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The Hunting Horn and the Trompe de Chasse

These two terms are both often used for the same instrument. The trompe de chasse first came to prominence at the end of the 17th century in France; the French court's behaviour was much imitated at the time and the instrument thus became part of European hunting tradition.

The hunting horn came in various sizes, depending on how many concentric circles were fonned by the body of the instrument. This instrument that is so characteristic of the hunt and the countryside began to be used in instrumental music at the beginning of the 18th century, as can be seen from French and German works of the period, Bach's 1st Brandenburg Concerto being one of the most famous examples. In this work and in many others for the instrument by Bach's contemporaries, the instrument is called the corno da caccia. Like the trumpet, the horn is limited in its melodic ability because of its reliance on the harmonic series, although a few more notes are nevertheless available; it has the same intonation problems as the trumpet in this respect. This problem was, however, solved during the 18th century around 1750 by one Anton Joseph Hampel, who discovered the stopped note technique. This consists of placing the hand into the bell of the horn, thus changing the length of the column of air and thereby correcting the tuning of certain notes and even obtaining several that do not form part of the natural harmonic scale. There is no mention of this technique in any source prior to this date, either in scores, essays, or paintings which could lead us to believe either that the players of Bach's, Handel's and Telemann's works had a special lip technique or that what appear to us today to be intonation faults were then accepted because they were an unavoidable part of the instrument. This being said, it seems that the instrument that was used for "learned" music then began slowly to differ from the hunting horn proper. The shape of the bell changed, its progressive widening making Hampel's technique possible. A system of crooks was also invented that enabled the instrument to be played in different keys (also sometimes used for the trumpet), these crooks being different lengths of tubing that were inserted between the mouthpiece and the body of the instrument, thereby varying the fundamental pitch of the instrument (C, D, E, F, G etc.) according to their length and allowing the horn to play many different types of music.

In spite of these several improvements, the horn was still to remain tied to its cynegetic musical language. It was undoubtedly for reasons of balance with other instruments that the horn's timbre softened and darkened in contrast to the brassy and brilliant colour of the trumpet, which had to keep its bright and loud tone for obvious reasons.

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