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Henri Kling and the Valved Horn in the Late Nineteenth Century

Comments from an important teacher

John Ericson

This article is an updating of materials published in The Horn Call Annual 4 (1992).

Portrait of Henri Kling

Henri Kling (1842-1918) was born in Paris but grew up in Carlsruhe, where he studied with the virtuoso hornist Jacob Dorn. Kling was a man of wide interests, which included composition and conducting. He spent most of his career in Geneva, where he was professor of horn and solfège at the Geneva Conservatory from 1865 until his death [Morley-Pegge, 164].

Kling's Horn-Schule was, according to his obituary, first published in 1865 [Saenger, 41]. However, the work was not listed in Hofmeister's Handbuch until the 1874-79 edition (vol. 8 [Leipzig, 1881]), indicating a possibly later date of original publication. In any event, the Horn-Schule is musically progressive, beginning with easy études and moving to difficult études and orchestral excerpts. In general, Kling's commentary is very practical. The most interesting comments are those intended to set right certain misconceptions about the horn and its technique in his time.

Kling believed strongly that students should begin on the natural horn to develop a true concept of tone.

In order to obtain a thorough mastery in horn playing, it is extremely advisable to begin with the study of the Natural Horn, for the purpose of acquiring the true quality of tone characteristic of the instrument and which is attained by but a few hornists. They generally treat the instrument as though it were a Cornet à pistons or a trombone, thereby depriving it of its genuine character [Kling, Schule, I].

Fingering charts for both the natural and valved horns are not given until pages 21-23 of the method; the opening sections are devoted to the open tones of the natural horn. The majority of the method is playable on the natural horn; only the "Six grand Preludes" are specifically for the valved horn [Kling, Schule, 81]. The fingerings and hand positions given by Kling generally follow standard practices; one interesting exception for the valved horn is that written A-flat in the top two octaves of the horn's range is fingered with the first valve alone (with the fingering using the second and third valves given as an alternate). This fingering tends to be flat, but it avoids the longer second and third combination, which may not be as consistent in tone color and response. This choice could also represent a remnant of the technique of the two-valved horn.

Kling goes to some effort to emphasize the importance of the placement of the hand in the bell. It seems that many hornists, now that they had valves, saw little point to putting a hand in the bell.

The position of the right hand in the bell of the instrument should be regulated strictly in accordance with the instructions contained in this "School," albeit by the great majority of hornists in the present day this important particular is entirely ignored--one of the reasons, indeed, for the increasing scarcity of competent horn players. . . .

The accuracy of tone-production, as well as the proper holding of the hand in the bell of the instrument, impart to the horn its distinctive charm, which consists of a truly melodious and sympathetic tone [Kling, Schule, 76]

Kling's most interesting points relating to technique involve transposition and crooks. While he did briefly explain transposition, he did not recommend it as a means toward playing everything on the F crook. Kling very much favored using crooks on the valved horn. For simple transpositions in keys lower than F, Kling showed how one could think in terms of the valves making the crook changes [Kling, Schule, 28]. However, in the following passage he stated very definitely that he favored using the requested crooks in keys higher than F.

The assertion, which has been absurdly made in recent times, that the use of the crooks in connection with the ventil [valve] horn should be discontinued, as being absolutely useless, since everything could be transposed on the F-horn, is not worth serious consideration. Hornists who follow such mischievous advice by attempting to transpose all passages on the F horn will find themselves frequently coming to grief and exposing themselves to the ridicule of the audience. I advise the employment of the G, A, and high B-flat crooks whenever these are indicated by the composer. By their aid, the passages will be rendered with greater ease, more clearly and with truer tone than when they are transposed on the F horn [Kling, Schule, 77].

Kling then cites several examples from the orchestral literature to prove his point. The following examples are given from the Symphony No. 2 in D major (1802--mvt. 2, mm. 250-258, abridged) of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) with explanatory comments by Kling.

Symphony in D major, easily playable with the A crook:

Symphony no. 2 in D major, soloistic A horn passage in mvt. 2, original notation

Transposed on the F horn, it presents great difficulties, particularly to the first horn:

Symphony no. 2 in D major, soloistic A horn passage in mvt. 2, transposed to F

Kling later wrote a book on orchestration (published in 1882 [this is an update of the date printed in the published version of this article]), Modern Instrumentation and Orchestration, which explained some of his ideas on crooks in greater depth.

