1re Concerto pour le Cor op.92 (K.447)

How to play this concert

Mozart´s first Concerto for horn, which we name No.3 today.

1st movement: Allegro: instructions                         page1

We know this concerto as Mozarts no.3 hornconcerto. This concerto requires the perfect Mozart style. But even a less experienced horn player can master the technical aspect of this concerto without greater problems. The right horn tone is very important. Here I might recommend to use the F-side as often as possible, to keep a certain “string” character while playing the horn. The measure numbers are counted from the very first even incomplete measure. Let us begin now. The introductory four measures in the first tutti must be set firmly, the notes well separated (détaché), all on the 1st valve F-horn, in a dynamic between mezzo forte & forte. Remember, the Mozart forte is not equal our modern forte. The real solo entrance in M.29 is prepared nicely by the four preceding piano measures in the strings, clarinets & bassoons. The horn enters with a piano soft upbeat on the f1, off course on the F-horn, like an up bow of a viola. The piano of a solo instrument has to be a bit stronger than the common piano.

The down beat in M.30, the d2, on the open F-horn (not with 1) shines very nicely. Tie the following bb1, a nice jump from one natural tone of the E-flat-horn (= F horn plus valve 1) to the other, the typical “horn slur” (“Hornbindung”). The first note of the following group of eight notes, the e-b2 is better in tune on the Bb-side, so to use T1, but returning to the F-side after that. According to our South German language, also mother language of W.A.Mozart, the 3rd & 4th note of this group might be tongued for better distinction. The tone of the phrase is on the down beat in M.31.  One might continue with some “jumping” upbeat , - the three eights triad -, jumping like an divided up bow  with a pinch of crescendo to the ¾ long high f2 followed by the group of  four 16ths, which are tied together, leading to the c#2 & the d2, where the c#2 is the stronger note. A look into the autograph will make it clear, that Mozart used two ties in M.32. The first tie leads to the group of four 16ths, tied also. What does it mean from a string players point of view ? Phrase the entire measure as one phrase, but the 16ths a bit separated from the always longer sounding ¾ note. For us horn players it should say, we just tongue the first 16th, to separate the 16ths-group from the preceding long note.

In M.33 the three b1 notes are to be executed as one divided up bow again, leading to the next phrase often just executed as a slur all over the measure. But this is against the flow of the music as well, as if the four ¼ notes in M.35 were just set separate each. No, M.34 requires the first four notes tied, “up bow” d2 (open F horn) tied over the bar line to the following g1, c2 tied to f1 and followed by another up beat bb1 leading to the end of the phrase, where in M. 36 all notes should be executed “détaché” (separated nicely) and very, very light . Again, there is no need for the use of the thumb valve. M.41 can be tricky, as the third  bb – d1 corresponds to the usual first third (steps 4 – 5) in the natural horn scale. No matter playing on the F-horn or the Eb-horn (F-horn + 1st valve), the slur makes it “less easy”. The best trick, I found out, is just using T12 for the d1, just for the one note. The f1 & bb1 are again “up beat notes”, not separated as much as in the earlier in M.31.

 It comes again in M.43, but here the thumb valve can help twice: for the d1 (T12) and the f2 (T1). A light crescendo for the upward triad and a diminuendo for the end of the phrase M.44 seem appropriate. M.45 might be better, if the tie over the whole measure would be broken into two equal parts. As these are notes of the natural scale only, the valve position could be fixed to valve 1, but the thumb valve would nicely assist for the f2 again.  M.43 with a pinch crescendo, a bit pressure on the culminating f2, and the phrase could end with a little diminuendo. One should not neglect, that the phrase takes longer here. It ends in M.48, the measure with the very short “prall” trill. M. 46 is better with the music, if the dotted ¼ bb1 is tied with the two 1/16,  and the two 1/8 before the “prall” trill are “jumped”, meaning a bit stronger tongued than earlier in this movement, instead of  a tie from note 3 to note 7 in this measure. Again, there is no need for the Bb-horn. M.48 requires a little push by the tongue for the first 1/16 d1 and for the a1, while shortening the bb1 just for a hair short. The a1 in M.50 should get a nice tenuto, and the phrase should flow just into the next two measures. All three g1 as an up bow to the four “detache”1/4 why not using T1 again for the high f2 ?). The g1 & bn1 as connected in a down bow, while d2 & f2 as connected in an up bow, all with a very light crescendo. Never allow the tone to become fat. The four 1/16 group a decrescendo end of the phrase, the two first 1/16 tied like a down bow with two connected but separated following 1/16. We do it with the first two 1/16 slurred, the other two tongued.

