15 Must-Have Solos for the High School Horn Player

As a private teacher for over forty years, I have used solo literature to supplement and enrich my high school students’ development on the horn. Pedagogically, there are some very significant milestones to achieve during the first five years of playing and I believe the following solos facilitate that progress. Of course, there are many brilliant new works that have been written in the past twenty years, but I want to highlight the standard solo repertoire for horn that most universities and conservatories require of their applicants for admission. Here are my recommendations, in no particular pedagogical order, along with a short description of each piece.

“Sonata in F Major, Op. 17” by L. van Beethoven: Originally written for the hand-horn, Beethoven utilizes traditional horn calls and the harmonic series throughout. Large interval skips help the player negotiate all registers on the horn.

“En Foret” by Eugene Bozza: Written as a final exam piece for the Paris Conservatory, this exciting work employs the use of hunting horn calls, Gregorian chant, double-tonguing, and stopped horn.

“Rondo in Bb” by Arnold Cooke: Flashy and fun piece written in 6/8, encouraging technical development. Large interval skips help the young player develop flexibility and accuracy. The range is very accessible to intermediate-level players.

“Villanelle” by Paul Dukas (“Solos for the Horn Player” by Mason Jones): Another solo that was written as an exam piece for students at the Paris Conservatory, “Villanelle” explores the natural harmonics, echo-horn, and multiple tonguing.

“Reveries” by Alexander Glazunov (“Solos for the Horn Player” by Mason Jones): This is a beautiful, lyrical solo that encourages shaping of musical phrases as well as development of rubato and musical artistry. The range consists of the highest note being an Ab on top of the staff, down to a pedal Ab in the bass clef, the musical line leading to these notes fairly easily.

“Sonata for Horn and Piano” by Paul Hindemith: All three movements are complex harmonically, yet lyrical melodies occur throughout, employing the use of wide interval skips. This piece challenges the ability of the player to accurately perform difficult intervals and prolonged phrases, but is totally worth the effort to learn and perform. Being a “sonata”, the piano part is equally difficult to play, but a rewarding experience for both players.

“Concertos 1-4” by W.A. Mozart: Standard repertoire, these concertos contain lessons in horn history, phrasing, style, and technical skill that is necessary in the development of every horn player. Each concerto contains three movements and they all have much to offer musically. Selections from these concertos are often required for admission to a university music school, so they should be on every player’s repertoire list.

“Laudatio” by Bernhard Krol: This is an unaccompanied work for the horn and is a good choice for the young horn player to have in their repertoire. Several notable national and international horn competitions require performance of an unaccompanied work and this piece is highly recommended. Features include the wide use of dynamics, energetic phrases, soulful melodies, and stopped horn.

“Morceau de Concert” by Camille St. Saens: A three-movement work that provides the player many opportunities to demonstrate advanced musicianship in phrasing and technique. A Theme and Variations idea is employed in the first movement, while lyricism and stopped horn occurs in the second movement. The piece ends with a flashy display of technique and triple-tonguing.

“Romance” by Camille St. Saens: This lyrical gem is technically accessible to most young/intermediate-level horn players. It provides an introduction to breath control, phrasing, and musicianship. 

“Adagio and Allegro” by Robert Schumann: Comprised of two movements, the Schumann is very challenging. The Adagio encourages much musical expression, while the Allegro is fiery and virtuosic. This is one of the more difficult pieces on the list, demanding consistent control in the upper register. However, it is a great piece to show off the player’s command of range and endurance.

“Concerto, Op. 8” by Franz Strauss: Lyrical and technical offerings provide the player many opportunities to explore the horn’s range of expression and brilliant technical capacity. It also utilizes ornamentation and lip trills.

“Nocturno” by Franz Strauss: Another lyrical masterpiece containing soaring melodies and beautiful phrases. This has always been a favorite of mine and one my students love to learn and perform.

“Concerto #1” by Richard Strauss: Another traditional, standard solo in the horn repertoire, this concerto is often asked for as a college admission requirement, in horn competitions and orchestral auditions. It features both lyrical and technical sections, giving the soloist opportunities to demonstrate style, phrasing, technique, range, and musicianship.

“Hunter’s Moon” by Gilbert Vinter: A fast, light, hunting horn melody begins and ends the piece, even providing a bit of fun by incorporating the clever use of stopped horn. The middle section provides contrast in style, tempo, and range. This is a very enjoyable piece to play and listen to and has been a favorite of many of my students.

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