Our first rehearsals for this weekend’s concerts begin today. Up until I few days ago I was especially apprehensive about the set. Now I’m only moderately apprehensive.

Prior to getting the roster, I had assumed I was doubling. The only English horn in the concert is in the first work, Dohnanyi’s Szimfonikus percek (Symphonic Minutes), Op. 36. It’s a five movement work. The English horn begins movements 2 and 4 … with solos, of course! As is so darn typical, the part is in the second oboe book, and the player is expected to play second oboe for the other three movements. In both movements one and three the oboe plays to the end of the movement. I suppose Dohnanyi had great faith in musicians, as he writes these major solos for the EH then, with no warm up possible. He’s not the only composer to do this, of course … and it drives me nuts when composers think this is a reasonable thing to ask. But what can you do? It’s there, so we deal.

BUT … the roster showed three of us! How ’bout that? They hired a second oboist, so now, rather than stressing over the switch, I only have to stress about coming in pretty cold after the preceding movements. I don’t believe the first solo will be that difficult. The entrance isn’t on any sort of a tricky note:

Do you see the problem, though? Do you see the low A♯? I don’t have a low A♯ on my horn. (Does anyone? I don’t know if that exists!) I have a low B♭/A♯ extension, but when that’s set to play the low A♯ the B isn’t available. Notice there is a low B a few measures later? That’s a problem. The Maestro said to just leave out the A♯, so we’ll give that a go today and see what he thinks. In my recording the player simply doesn’t enter until the next middle of the next measure (bass clarinet plays the first measure). I’m wondering, though — if the Maestro really does want me on the bar with low A♯s ‐ if it might be better to play the low A♯s and leave off the low B, which only appears once and more people have entered the line by then. We’ll see! (Of course sliding from the low D♯ to the low A♯ isn’t exactly fun, but it is doable.)

The second solo begins on a written low E. (English horn is in the key of F; if I finger a C it will sound the F below that. A low E will sound like a lower A.) Low E is just not a fabulous note on the EH. At least not for me. You can see the solo on the lower half of the page:

So yes, I will probably worry. I hope, though, that I’ll be feeling confident and comfortable. (I can dream, can’t I?)

Of course if things don’t feel great, I just read my little fortune I have taped to my folder. (This fortune applies to all seasons but winter.):


  1. I’ve played a good number of English Horns with a low B and Bb, most notably some of the Kreul English Horns which certainly would be considered professional level. Peter Hurd frequently has these instruments.

  2. Way to make me feel like a total loser, Cooper! Oh. Wait. I was already there.

  3. You are not any kind of a loser! But I have also seen EHs with an actual Bb on the bell (like an oboe but with the bulge) I have never had to play a low Bb though…

  4. Thanks, Jill! My friend and second oboist for this set said she has seen ONE, but it wasn’t exactly pleasant to play. Certainly they aren’t as common as maybe some people think; the recordings I’ve heard have the EH coming in later, to avoid the issue. But in any case, I’m playing it, and leaving out the low B, when a lot more people are playing the line. It’s working well. (And the maestro seems to be loving the low A♯!