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Two Hundred Years of Woodwinds #7

This 1959 series features members of The Philadelphia Woodwind Quintet, made up of flute, oboe, clarinet, French horn, and bassoon. The musicians play a piece, then break it down in order to show how their instruments evoke certain images through music. They also explain the history of the instruments and how they were grouped - eventually culminating in the modern day quintet.

AIRED: December 18, 2020 | 0:29:38
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TRANSCRIPT

Welcome to the All Arts Vault. I'm Maddie Orton.

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The fascinations of color are not confined

to the eyes alone.

Our ears, through the many musical instruments

man has invented to imitate the sounds of nature,

have come to enjoy a color spectrum which is equally large.

And it is the mixing of these colors or sounds

that has become such an important part

of the art of musical composition.

In the search for compatible groups,

compatible color groups in music,

evolution has produced for such groups,

the strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion,

and of these, certainly the woodwinds

are the most colorful and versatile.

Now, today we plan to play a composition by the first man

ever to write for the modern woodwind quintet,

Franz Danzi.

In hearing these groups that I just spoke of,

the strings are of course quickly recognized

by the similarity of the tone color

of all the instruments in the group.

And by contrast, the woodwinds have a tremendous variety

of tone color, color that supplements

and complements each other and really enhances the music.

The oboe, my instrument, gets its name from the French

haut bois, or "high wood."

It's a double reed instrument,

and it has a plaintive lyrical quality.

The bassoon is also from the Frenchbasson,

or "low sound," has a deep, sonorous quality

which makes it the perfect instrument

for the bass line of the quintet.

The bassoon is also a double reed instrument.

The clarinet, from the Italianclarino,

a "little trumpet," has a limpid and clear

fluid sort of quality.

The flute, this name is thought to come

from the Latin word for breath or to breathe,

can also be limpid and clear

or brilliant and coloratura-like, as well.

These diverse colors needed one more to blend them

or fuse them together and the perfect medium for this

is the French horn, the fifth member of our quintet.

[ Horn blows ]

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Now, that shows you two of the colors of the French horn.

It can play a lot louder than that.

But it is that soft, velvety quality that is so necessary

in a woodwind quintet.

It blends the flute and clarinet with the double reeds.

Now, the range of this instrument is another

important factor.

It can go as low as the bassoon.

[ Low notes play ]

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And up until the fruit register.

[ High notes play ]

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Now, there are always two questions

that people ask me about the French horn.

First, why is it called French horn?

And second, what is it doing in a woodwind quintet?

Well, during the Renaissance, both the English and the French

had hunting horns which played four or five

bugle-like notes.

But it was the French people, in their characteristic

style and elegance that thought of enlarging this tube,

narrowing it, refining it so that some 12 or 13 notes

could be played.

The horn was now suitable for use in the Opera Orchestra,

and the French people literally brought the hunting horn

from the woods into the drawing room.

In recognition of this fact, this transformation,

the English thereafter, when referring to

the orchestral horn, called it the French horn.

At first, the passages in the orchestra

were of a fanfare or hunting-like nature.

But soon the value of the mellow middle and low register notes

were perceived and sustained harmonies

were written for the horn.

Then after that, melody.

And in the wonderful horn quartet of von Weber

is Der Freischutz Overture, we hear this melodic element.

It was but a short step from there for players to become

so proficient in controlling this instrument that they were

allowed in woodwind groups.

Now, this was done mostly in pairs,

but Mozart when he wrote that beautiful and famous

quintet for piano and and four winds

used just one horn, establishing the horn

permanently in woodwind groups.

Now let's have some fun with these instruments.

Here is a seashell, a conch shell.

The end has been broken off.

It's been smooth down so you don't hit the lips.

And listen to what comes out.

[ Conch shell plays ]

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With tremendous carrying power.

This is a familiar shape -- animal horn.

And it has been used by men for millenniums.

I can get three notes out of this,

and I've made up a little tune.

[ Horn sounds ]

Now, the big brother of this instrument

is the Scandinavian lur, L-U-R.

This was made from a huge mammoth tusk,

and these were made in pairs so heavy that it had to be

hung up by a tree.

The Scandinavians knew metalworking

and made these lurs out of metal.