Now you have a rest of three measures, nearly four, for quick water emptying. The next entrance, “con espressione”, needs all you fine feeling to enter in mezzo piano smoothest as possible with fine slurs every two notes, the legato on the first note of every two note groups. The maximum tone should be on the d2.  But avoid stretching, avoid the shift of rhythm, strictest. It would be against the Mozart clarity. M.59 could have an upward crescendo & a downward diminuendo (the two ¼ notes). Place the tenuto (well held) tone on the first of every two note group in the next two measures (60 & 61) combined with a very light crescendo leading into the long held f1, but not in forte dynamic. It should be not more than mezzo forte and even softer after the beginning to save the crescendo effect for the sixteenth run & the following shorter than usual ¼ notes in M.63, which should still have another light crescendo. Down ward runs lose sounding power, so needing a light crescendo to compensate for that. Let us go back to the 1/16 run in M.63. The last four 1/16 group is usually done as two tied & two tongued notes. It is for the clarity. Try it. The staccato dots in M.64 should never be exaggerated. Play these four notes nicely separated and do not forget, that the downward phrase is continued in all strings. After that, the horn should enter in a surprise pianissimo bb ½ note. If you are afraid of missing it or entering weak on that note – it is not our best note on the horn -, I would allow the use of T1, if keeping the smoothness is guaranteed. The crescendo in this upwards triad (Bb-major) = concert Eb-major) could be more than before, all notes a bit accentuated to make them more prominent. The high f2, - again I recommend the T1 version-, is the first culmination, but followed by the next one, entirely in a nice solo mezzo forte. The dotted ¼ c2 might be shortened for a 1/16, as this longer note impresses the audience enough, but the shortening will leave enough time for a perfectly timed tongue action for the 1/16 down hill run to the 4/4 trill. Here again, in the scale run, two tied & two tongued 1/16 would provide enough transparency. Reduce the dynamic at the beginning of the trill to have enough reserves for the lip trill & the crescendo final to the end note. Well, the lip trill g1-a1 is not easy. How to execute this trill ? The naked Eb-horn would require a half muting, so step 7 & 8 of the natural horn series would allow the trill. On the valve horn, the Bb-side is of no help here. How to proceed ? Well, use F13 & trill from the 8th to the 9th natural tone, as it were c2 – d2 on the open F-horn. A few minutes practising will help. And, the trill should never start with a grace note from above, as the main note of the trill, the g1, had been passed through during the down run & the trill does not need any introductory note any more. Start the trill slow for the first two beats, double the speed than & end it with a nice “abschlag” as written. Now we are past the exposition. 


After a deserved rest of 15 measures, we come again with the side theme most lyrical. The entering ab1 is again better on the F-side. Anyway, the F-side is the better side for the entire concerto. Tie the ¼ c2 & ¼ eb2 with the mezzo forte (better mezzo piano) initial ab1, add a bit of crescendo very carefully, the eb2 with T1 for better intonation, shorten the long held f1 (1/2 + 1/8)  for the 1/8 note to have time to target the high f2 (T1). The high f2 is in piano dynamics, like an up bow violin, the tone leading to the ab1 – g1 sequence, while the main tone sits on the bn1in M.89, where a little push could elevate it somewhat, releasing the push on the following c2 (M.89-90). This kind of expression is repeated in M.91 , while a little crescendo would ease the tie over the whole M.92,  - f2 with T1 again. If you are afraid of the long phrase bow here, you might use your tongue as articulation tool for the db2 & the bb1 & the ab1.

Use the two measures rest, to blow the water in a free corner of your horn. Third valve is not involved on the F-side. Use it for the excess water in the tube. Enter safely with the pianissimo db2 on F2. It is a very safe & lucent note. Keep the very soft dynamic for all these long held notes, the d2 as open note on the F-side. You might start increasing the dynamic level most carefully at the low bn (M.101), but increase to piano only, to enter M.104 in a real solo piano. All notes from M.104 into the first ¼ in M.105 are tied together & deserve a little crescendo, as the first D-major triad is in mezzo piano, even stronger than piano, the 1/8 notes nicely separated. Two measures are stronger, two are softer, and again stronger (M.109-110) & finally together with a diminuendo softer & softer. Use the eight measures rest for quick water emptying & the page turn. I will not explain M.121 – 136 as you can find all at the beginning of the concerto. The only difference here is the up bow beginning, as the former ¼ note f1 is modified to three 1/8 notes, which should be played as “portato”, which can be copied from violin players easily (quite full held notes but still separated each other).

