Just to be clear, I love music. But sadly, I lack the talent to play an instrument. If I had the time to take up an instrument, I would love to learn how to play the French Horn. The first reason is because it looks so cool! The other and more important reason is because there are numerous great orchestral pieces (classical and film scores included) in which the French Horn plays a key role. It was hard to narrow it down to five pieces, but here are the compositions I would love to master if I played the French Horn.
1. Horn Concerto No. 4 - Rondo (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was one of the greatest classical music composers of all-time. His best known compositions include his operas "The Marriage of Figaro" and "The Magic Flute" as well as his "Symphony No. 40". The Rondo movement in his "Horn Concerto No. 4" is a staple among French Horn performers and, put simply, it sounds amazing! I always get in a good mood whenever I listen to this piece because of its bouncy nature; it reminds one of horseback riding in the countryside (not saying I've ever done this before).
2. Main Theme from "Jurassic Park" (John Williams)
Even though the opening French Horn solo only lasts around 20 seconds, it perfectly sets the mood for this memorable John Williams film. Williams is a five-time Academy Award winning film composer and his score to "Jurassic Park" is among his most memorable, mostly because of the main theme. This theme helps the audience experience and understand the wonder and amazement of prehistoric dinosaurs being brought to life inside the eventual disastrous theme park.
3. Also Sprach Zarathustra - Intro Theme (Richard Strauss)
This may be cheating a little bit, as the memorable brass notes are not played by French Horns. But it would still sound awesome if they were French horns! Best known for serving as the opening music to Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey", the intro to Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra" builds and builds until it finally reaches its peak with the full orchestra, providing listeners with one of the most recognizable themes in music history. On a side note, the cymbal players get their rare moment to shine in the orchestra with this piece!
4. Overture from Fidelio (Ludwig van Beethoven)
(Note: Skip to minute 2:00 for beginning of the overture)
"Fidelio" was the only opera composed by the classical music genius that was Ludwig van Beethoven. Beethoven's most memorable compositions were his symphonies, including what is perhaps the greatest symphony ever composed, "Symphony No. 9", commonly known as "Ode to Joy". His use of French Horns was limited in his music, but the instrument drove the overture in "Fidelio". Not bad when you have Leonard Bernstein conducting this version!
5. Ave Maria (arr. Johann Sebastian Bach/Charles Gounod)
(Note: No actual video this time, just audio)
Sometimes simplicity can be the most beautiful thing about music. In this arrangement, French Horn and organ being the only instruments, Bach and Gounod arranged "Ave Maria" in such a mesmerizing manner that one is instantly absorbed into its magnificence. The French Horn evokes so much emotion in its playing, and gives me goosebumps every time I listen to this piece. As a Catholic, it would have been a sin not to include this one!