Horn Concerto No. 1 (Strauss)

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In 1882–3 Richard Strauss wrote his Horn Concerto No. 1 in E-flat major, Op. 11, in two versions, one for piano accompaniment and one with an orchestra (the horn part is the same). The horn concerto has become the most frequently performed horn concerto written in the 19th Century. The premiere with piano accompaniment was given in 1883 at Munich. The premiere with orchestral accompaniment in 1885 at Meiningen.

Composition history[edit]

At the age of 18 whilst a philosophy student at Munich University, having recently completed his Violin Concerto and Cello Sonata, Strauss wrote his first horn concerto. His father Franz Strauss was one of the leading horn players of his day, and the fact that Richard grew up with the sound of the horn in his house led to his exploration of the great potential of the horn as both a solo and orchestral instrument. He had previously written a short piece for the solo horn (Two études for horn TrV 15, 1873), the concerto was the first substantial piece he chose to write for the horn.

The version with orchestral accompaniment is entitled "Waldhornkonzert", indicating that the concerto was to be played on the natural valveless horn (Waldhorn), which was the horn of preference played by his father (although Franz also played the valved F horn). Whilst it is technically possible to play the concerto on an E-flat natural horn,[1] in practice it would be impossible to give a convincing performance. Alan Jefferson speculates that the title might in fact be a father-son joke.[2] Strauss's sister Johanna wrote to the British horn player Dennis Brain that she "vividly remembered her father struggling with the solo part, which he found very tiring, even using the high B-flat crook. In particular, he seems to have found the high B-flats too daring and dangerous for performance in the concert hall".[3]

The early public performances would have been made using the valved F single horn, which was indicated in the score in later editions (although the orchestral horns were still specified as E-flat natural horns). In practice, all of the modern performances and recordings are played on the valved F double-horn which was developed at the end of the 19th century. When the concerto was written, the use of natural horns was still common. For example, Brahms continued to write for natural horns in his symphonies (Symphony No. 3 is contemporary with the Horn Concerto) because he deemed the sound better. Strauss himself went on to fully exploit the possibilities of the valved horn in his tone poems starting with Don Juan, written just a few years later.

The concerto is in three movements (Allegro, Andante, Allegro) which are played continuously (except very rarely) and lasts about 15-18 minutes. The composition is typical of Strauss' music at this time in being Romantic in style, showing the influence of Mendelssohn. The orchestral version uses a classical orchestra: 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, and strings.


The public premiere with piano was in 1883, shortly after the composition completed with one of Franz Strauss's pupils Bruno Hoyer as soloist. The orchestral version was premiered at Meiningen with Hans von Bulow conducting and the horn part played by the principal horn Gustav Leinhos on 4 March 1885. Strauss wrote to his father that the soloist had "Kolossaler sicherheit" (colossal sureness).[4] Strauss conducted the work at least three times later in his life: Vienna on 7 May 1921, Mannheim on November 3 1929, and Hannover on 9 October 1931.[5]


There have been many recordings of this piece. The first recording was by Dennis Brain in 1947, recorded in Kingsway Hall, London, May 21, 1947 with Alceo Galliera conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra. Those currently available with orchestral accompaniment include:

CD title and release date (if known) Horn player Orchestra and conductor Label and reference
Richard Strauss: Horn Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 (2006) David Jolley Israel Sinfonietta Be'er Sheva, Uri Mayer Arabesque Recordings - Z6733
Horn Concertos by Strauss and Hindemith (2013) Dennis Brain Philharmonia Orchestra, Alceo Galliera Regis - RRC1407
Dennis Brain: The essential collection Vol.5 (2014) Dennis Brain Philharmonia Orchestra, Wolfgang Sawallisch Documents 299708
Zdeněk Tylšar: Richard Strauss / Franz Strauss / Mozart: Horn Concertos (2006) Zdeněk Tylšar Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Václav Neumann Supraphon SU 3892-2
Die schonsten Hornkonzerte (2009) Hermann Baumann WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne, Gunter Wand Profil Medien PH08075
Strauss: Horn Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 (2013) Marie Luise Neunecker Bamberg Symphony, Ingo Metzmacher EMI 7235472
Richard Strauss: Horn concertos 1 and 2 (1997) Lars-Michael-Stransky Wiener Philharmoniker, André Previn Deutsche Gramaphon E4534832
Strauss - The Concertos (1999) Barry Tuckwell London Symphony Orchestra, István Kertész Decca E4602962
Strauss: Horn Concerto No. 1 in E flat major, Op. 11, etc. Barry Tuckwell Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Vladimir Ashkenazy Australian Eloquence: ELQ4762699
R Strauss: Horn Concertos 1 & 2, Oboe Concerto (2006) Hermann Baumann Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Kurt Masur Philips: 4769188
R. Strauss: Orchestral Works and Concertos (2014) Myron Bloom Cleveland Orchestra, George Szell Sony: 88883798632
Daniel Barenboim conducts R. Strauss (2010) Dale Clevenger Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim Apex 2564679408
R. Strauss: Complete Orchestral Works (2013) Peter Damm Staatskapelle Dresden, Rudolf Kempe Warner Classics: 4317802

Recordings with piano accompaniment include:

CD title and release date Horn player Pianist Reference
R. Strauss: Complete Chamber Music (2011) Johannes Ritzkowsky Wolfgang Sawallisch Brilliant Classics 9231


  1. ^ Johnson, Bruce. “Richard Strauss's Horn Concerti: Signposts of a Career,” The Horn Call 12, no. 3, (October 1981): 58-67.
  2. ^ Alan Jefferson, The Life of Richard Strauss(Newton Abbot, U.K.: David & Charles, 1973.)
  3. ^ Norman Del Mar, Richard Strauss: A critical commentary on his life and works, Volume 1, Faber and Faber, London (1986). ISBN 978-0-571-25097-4 page 20 (the letter is paraphrased by Del Mar).
  4. ^ Del Mar, op cit.
  5. ^ Trenner, Franz (2003) "Richard Strauss Chronik", Verlag Dr Richard Strauss Gmbh, Wien, ISBN 3-901974-01-6. Pages 423, 503 and 520.


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