2 and 3.

%d bloggers like this: