The Mozart Horn Concertos

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French Horn By: Please log in to see tutor details
Subject: French Horn
Last updated: 02/07/2016
Tags: french horn, horn, horn concertos, mozart, mozart horn concertos

As horn players, the Mozart horn concertos are the bread and butter, and an essential part of our repertoire. The Concerti were written for Mozart’s friend and horn player, Joseph Leutgeb. The works are very difficult to perform on the natural horn of the period, requiring lip trills, much hand-stopping, and rapid tonguing. There are four surviving Horn concerti written by Mozart and they are:

Horn Concerto No. 1 in D major, K. 412 (1791, unfinished)

This work is in two movements.

  • Allegro 4/4 (K. 412)
  • Rondo (Allegro) 6/8 (K. 514)

This is one of two horn concerti of Mozart to include bassoons. It is the only one of Mozart's horn concerti to be in D major and the only one to have just two movements instead of the usual three. Although numbered first, this was actually the last of the four to be completed. Compared to the other three concertos, it is shorter in duration and is much simpler in regard to both range and technique. The second movement, K. 514, was shown by Alan Tyson to have been finished by Mozart's student Franz Xaver Süssmayr after Mozart's death.

Mozart's autograph score contains, in the rondo, a strange written narrative in Italian almost certainly directed to Leutgeb:

“For you, Mr. Donkey—Come on—quick—get on with it—like a good fellow—be brave—Are you finished yet?—for you—beast—oh what a dissonance—Oh!—Woe is me!!—Well done, poor chap—oh, pain in the balls!—Oh God, how fast!—you make me laugh—help—take a breather—go on, go on—that's a little better—still not finished?—you awful swine!—how charming you are!—dear one!—little donkey!—ha, ha, ha—take a breath!—But do play at least one note, you prick!—Aha! Bravo, bravo, hurrah!—You're going to bore me for the fourth time, and thank God it's the last—Oh finish now, I beg of you!—Confound it—also bravura?—Bravo!—oh, a sheep bleating—you're finished?—Thank heavens!—Enough, enough!

A comparison between Mozart's draft and Süssmayr's version reveals that Süssmayr used very little of Mozart's material: b.1–40 of Mozart's autograph corresponds almost exactly to b.1–44 of Süssmayr's version, and the two thereafter diverge with only a few passages in Süssmayr bearing any close relationship to Mozart's material. 

Horn Concerto No. 2 in E-flat major, K. 417 (1783)

The work is in three movements:

  • Allegro maestoso
  • Andante
  • Rondo Più allegro 6/8

This is one of two horn concerti of Mozart to omit bassoons. It is also one of Mozart's two horn concerti to have horns included in the orchestra besides the soloist, though in contrast to K. 495, the solo horn in this one does not duplicate the first orchestral horn's part in the tutti passages. Mozart's good-natured ribbing of his friend is evident in the manuscript inscription "W. A. Mozart took pity on Leitgeb, ass, ox and fool in Vienna on 27 May 1783”.

Horn Concerto No. 3 in E-flat major, K. 447 (c. 1784–87)

The work is in 3 movements:

  • Allegro (4/4)
  • Romance (Larghetto) (4/4)
  • Allegro (6/8)

This concerto has clarinets besides bassoons and string for accompaniment. They bring warmth and light colouring to this most attractive work, and in spite of unadventurous support they partner the bassoons in many typical phrases. The main melody of the third movement is reminiscent of the theme from the rondo of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 22 written in 1785.

Horn Concerto No. 4 in E-flat major, K. 495 (1786)

The work is in 3 movements:

  • Allegro moderato
  • Romance (Andante cantabile)
  • Rondo (Allegro vivace) 6/8

The manuscript, written in red, green, blue, and black ink, was formerly considered as a jocular attempt to rattle the intended performer. However, recently it was suggested that the multi-coloured score may also be a kind of colour code. The last movement is an example of the hunt topic, featuring prominent tonic and dominant triads in the main melody, was to some degree dictated by the capability of the horn, and so was more closely allied with the original 'pure' characteristics of the 'chasse' as an open-air hunting call. The 3rd movement became famous when in 1963, Flanders and Swann set the Rondo to words for their song "Ill Wind" from the album At the Drop of Another Hat.

 

In addition to the four works listed above, there are two incomplete concerto movements, K. 370b and the Concert Rondo, K. 371, both from 1781 and both in E-flat major, and a 91-bar fragment of the first movement for a concerto in E major (K. 494a), written in 1785 or 1786 (Humphries 2000, 87). It is believed that Mozart wrote more concerti for horn and orchestra but only the four and the fragments are known to have survived.

 


Timothy Doyle French Horn Teacher (North West London)

About The Author

Hello!
I'm a London based Horn player and pianist studying BMus horn at the Royal Academy of Music.
I'm able to teach both Horn and Piano from beginners level to advanced.
I am a keen and enthuiastic musician and thoroughly enjoy teaching.




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