M.138 asks for a more dramatic approach with the ½ notes. Separate the last three 1/8 notes from the held g1 (1/2 plus 1/8 tied), but tie them together. A bit of crescendo would ad some pep to the music, leading further to the held c2, which is again a ½ plus 1/8 notes. But now, the following sixteenths are tricky enough, to separate them well from the tied c2. Break up the usual long bow over the full measure. Break it as follows: two 16th tongued, next group on the last beat of the measure two tied two tongued & do the same for the down beat in M. 140. This will produce all notes very clear. Up beat to M.145, an entrance with f2 in mezzo piano. Here the Bb-horn is of good service, if the note is executed as T1, as it will be quite flat on most horns, if just the open Bb-horn is used. While you execute the whole phrase as you did in M.56ff, all high f2 should be played the same way with T1 and the g2 as T0, with a nice tenuto (held nicely). Listen, the g2 as T0 is the no.9 tone in the natural horn series for the Bb-horn. This note is just nice sharp, so of good service if one has played more than a few notes before. Continue to M.148, but observe, that the sixteenth group in M.146 is broken up again for clarity, so to speak, the first sixteenth is tied to the preceding c2, but the other three sixteenths as a group should be separated or better said, they d2 should be tongued.

Execute the following held bb1 with a nice crescendo, starting from piano. Mezzo forte is reached not earlier than the top f2 ¼. So be careful with the crescendo. The 1/8 notes should “jump” nicely (détaché), a careful push given to beginning of every half measure. The down ward natural note scale needs a crescendo as well, but from mezzo forte to forte. The indicated fortissimo would be too much. The next measure with the held g1 remains in forte dynamic, but the tied 1/8 g1 should be shortened to a 1/16, leaving enough room for a careful tonguing of the following 1/16 notes, where the last group of four 1/16 notes is to be executed in the already known way of “two tied two tongued”. In M.156 thee is no tie in the score, but if always two notes are tied together, the horn slurs would give a better dramatic, en increase in musical tension, special as the third is repeated twice. Here the eb2 is on T1, but returning to the F1 for the bb1. The last four eights will bring a bit of crescendo anyway due to the slurs. If one separates the first two eights in M.158, the culminating f2 (T1) will be reached safer. This is the culminating point of this movement, if not the final note after the trill in M.159. So the M.158 deserved also a nice crescendo, the four sixteenths played in the usual  way of two slurred two tongued. The trill is again without any introductory grace note, just starting on the main note c2, quite slow, riding between 8th & 9th step of the natural scale (c2 & d2), all open notes in best range on the F-side, well in tune also. The trill should double the speed in the second half of the measure & end in the nice 1/32 abschlag notes. 

Here in M.160-163, the triplets are not to be taken as staccato, just eight notes, nice short, but never hard. Watch how easy the fingering will be on the F-side. A crescendo down and a decrescendo up in the first measure, but a crescendo over the full measure in M.162 lead nicely to M.163, where one must observe the right rhythm of the triplets. Do not forget the high f2 on T1. If you have difficulties with the d1 near the end of M.163, why don’t you use the T12 for that note only. And now up from low f, in forte , a half scale, portato, and now again a beautiful trill, again without introductory grace note, as the main note is already reached in the last 1/8 of M.164.  

The cadenza is up to the soloist. May I say here, that less is often more. Do just a few measures recapitulating the theme, perhaps the side them, some notes in “arpeggio”, culminating to a trill again. Remain in style here absolutely. The last three measures of the movement are played in the same octave by the first bassoon. There is no need to play these few notes. Better rest & water empty the horn, so the pause between first & second movement will not take more than a few seconds. It will help to keep the musical tension.



