French Horn Excerpt Books

Get the parts! But get a couple of the best excerpt books too.

John Ericson

If you are really serious about learning orchestral works you must have copies of the original orchestral parts, not an excerpt book. "Back in the day" I spent years as a student Xeroxing and trading parts to obtain a complete collection, a most necessary item for anyone really serious about auditions. There are similar collections available for purchase, notably The Orchestral Audition Repertoire for Horn: Comprehensive and Unabridged published by Thompson Edition.

Beethoven 9However, with the growth of Internet resources, I recommend in general downloading as needed public domain editions of orchestral works, such as are available at Horn Matters. For the full list the link is below:

Note there that one featured link is The Horn Matters PDF Excerpt E-Book. A concise excerpt book series (in three volumes) based on actual orchestral parts in a PDF E-Book format, this free publication includes major French horn excerpts from the most important works for the horn in a format easily viewed and printed from any device (computer, iPad, etc).

For the initial learning of excerpts, however, standard excerpt books can certainly be quite useful. I recommend to my students most highly the Anthology of French Horn Music by Moore and Ettore, published by Mel Bay. The Anthology is to be especially noted for not only presenting well thought out and laid out excerpts, but for also giving good solid suggested metronome markings and other tips for every work, information that is alone well worth the cost of the volume. The only major shortcoming is that this publication has no Shostakovich, Strauss, Mahler, or Wagner excerpts.

For introductory versions of excerpts from those works my suggested resource is the Horn Player’s Audition Handbook by Arthur LaBar, published by Belwin. Published in 1986, this book includes in addition to Shostakovich 5** [see the note at the end of this article] major excerpts from Strauss, Mahler, and Wagner. Combined with all the other standard works included and the list of terms at the back it is a great resource for initial excerpt study, although in some cases it does not give you  quite what you need from the works included (such as only half of the excerpt at the opening of Tchaik 4).

A final book to mention that is also a good, comprehensive resource is Orchester Probespiel (Test Pieces for Orchestral Auditions) published by Peters. It is very European in relation to what works were selected and has some quirky choices in editing (such as missing the first bar of the third movement excerpt from Beethoven 6), but covers a good selection of major works that are in the public domain (no Shostakovich), including a number of operatic works and a long section of Wagner tuba excerpts (!) at the back.

The Mel Bay Anthology and the LaBar make a good combination for introductory excerpt study, but any of the above books can work well with an advancing horn student, especially when supplemented with the actual orchestral parts such as found in the Horn Matters online resource or the classic Thompson Edition collection.

Copyright John Ericson. All rights reserved. Updated 2015.

**A note on legally obtaining excerpts from Shostakovich 5. This popular work, frequently asked on horn auditions, was in the public domain in the west for many years but the copyright was restored in 1995 and upheld in a case that went all the way to the United States Supreme Court in 2012. Any new or newly revised excerpt publication (since 1995) will need to fully comply with copyright law for this or any other work under copyright (such as for example some works of Ravel that are frequently asked on auditions), including paying significant fees to the copyright holder accompanied with the required copyright notices with the music.

Turning to your options for legally obtaining this excerpt today, among "old standard" horn excerpt publications the LaBar book, Thompson Edition, volume 2 of the Chambers excerpt books, and volume 2 of the Pottag excerpt books contain legal versions of Shostakovich 5 (with Pottag not including the critical low horn excerpt). All of these were published prior to 1995. Among newer publications, the Randy Gardner low horn book and the Eli Epstein book contain legal versions of Shostakovich 5 complete with proper copyright notices indicating they paid the appropriate fees to the copyright holder. There are "other sources" out there, but if it was published after 1995 and does not have the copyright notice published prominently with the excerpt it has in fact been published illegally, be it a print or an online publication. Some may argue differently, but the fact is that there is no "fair use" for excerpts of copyrighted musical works in books that are for sale or for online publications that reduce in any way the value of the copyrighted work to the copyright holder.

Directing this final comment toward horn teachers out there, it is up to each of us to set a good example for others in regard to copyright law. For this reason I would particularly commend and recommend the use of the Gardner and Epstein sources for study of Shostakovich 5, they are completely legal and follow the spirit and letter of current copyright law.



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