Looking for Horn Ensemble Music? – Check out the Kumamoto Horn Ensemble!

Kumamoto Horn Ensemble (KHE)

Recently I came across the website of the Kumamoto Horn Ensemble, a Japanese group founded in 2000 (see picture above, linked from their website). Their unassuming website is packed full of amazing arrangements for 4, 5, and 6 horns, as well as archived programs going back to their first concert. Many of their arrangements can be purchased from Corniworld Publications –  we’ve performed the 6-horn version of Finlandia here at ULM several times – but there are also quite a few available for FREE directly from their site. This spring we’ll be performing two of these: Shostakovich’s Festive Overture for 6 horns and Neuling’s Bagatelle for 4 horns and solo horn, both arranged by Takeshi Takahashi. They are difficult, but very good arrangements! To see the complete list of arrangements (free and paid), visit this page. In addition to the Shostakovich, there are many other substantial works, including Barber’s Adagio for Strings, several complete Beethoven symphonies, and Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben. There is enough music here to keep even the most ambitious horn ensemble busy for some time. To my knowledge, it’s the single largest source of free horn ensemble music anywhere. My suggestion is that if you like the free arrangements, visit Corniworld Publications and support the Kumamoto Horn Ensemble by purchasing one or more of their publications.



Friday Review: Operatic Horn-Arrangements for Horn Ensemble

Kicking off the Friday review series for 2014 is Operatic Horn, a wonderful resource for horn ensemble arrangements (logo at left linked from the Operatic Horn website). The arrangements are by Davide Fanchin, hornist in the Orquesta Sinfonica de Yucatàn. In a relatively short amount of time, Davide has put together an impressive collection of arrangements for groups of 4, 5, 6, and 8 horns. As the title of his website and publishing company suggest, many of the arrangements are drawn from the operatic repertoire, including famous excerpts from Tosca, Don Carlo, Cavalleria Rusticana, Rigoletto, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Turandot, Das Rheingold, Carmen, Hansel und Gretel, and West Side Story. The repertoire goes beyond opera, though, with titles ranging from Bach Chorales to the theme from Nintendo’s Super Mario Brothers game.

Although I’ve not looked at everything in his library, I’ve purchased and used several arrangements for student quartets, and am planning to program a handful of larger ensemble works this year  in the Northeast Louisiana Horn Ensemble. Mr. Fanchin is a skilled and creative arranger, and his settings certainly capture the character and spirit of the original works, without being unnecessarily difficult. Having done some arranging myself, I think that one of the hardest things about it is deciding what to leave out. Omit too much and the arrangement doesn’t really work; try to include every note, and it becomes very difficult, if not unplayable. The Operatic Horn arrangements I’ve seen strike an excellent balance between these two extremes, and on top of that they’re just plain fun! Whether you’re a member of a horn quartet, or a conductor of a large horn ensemble, it’s worth your time to check out these arrangements. They are organized in various ways, and the store can be browsed according to the size of the ensemble or the series (Opera, Sacred, Popular, Student).

Another obvious strength of Operatic Horn is Mr. Fanchin’s keen eye for marketing. The website and online store – created by the owner, I presume – are aesthetically pleasing and easy to navigate, and the ordering process is very simple. The engraving on the parts and scores is clear, and looks great when printed. So far I haven’t experienced any issues with paying for arrangements and subsequently downloading the files from the provided URL. In fact, I’ve had far more problems purchasing digital print editions from larger, big name publishers. My only criticism of the online store is that it would be nice to have access to a brief sample page from a score before purchasing it. This is a very minor issue, though, on an otherwise fantastic site. In addition, Operatic Horn has a Facebook page, YouTube channel, and even a newsletter!  Bravo to Davide for his hard work – looking forward to more of your arrangements!

Horn Ensemble Repertoire

This spring will mark the 6th season of the Northeast Louisiana Horn Ensemble, an ensemble made up of university and high school students, and community members. The group is a lot of fun to conduct, and we always have a good time putting together our programs. It’s one of the rare opportunities I get to actually direct an ensemble, and I look forward to working on my conducting chops each season. One of the challenges with a group like this is choosing repertoire which is both playable and challenging for all of the members. Picking repertoire and assigning parts is not an exact science, but it does take a bit of thought and consideration. With this group I usually like to program two or three fairly challenging pieces, often calling for 8 or 10 separate parts on each. From there we round out the program with 4, 5, and 6-part works. There is of course some doubling among the parts, but this is actually a good thing for the younger players. In assigning parts I try to take into consideration the age and experience level of each player (to the best of my knowledge), as well as rotating around the higher, more taxing parts. In some cases I will assign parts based on what a student might need to work on improving – for instance, reading bass clef. When I think back on my years in school, some of the most challenging music I played was in a horn ensemble. Though frustrating at times, preparing those pieces helped solidify my range, endurance, and many other skills.

Although our program isn’t completely set, I do have in mind some of the pieces for this season’s concert, which will be on Monday, April 8th at 7:30pm. There is a good mix of old and new, consisting of both original works and arrangements.

  • Jean Sibelius/arr. Takeshi Takahashi, Finlandia (6 horns) Corniworld Publications
  • Traditional American/arr. Steven Mahpar, Shenandoah (7 horns) Mops Music
  • Lowell Shaw, Selections from Fripperies (4 horns)
  • Gustav Mahler/arr. Marvin Howe, Zwei Blauen Augen (6 horns)
  • Giovanni Gabrieli/arr. Verne Reynolds, Cantos No. 2 (8 horns)
  • Alfred Newman, John Morris, Elmer Bernstein/arr. Steven Mahpar, Old West Medley (8 horns) Mops Music
  • Paul Basler, Harambee (5 horns)
  • Tom Kelly/arr. Patrick Hughes, True Colors (12 horns)

What are your favorite works for horn ensemble?  Feel free to comment!

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