It is “alle breve”, in half measures. Well, the Larghetto is related to that metrum, resulting in a nice Andante movement in four. Think about “gemuetlichkeit” perhaps. Bring all your emotion, a clean emotion, to this movement. It belongs to the most beautiful things written for the horn. Enter the solo with a nice soft piano & use T1 to ease the up slur to the eb2, but return to the g1 on the F-side. Instead of climbing up with a crescendo, even a releasing diminuendo will let the tone swing up to the eb2. All the 1/8 notes in M.3 are well held. M.4 requires that the f1 is tied with the preceding ½ note long g1, while the remaining three 1/8 notes in the chromatic (half step) sequence are tied together as an up beat group to the repetition of the initial theme. The somewhat awkward slur in M.7 (bb – d1 !) will be easier, if  T12 is used for the d1 & the 178 notes f1 & a1 as well as eb2 & c2 are a bit tongued, but in a way, just  your neighbour (in concert situation the concert master) would notice that. But it helps a lot. Fade out with the solo in M.8 with the well held separated 1/8 notes.

Eight measures rest might be enough to leave time for water emptying & concentration to the f2 entrance in solo piano. Remember, T1 would give you more secure intonation. The downward scale of 1/8 notes is fine combined with a little dynamic release ending at the ¼ bb1 in M.18. M.21/22 repeats that. All sixteenths in M.24 & 25 should be very, very light, the second measure starting a bit softer than the initial piano. But if you use a little crescendo for the first two beats and a convincing diminuendo in the 2nd half of M.24, you will not need to enter M.25 softer, as the listener will assume, you play it softer because of the diminuendo before. In the 2nd half of M.25 you can crescendo again verse the 4/4 held b (M.27). The pulsating (ostinato) 1/8 on bb like on one up bow, not smeared together, but also not staccato, just well held. To make the sixteenth passage more transparent (and easier), break it up to the usual two slurred two tongued way. 

Nine measures rest leave enough space to think for the eb2 entrance in M.37, with T1 off course for better intonation, and in piano solo. M.38 , the high f2 with T1 a bit stronger, but still soft. Think about being a soloist. Do not shorten the down beat (on the third beat) a1 & bb1. In M.39, tie the first two 1/16 to the beginning c2, but tongue the other two 1/16 for clarity and execute the two eb2-c2 mini phrases “with a sigh”  (understood ?) and end the phrase with a light release from ½ note bb1 to a1. M.45 should be tied together all the way and T1 for the high f2 will help as well as T1 will do it also for the eb2 in the next measure. Use a light crescendo for the up ward triad in M.47, bb1-d2-f2 tied & the 2nd high f2 tongued. Stay on the T1 from f2 to eb2 while you descend. The ¼ bb1 in M.48 is well held but leaving enough room for the grace note d2, which should have enough pressure to be heard. A bit of crescendo with the three up beat bn1, leading to the sforzato piano & held four measures.  No crescendo in these four measures, just a bell like sforzato & immediate piano, but well held. 

The next entrance & the following thee measures are only a lead back to the main theme, well separated repeated notes, but never staccato, all remaining in a well audible piano. The little crescendo & decrescendo may be restricted to M.58 up ward & down ward, the slur all over the measure into the ending g1, but starting from the d2. Here the Bb-horn is only in use for the f2 & eb2, all on T1. No ritardando (no hold back)at all. If you like to do something, well, a nice tenuto (held nicely) or mini stretching on the last note of M.58, nothing to be said against that. The rest of the movement is just a repetition of the material played already. Fade out a bit, dynamic wise. Hold just a mini pause before the start of the Allegro. Do it quasi attacca (attached). It might be wise to ask the conductor to conduct the full measure, so the strings will not be surprised too much by your up beat. There is enough time left for water emptying from M.7 on.  



This typical hunting like Allegro requires elegant, light & rhythmically perfect playing. Start in mezzo piano instead of piano. It sounds more secure & courageous. Nothing special must be said here except that there is no need for the Bb-horn. Remember the two slurred one tongued pattern. It starts in M.6. The tonguing must remain a real tonguing, not a staccato. It seems appropriate to use the T1 for the eb2 & the f2 but to go for the T0 for the g2. Do not rush from M.7 2nd half to the end of the phrase. Keep this pattern of ¼ alternating with 1/8 very strict. Any eb2 is better in tune with T1. After a nice water emptying during the 13 rest measures, you come with an upbeat just after the short fermata, again c2 – d2 slurred as in the next measure. This phrase coming twice, the sound output should be reduced a bit for the 2nd time. Again, seven measures rest will give you a break. Enter M.35 in tempo with a firm but light piano on bb1. Shorten the first not a bit, to make room for the grace note, which deserves a bit of a punch to be heard. Increase the dynamic for some degree in M.37. Here you might start with the open d2 on the F-side but switch to the Bb-side & bring the f2 as open note of the Bb-horn this time. Don’t forget the little extra push for this grace note again. Stay on the Bb-side & increase the dynamic again to hit the high f2 with a little accent, but here at T1 for better intonation. The scale in M.41 must be light & the end of the phrase well elevated by a hair of a punch on the d2, off course using F0 to shine the note.