The Chromatic Horns in F, E, and E-flat sound to best advantage. If employed at all, it is advisable to use only the open or natural tones of those in C, D, . . . G-flat, G, A, B flat, and B high [sic], as the notes produced upon these by means of the valves are never absolutely in tune [Kling, Orchestration, 127. The ellipses in this quotation mark the omission of an apparent misprint in this passage].

While advocating the use of crooks, Kling recognized that the valve slides may not be long or short enough to be properly adjusted for some crooks. The slides can be adjusted perfectly for F, E, or E-flat. Other crooks should be used if required musically, but the tuning must be carefully monitored.

Kling, along with many composers and great teachers of the natural horn, was very concerned with the tone colors of the crooks. This notion of different tone colors due to the use of varied crooks seemed to have been fading in his time, and Kling reacted to it.

The majority of Horn-players as well as some orchestral conductors are of the opinion that the application of crooks upon the Valve Horns or Trumpets is unnecessary and nonsensical; that this opinion is totally wrong is proven by the great difference in tonal-quality produced by the different crooks, some affecting the instrument so as to sound thin and weak, and others to sound bright and brilliant. In this manner Mozart, in his wonderful G Minor Symphony, has written the two Horn parts for differently pitched instruments; it must not be imagined that their employment in this manner was due to any accident or caprice, but because he wished to produce a specially bright-sounding tonal-quality. . . .

The modern Horn-player who uses nothing but the F Horn naturally fails to produce this peculiar tonal-quality which cannot possibly be produced in as bright and brilliant a manner upon this instrument as upon the originally prescribed B-flat and G Horns [Kling, Orchestration, 127].

Another performing technique advocated by Kling is explained in his Twenty-five Studies and Preludes, which were published in 1881 and dedicated to Friedrich Gumpert (1841-1906), professor at the Leipzig Conservatory [Bracegirdle, 23. See also Gumpert or Gumbert?]. In twelve of these studies Kling marked sections of the music to be performed using one fingering and some right hand technique, in some cases adding other valves in these passages as well, rather than using the standard valve horn fingerings. This technical idea resembled one advocated by J.-R. Lewy in his études [see the article, Works of J. R. Lewy, coming soon], but it required no special notation using multiple transpositions. The explanation and examples given in the "General Remarks" which preface these studies clearly show his intention.

The passages over which valve numbers are printed (e.g., 1, 2, 3, 1-2, 2-3) should each be played totally on the natural horn that is created by the use of that valve combination, plus the help of the stopped tones where they are shown with the + sign. This way these seemingly difficult passages are easy to play. The following passage:

Kling preface excerpt 1--passage of notes mostly playable on the 2nd valve, except for a-sharp' which is marked stopped

played completely on the 2nd valve, sounds as if it were written for the E-crook, and played on the natural horn in E. Example:

Kling preface excerpt 2--same passage notated in E for the natural horn

Examples from Kling, Twenty-five Studies and Preludes, p. III.

Kling was not merely asking for alternate fingerings here. He wanted the student to use hand-horn technique whenever possible to simplify the execution of difficult passages.

Kling's technique of using crooks on the valved horn has its merits. This technique makes a lot of sense for a player trained on the natural horn, as were most hornists in the nineteenth century, in performing pieces from any period written using crooks other than the F crook on the valved horn. Not all hornists in the period followed Kling's advice, using the F crook and transposing instead of using multiple crooks. Some composers in this period, however, still intended for players to use multiple crooks rather than transpose in performing their compositions. Performers such as Henri Kling held staunchly to their natural-horn roots and clearly retained some aspects of that instrument in their performing and teaching in the late nineteenth century.


Lee Bracegirdle, "The New York School; Its Development and its Relationship with the Viennese Style," The Horn Call 14, no. 2 (April 1984), 23.

Henri Kling, Horn-Schule, 3rd revised and augmented ed. with German, English and French texts (Leipzig, 1900; reprint, Rochester: Wind Music, 1973).

________, Modern Orchestration and Instrumentation, 3rd revised and enlarged ed. (New York: Carl Fischer, 1905), translated by Gustav Saenger.

________, Twenty-five Studies and Preludes (New York: International, 1985), ed. Lee Bracegirdle.

R. Morley-Pegge, The French Horn, 2nd ed. (London: Ernest Benn Ltd., 1973).

[Gustav Saenger], "Death of Professor Henri Kling," The Metronome 34, no. 7 (July, 1918), 41.

Copyright John Ericson. All rights reserved.


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