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Invention Horn
Paris, early 19th century
Courtois frères
inv. n. 71
Courtois frères horn, inv. N. 71
The hooped horn first appeared early in the second half of the 17th century when an unknown (probably German) instrument-maker decided to bend the tube of the trumpet into an unusual circular shape with two protruding ends, one with a mouthpiece and one with a bell. This model was quickly adopted in France, where it was particularly suited to hunting on horseback - a customary practice in that country but unknown in other countries, where hunters took fixed positions. This also explains the origins of the instrument's oldest name, the French trompe de chasse (hunting trumpet).

Several decades later, enthusiasm for hunting on horseback spread to several regions in the Empire, especially Bohemia and Austria, and with it a passion for the instrument; there, it was known as the Waldhorn ("forest horn"). Meanwhile, two Viennese inventors began making a series of structural modifications, including a larger bell and moveable slides (called "crooks") which inserted at the mouthpipe, enabling the modification of the tubing length, thus allowing the player to make many sounds that were previously impossible to play.

After 1711 the horn officially entered the Viennese court orchestra and from then on, its musical success was unstoppable. It was soon a presence in the main court chapels of the Austrian Empire, including even the court of Naples (!) - then under Austrian dominion - where it was immediately adopted by Alessandro Scarlatti, who introduced it into Italian opera, which was then gaining favor in all major European courts. It was in the court of Dresden, in the mid-18th century, that a revolutionary technique called "hand-stopping" was developed, which involved inserting the right hand into the bell. Also in Dresden, the first attempts were made to position the crooks in the middle of the tubing rather than at the mouthpiece, allowing for a more comfortable grip and better control of the instrument.

At this point, the horn was ready to become a solo and concert instrument. A number of great virtuosos, many of them Bohemian, had already become well-known and several moved temporarily or definitively to Paris, where a new vogue for the instrument had developed. There, during the 1780's, the Raoux family began to design a model especially for the few tonalities favored by concert artists of the time.
The other model in use, mostly played by orchestra musicians, involved the deployment of numerous crooks (usually nine) covering all tonalities, with a range from high B-flat (rarely C) down to low B-flat.

The "Courtois frères" instrument in this collection, which dates from the early 19th century and is embellished with a lovely painted decoration in the bell, is an orchestral model of this type. When it was acquired by the Museum in 1896 it had nine crooks and a case; unfortunately, these have been lost. Today, the horn is displayed with only the low C crook (as confirmed by the "UT" stamped on it), one of the longest in existence; thus the total length of its tubing measures almost five meters.
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