Philip Farkas (March 5, 1914 – December 21, 1992) was the principal horn player in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for many years; he left in 1960 to join the music faculty at Indiana University Bloomington. He wrote The Art of French Horn Playing which is considered by many to be the seminal work for horn players. Other books that he wrote include The Art of Brass Playing, The Art of Musicianship, and A Photo Study of 40 Virtuoso Horn Players' Embouchures. Nancy Jordan Fako has also written a biography about his life: Philip Farkas and His Horn - A Happy, Worthwhile Life. Later in his life he helped design the Holton Farkas horn.
On March 5, 1914, Philip Farkas was born to Anna Cassidy Farkas and Emil Nelson Farkas. While his parents were ignorant about music, his mother encouraged him to take piano lessons; this was Farkas’ first introduction to music. Around the age of twelve his Boy Scout troop needed a bugler, so Farkas volunteered for the job. He sought tutoring from a neighbor who played the trumpet, and soon became very good. Around the age of fourteen he started to develop asthma. His parents thought it would be best if he played a wind instrument in band, but the school only had a bass drum and a tuba available at the moment, so Farkas chose the tuba.
Farkas had to take a street car to school, and because of the tuba’s size, the conductor began to complain that it took up too much room. Farkas asked him what instrument would be more convenient and the conductor pointed to a horn case belonging to a band that was on the street. Soon after, Farkas and his father went to downtown Chicago and rented a Schmidt horn for three dollars a month.
After playing his horn for a while he fell in love with it and decided to pursue a profession as a horn player. While still in high school, he became the youngest member of the All-Chicago High School Orchestra, first horn player in the Chicago Civic Orchestra, and first horn in the Kansas City Philharmonic; this was his first professional job as a horn player.
He played first chair in the Chicago Symphony, Boston, and Cleveland orchestras as well, being the only horn ever offered the solo horn positions in these three major orchestras and the youngest principal player in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Farkas was also a music Professor; he taught at Indiana University, Northwestern University, Cleveland Institute, Kansas City Conservatory, De Paul University, and Roosevelt University. He also held many clinics and performed as a soloist nationwide. Farkas founded a publishing company; Wind Music Inc… He also partnered with Chicago trumpeter Renold Schilke in the founding of Schilke Music Products and as consultants to the musical instrument division of Yamaha. He received a doctorate in music, presented by Eastern Michigan University in April 1978.
He is very well known for designing the top-selling Holton-Farkas horn made by the Frank Holton Company (which is still the top selling to this day) as well as a large selection of mouthpieces. He published four best-selling books to help French horn players, brass players, and all musicians improve in the art. His first book, The Art of French Horn Playing, is nicknamed the bible of horn players.
Farkas was known to have a kind, cheery personality, and was very much a perfectionist. He made a big impact in the world of music, as well as to many lives along the way. He continued to practice his horn every day until his death on December 21, 1992 at the age of 78.
- “It is my desire to create such a book, containing not only the findings of my own years of experience, but that of my teachers, which prompts me to write so complex a subject as horn playing. But, if some day I might hear a solo beautifully played and would hear the soloist say afterward 'Your book helped me do that,' I would feel repaid for my effort a hundred times over”
- - Philip Farkas, The Art of French Horn Playing
- Philip Farkas, A Photographic Study of 40 Virtuoso Horn Players' Embouchures, (Bloomington, Indiana: Wind Music, Inc., 1970), 41 pp.
- Philip Farkas, The Art of Brass Playing: A Treatise on the Formation and Use of the Brass Player's Embouchure, (Atlanta, Georgia: Wind Music/TAP Publications, 1962), 65 pp.
- Philip Farkas, The Art of French Horn Playing: A Treatise on the Problems and Techniques of French Horn Playing, (Bloomington, Indiana: Wind Music, Inc., 1956), 95 pp., ISBN 0-87487-021-6
- Philip Farkas, The Art of Musicianship: A Treatise on the Skills, Knowledge, and Sensitivity Needed by the Mature Musician to Perform in an Artistic and Professional Manner, (Atlanta, Georgia: Wind Music/TAP Publications, 1976), 51 pp.
- M. Dee Stewart, ed., Philip Farkas: The Legacy of a Master: The Man who Defined Symphonic Horn Playing as Seen Through his Writings and the Comments of Colleagues and Students, (Northfield, Illinois: Instrumentalist Publishing Company, 1990), 157 pp.
- Nancy Jordan Fako, Philip Farkas & His Horn: A Happy, Worthwhile Life, (Elmhurst, Illinois: Crescent Park Music Publications, 1998), 296 pp., ISBN 0-9662587-0-3.
- Website about the Holton Farkas horn
- Biography from the International Horn Society
- Biography from IU Cook Music Library