The Romans also were very proficient at metalwork,

and they made two military instruments out of metal.

Here you will see the lituus,

a straight tube with a curved end,

and the circular buccina.

Much larger and tuba-like.

Roman military instruments.

Now, for a while, metalwork declined

and men had to resort to these animal horns.

All shapes and sizes were used.

The most striking of these was the one made

from the elephant's tusk called olifant.

We have an illustration of a wonderful olifant

about a yard long, ornately carved,

and belonging to Roland in the time of Charlemagne.

And the story goes that he was being surrounded by enemies,

and he took up his horn to blow for help.

And he played so fiercely and loud that he not only

cracked the instrument but burst some of

the blood vessels in his neck.

I've had the same feeling trying to play

some of Wagner's orchestral passages.

Now getting back to the hunting horn,

the metal hunting horn.

We have a three coiled horn here made out of brass.

It is held something like this and sounds...

[ Horn plays ]

Now, if you wanted that the sound in a higher key,

you had to use a smaller horn.

Or a lower key, a bigger horn.

But with the invention of the crook or the coil,

this was all smoothed out.

Here is a horn loaned to us by the University of Pennsylvania,

by the way, with eight of these crooks,

each of a different size and giving different tones.

Now, here is the main body of the horn.

And I'd like you to see the wonderful lacquer work

in this in this bell.

This is gold or red.

The red denoting the military ancestry of this instrument.

Now, we take a crook, insert it into the body,

add a mouthpiece, and we're all ready to go.

[ Horn plays ]

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Now, a clever fellow in Dresden discovered that with

a little sleight of hand in here,

he could fill in the gaps of some of those notes.

[ Horn plays ]

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And we have complete scale.

Now I'd like to play borrowing from the symphonic literature

a few little passages.

[ Horn plays ]

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The beautiful opening of the Shubert C Major Symphony.

Now a medium sized crook

and the music of Beethoven.

[ Horn plays ]

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From his only opera, "Fidelio."

And that demonstrates the range of the horn, too.

Now little tiny crook that will take us up

into the high register.

[ Horn plays ]

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Now, this charming routine was ended with the invention

of the valve.

By means of the valve, all these crooks

were soldered permanently into the body of the horn.

And with this key connecting with the valve,

a complete chromatic scale could be played.

Now, machinists thought about this for a long time,

and before the valve was perfected, they came up

with some pretty amusing examples of figuring out

this problem.

And here we have a picture of an especially outlandish horn.

We like to call this the plumber's nightmare.

Now the modern instrument is a double horn.

By means of this thumb valve, we go from small horn

to a large horn, each with its own set of crooks or slides.

Now even with all these modern conveniences,

the horn remains a hazardous instrument to play.

But the results are worth the effort, and I'm happy

that the haunting quality of the French horn is so useful

in a woodwind quintet.

Some time ago, we discussed the Mannheim Orchestra

and its effects upon music and musicians.

Franz Danzi was born and raised in Mannheim.

At the age of 15, he joined the Mannheim Orchestra.

In 1778, the very same year that he joined the orchestra,

Mozart visited Mannheim.

Well, after he left Mannheim, he toured Europe,

conducted, and this quintet particularly in its

first two movements, the allegro vivo

and larghetto reflect an almost Italianate love of opera.

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You know, if he had done nothing else,

Danzi's patronage of Carl Maria von Weber

would have guaranteed him a place in musical history.

During the time that Danzi was a kapellmeister

at Stuttgart, he encouraged young von Weber to write

many works and gave them their first performances.

I'm sure that this wonderful feeling

and wonderful affinity for woodwind instruments

stems from the fact that during a period of

Danzi' life, he was the Director of Woodwinds

in an orphanage in Stuttgart.

Naturally during that time, he had to become

extremely familiar with all of these instruments

of ours, and consequently, it's reflected very much

in his writing.

Until a rediscovery of these woodwind works,

he was chiefly remembered as a writer of

vocal works and a vocal coach.

When the Mannheim orchestra left Mannheim,

Danzi remained behind and drifted into

one of the local theatres, where he became a vocal coach

and assistant conductor.

These last two movements we're going to play

are a very lovely minueto and the final movement

and allegretto, which is extremely brilliant.

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