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"The Art of Cor Anglais"

About the English Horn:
What is an English Horn?
The Origin of the name English Horn
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What is the range of the English Horn?

Related Articles:
Samuel's Aerophon
Seconds Out
Nights at the Opera - My Own Balcony Scene

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What is the range of the Cor Anglais?


cor range

This shows the lowest and highest notes as they sound on the cor anglais. All the chromatic notes in between can be played, and the lowest note can be extended down to E flat by adding a small piece of pipe between the bottom joint of the instrument and the bell. It takes a few seconds to add or remove this extension so the composer must think carefully about whether or not the E flat is required. Quarter-tones and multiphonics can also be played, and notes can be 'bent' to make them sharper or flatter. Some people can play notes that are higher than C at the top, but it is inadvisable to write notes that the majority of players will not be able to achieve.

All the notes for the cor anglais are written a fifth higher than they sound, for this is a transposing instrument. The reason for the transposition is that the keywork system is similar to that of the oboe but the notes come out five notes lower, because the instrument is bigger. Thus by writing the notes a fifth higher than they actually sound, the oboe player who plays the cor anglais does not have to re-learn all the names of the keys on the instrument, which would be very confusing.

The lowest notes sound reedy and can be used in the orchestra to reinforce the sound of trombones. The middle notes are soulful, eloquent, and melancholy. They are some of the most beautiful of woodwind sounds. The high register, however, is weak and sometimes needs the addition of other instruments in the orchestra to help the balance of sound. Over the whole range the timbre changes according to variances in the dynamic level.

Thus the sound of the cor anglais contains elements of strength, weakness, and a melancholy eloquence that is quite unique, and which has been an inspiration to many of the great romantic composers such as Wagner, Sibelius, and Tchaikovsky. In the hands of a player who is sensitive to the musical environment, the emotional impact of this instrument is enormous: something that has never yet been captured by a digital sampler.


Vision de Paradis is an external link to an mp3 file where you can hear Geoffrey Browne play the cor anglais in a piece by Saint-Preux

Vision de Paradis