The Horn Orchestra of Russia

Rosyjska orkiestra rogów

The history of horn music dates back to the days of Elisabeth the First reign. In 1751, as the Marshal to her Court and Chief Director of Imperial Theaters Prince Semyon Kirillovich Naryshkin was appointed the Master of the Hounds, an amusing idea struck him: he set himself a challenge to improve the sounding of crude and noteless hunting horns. The idea marked the beginning of a new and remarkable Russian hunting music, which has never had a counterpart in the world.

This simple idea – to tune the plain hunting horns and combine these instruments together – immediately had a fantastic effect. Russian Empress Elisabeth the First and aristocracy were deeply moved by the extraordinary strong and cohesive sound of the horn orchestra. Within a short period of time, horn orchestras became extremely popular. Two horn orchestras were established by the Court, then Stroganov, Razumovsky, Orlov, Naryshkin, Potemkin, Sheremetev – all of whom followed the Empress’s example, and Russian Lord’s amusement turned to be a true work of art.

Before long one couldn’t find any important event in Russia, where horn orchestra wasn’t used. Horn orchestras have often performed at diplomatic and state Receptions, Summits, Tsar’s weddings, balls, hunting parties and folk festivities.

For more than 100 years, horn music had no rival in Russia and played a leading role in the country’s cultural life. However, time passed by and musical styles began to slowly change and horn orchestras were gradually pushed aside by symphony orchestras and undeservedly forgotten.

All the many attempts to revive horn orchestras during the following hundred and fifty years failed, and the secrets of playing the instruments and producing the notes were lost. Reproduction of the very simple concept that every instrument produces only one note turned out to be very difficult in practice, as the performance of the integral musical composition this way is possible only by ideal phonation.

One of the most successful attempts was made in 1882 by Baron K.K. Stakelberg. The revival of horn orchestra was timed to coincide with the coronation of Alexander III (1883). The set of instruments created for this occasion still remain intact and can be found in the Museum of St. Petersburg, today.

The horn orchestra gave another concert at the coronation of Nicholas II on 14th May, 1896.
These were the last sounds of horn music…
… up until the 21st century.

Szalone Dni Muzyki
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