horn is usually called the French
Horn in English, but is more simply called corno
= horn in Italian, and the equivalent of 'horn' in other languages. The horn is
brass instrument widely used in the orchestra, and loved especially by composers
from the romantic period, because of its rich and mellow tone. It came into
regular orchestral use about 1815 when the valve horn was invented.
French Horn is a coiled conical brass tube ending in a wide bell. The
mouth-piece is shaped like a funnel. Horns with 3 valves may be in either F (the
higher-pitched instrument) or in Bb. In more recent times, a 4-valve horn
is widely used, called the double horn, which effectively combines both F and Bb
horns into one, because the 4th valve extends the tube length to that of the Bb
horn. Its range is 4 octaves, from F1 (2.5 octaves below middle C) up to
F5 (1.5 octaves above middle C).
The horn is hard to play well, notes
tend to crack up, especially at the low and high ends of the range. In the hands
of an expert, it has a stunningly beautiful and penetrating tone.
modern horn originates from the ancient long straight hunting horn, which
evolved in France into a coiled hunting horn, and then was further refined in
Germany into the instrument we know today.