After four measures rest (use the water key), enter with the open d2 on the F-horn smoothly. If you are afraid to miss it, well do it as T12, but return to the F-side then. Remain in a very light entertaining mood. Do not hold the long notes plain. Add some life. The octave jump from f1 to f2 (M.50-51), well, here is T1 of great help. 

The hunting motif in M.56ff is very, very light & easiest done on the F-side while using T1 for the f2 only. The next hunting motif of M.60 & 61 entirely on F1 – don’t be afraid again, try it - , but hit the low b, just the first of them in M.62 with T1. It sounds stronger, even remaining in piano. You know it already, the f2 in 65 on T1, off course. As you see this phrase coming again in M.68, start now a bit softer, but increase the dynamic step by step to match with the stronger entrance in M.73. Not a fortissimo, but a firm Mozart forte, with another light increase going up to f2, where you will be on T1. A five-notes down ward scale with g2 (T0)-f2 (T1)-Eb2 (T1)-d2 etc. on the F-side, this leads to the repetition of the initial theme, back in a light solo piano. Care about rhythm, please.


Twelve measures rest leave enough time for a comfortable page turn & water emptying. Now you enter rhythmically accurate in piano again with the side theme. Bb-side is used just for the eb2. The notes should all be nicely separated each other. Do not hold the dotted g1 tied with the other ¼ g1 at entire length, leave enough time for the tongue action on the up beat g1. The dotted ¼ in M.107 & 108 should be set firmly. A little upward crescendo would be of advantage, climbing to the T1 eb2. The following 1/16 should sound like you jump a few steps on a flight of steps, tongued off course. If you have difficulties to hit the low b at the end & make it sound well, try T1. Why not, if it helps ? Keep the strict rhythm, please. M.117, there are no slurs, but the two note group (1/4 + 1/8) seem to be connected musically, so to attack the 1/8 just very light. The same phrase comes again, but in a variation, as it ends with a down ward triad (T1-F0-F12), where the f2 could bear a prise of tenuto, while the dotted ¼ c2 could bear a light accent. 

After nine measures rest, the next entrance is just a recapitulation of previous material, except the final five step scale, where the thought down beat ¼ notes are dissolved into two 1/8, requires a nice crescendo to the climax f2. Enter M.143 in piano dynamic but increase the dynamic pressure towards the db2 (M.145), but release the tension again. The next entrance in M.148 seems to be similar, but it leads to another culmination in M.152, the eb2, here in a nice Mozart forte. Return to mezzo forte, entering with f1 in M.154 & decrescendo carefully & again in M.155,  - you see the chromatic progression, do you - ,  before you continue with the main them again in piano, all done now in the meanwhile well known style. 

Now, there is the last chance for water emptying. Use it before the finale. The entrance in M.173, for safety on T1 only for the first note, must be in rhythm absolutely. No pushing forward, no dragging. And the hunting motif again, a bit more exited now, as the end comes near. Do not forget a bit of more pressure on the f1 with the shortening dot on top. Do not increase the dynamic before reaching the f2 (T1), remain on the g1 on the F-side for better intonation. But switch to the Bb-side quickly for the 1/16 scale, executed as two slurred four tongued, the g2 as T0, followed by the eb2 on T1 also. I forgot to mention, you should use the dot on the down beat g1 in M.185 as a space to activate the tongue for the scale run. Return to the F-side for the c2 in M.186. You need the Bb-side only for the top f1 (T1). All should be well heard now, so to use a nice still elegant Mozart forte. If you might slur the great leaps bb1-f1 & bb-d2, would be nice & heard as virtuosity. The trill in M.190 is different from the trills before. It starts very fast from the beginning & the “abschlag”  must be quick also. After the last fermata, there is a short recapitulation of the phrase following the first fermata at the beginning of the movement. Remain light but increase the dynamic for a degree verse the end. The movement should not end with a real pondering in the last three measures, but the notes might be well set here. If you are not very secure with the bb, use T1. 

Good luck for your performance keeping the Mozart style.

last updated: 21.01.2006