The Most Terrifying French Horn Entrance in the Repertoire

I loved doing the Ricochet podcast this morning—the highlight of my week. 

That Firebird entrance—you’ll know what I’m talking about if you listen to the podcast—is a killer.  In the video below, the horn entrance starts at 26:32.  Clearly, some sort of revenge against horn players. Stravinsky must have lost a girlfriend to one.  

In general, playing principal horn in an orchestra is an odd mix of boredom and terror. You sit there for 20 minutes, getting all cold and stiff. Then you have a scary entrance like that. Even worse than Firebird, listen to the opening of Bruckner 4. Total nightmare.

It’s good to start out playing horn for a living for 12 years and then do something else. For the rest of my life, I’ll always note that whatever I’m doing is easier because I’m not holding a French horn.

If you want more laughs, my team posted this set of old music photos. Ah, the ravages of time.

  1. Percival

    I was a horn player in school.

    Horn players are great kissers, but we hold our girlfriends funny.

  2. jeffp
    ParisParamus: Can anyone recommend radio stations that play a good mix of classical music; not all depressing; not all “famous classical”?  · 9 hours ago

    KMFA, a listener-supported classical station in Austin (note to Rob’s accusers: no NPR affiliation!), offers a nice mix of music and the option to listen online.

  3. Misthiocracy
    Arthur Brooks:

    In general, playing principal horn in an orchestra is an odd mix of boredom and terror. You sit there for 20 minutes, getting all cold and stiff. Then you have a scary entrance like that. 

    Is that better or worse than being stuck playing auxiliary percussion, which is a mix of abject boredom and futile absurdity. You sit silent for most of the songs, except for those pieces where you get to hit your triangle a couple of times, or are required to play a few notes on the glockenspiel.

    “I joined this outfit so I could play the drums! What’s this glockenspiel crap?! Nobody said I’d have to learn how to read music! If I wanna learn about Melody and Harmony I’d just go to a sleazy hotel lounge and buy them each a drink!”

    To be fair, whacking away at the kettle drums was kinda fun, but precious few pieces called for them. Usually I just sat at the back of the stage throwing scrunched up balls of paper into the tuba.

  4. Percival
    Mark Wilson

    Percival

    HAH!

    How many trumpet players does it take to change a light bulb?

    Just one, but the rest of the section will stand around and talk about how much better theycould have done it. · 3 hours ago

    Nice, but when I tell that joke it comes out funnier. =D

    One summer in high school I made it into all-state.  During breaks, all the trumpets would play the most challenging part of their audition pieces over and over for each other.  We’re congenital show-offs. · 3 hours ago

    Edited 3 hours ago

    Did you hear about the conductor who locked his keys in his car?

    It took him an hour and a half to get the drummer out.

    “This button.  Here.  Look at me…no…look…at me…”

  5. KarlUB

    Stop dissing on the triangle. As George Plimpton could tell you, it ain’t nearly as straightforward as it looks.

    For one thing, every triangle entrance is as terrifying as this horn entrance in the Firebird.

  6. SpinozaCarWash

    Nailed it.

  7. doc molloy

    You were brilliant. When are you running for prez? Then you can truly blow your horn.. Gotta get the book. 

  8. doc molloy

    I’m listening to the opening of The Firebird but am seeing a great big shark… Do I hear an underlying movie theme here? Perhaps an inspirational tone with more bite .. more up beat on the heart beat.

  9. Chairborne

    Honestly, this is a fairly easy entrance for the solo horn. It’s in a comfortable part of the range at a soft dynamic. Nothing nail-biting here, just count your rests.

    Great recording! It’s always interesting to see a composer conduct their own music.

  10. ParisParamus

    Can anyone recommend radio stations that play a good mix of classical music; not all depressing; not all “famous classical”? 

  11. Misthiocracy
    KarlUB: Stop dissing on the triangle. As George Plimpton could tell you, it ain’t nearly as straightforward as it looks.

    For one thing,everytriangle entrance is as terrifying as this horn entrance in theFirebird.

    I disagree, cuz the triangle player doesn’t care like a French Horn player.

    The triangle player just looks at the kid who was chosen to play drums and seethes in furious envy.

    Maybe that was just me….

  12. NotesFromUnderground

    Horn players have somehow managed to convince the world that their instrument is so incredibly challenging that we should all be awed (and thankful) when they manage to play right notes. This brainwashing has been so complete and effective that nobody dares to question it.

    However, if the trumpets screw up an entrance…

  13. Chris Hurtubise

    “Hold that triangle higher, Hurtubise!”

    [Sheepishly raises triangle]

    “Higher!”

    [Getting a bit angry, raises triangle higher]

    “Everyone wants to see that triangle — higher!”

    [Fuming, holds the shameful instrument at arm's length above his head -- the only instrument in the orchestra that is so profoundly rudimentary it is named after a shape]

  14. Percival
    Leah: Horn players have somehow managed to convince the world that their instrument is so incredibly challenging that we should all be awed (and thankful) when they manage to play right notes. This brainwashing has been so complete and effective that nobody dares to question it.

    However, if the trumpets screw up an entrance… · 0 minutes ago

    HAH!

    How many trumpet players does it take to change a light bulb?

    Just one, but the rest of the section will stand around and talk about how much better they could have done it.

  15. Margaret Ball

    I don’t think any brass players suffer as much as oboists. All oboe players I’ve known are obsessed with a fear that their reeds will fail them at the beginning of an exposed section.

    (Spoken as a flute player who was never good enough to be out of the background, and was quite happy to hide there; I have a viola personality and didn’t realize this until it was too late.)

  16. Leporello
    ParisParamus: Can anyone recommend radio stations that play a good mix of classical music; not all depressing; not all “famous classical”?  · 13 hours ago

    WFMT out of Chicago is very, very good:  http://www.wfmt.com/

    WBJC from Baltimore is also good:  http://www.wbjc.com/

    For something a bit different, try ABC Classic FM from Australia - http://www.abc.net.au/classic/.   Since it’s night there when it’s day here, the live programming you’ll hear is likely to be more interesting and not just old warhorses.   You can also listen to any one of their recent programs from any time of the day.  

  17. Leporello
    KarlUB: Stop dissing on the triangle. As George Plimpton could tell you, it ain’t nearly as straightforward as it looks.

    For one thing, everytriangle entrance is as terrifying as this horn entrance in the Firebird. · 3 hours ago

    Now that is true.  If a cellist came in late, the rest of the section would cover for him.  There’s no cover for a triangle player.

  18. Leporello

    Can we start in on viola jokes now?

    How about now?

    C’mon.

  19. Spin

    I told the dog story around the dinner table.  Your views on the moral argument are absolutely correct.  

  20. Misthiocracy
    Leporello

    KarlUB: Stop dissing on the triangle. As George Plimpton could tell you, it ain’t nearly as straightforward as it looks.

    For one thing, everytriangle entrance is as terrifying as this horn entrance in the Firebird.

    Now that is true.  If a cellist came in late, the rest of the section would cover for him.  There’s no cover for a triangle player.

    Sure there is: Just don’t bother.

    There were plenty of student band concerts where I just ducked down at the back and took a nap. The music teacher either never noticed that my part was missing, or simply didn’t care.

    I really shoulda taken photography instead of music.  ;-)

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