Columbus Symphony Orchestra

Soul of an Orchestra

Welcome to our last day of French Horn week here at Giocosity. I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting all the horn players of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. Don’t worry, I have a few more horn players for you to meet, including Arty Robinson, an up and coming horn player currently at The Ohio State University School of Music, but let’s talk some music first.


French horns have quite a personality as well as a gorgeous sound. When they first started becoming popular, composers, such as Robert Schumann, were fascinated with them.

It was Schumann who said that “the sound of the horn is the soul of the orchestra.” From the La Jolla Music Society website, I learned this about him:

In the winter of 1849 Schumann became interested in the French horn. The recent invention of the valved horn gave the once-awkward natural horn much greater range, flexibility, and expressive power, and–working at white heat–Schumann set out to exploit the possibilities he recognized in the new instrument. He composed the Adagio and Allegro for horn and piano in four days (February 14-17, 1849) and then over the next three days sketched out the Concert Piece for Four Horns and Orchestra.

Two horn pieces in a week’s time. That’s pretty impressive, don’t you think? Take a look at these two quotes.

Composers generally call on them when bravura is needed, but they also can supply a soulful, melancholy sonority as well.

 – Maestro Peter Stafford Wilson

I myself have always had a weakness for the sound of eight French horns playing in unison. Their rich, golden, legendary sonority transports me.

 – Aaron Copland


Helen Kotas was the first woman to be principal horn player for a major American orchestra

Sarah Willis is the first woman to play a brass instrument for the Berlin Philharmonic

I would rather quit several years too soon than 10 minutes too late.

 – Phillip Farkas about leaving his position as Principal Horn of a major symphony orchestra to become horn professor at Indiana University.

This is my favorite!

Who is this Beethoven? His name is not known to us. Of course, Punto is very well known.

 – A 19th century local music critic about horn player, Giovanni Punto, upon playing the Sonata for Horn and Piano Op. 17 by Beethoven in Pest, Hungary.


These are a few of the suggestions of pieces that were recommended this week as great examples of French horn music that we should all have in our music libraries. What I have here is just a small sampling, too! My personal favorite is the third one: the Mozart horn concerto.

I love everything by Mozart, so start with that, but be sure to listen to the Schumann. After that, try the Strauss. From there, venture out to some Wagner and then follow Gene’s advice and listen to “all the 5ths:” the 5th Symphonies by Mahler, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich. (Throw in Beethoven’s 5th while you’re at it. It’s just good in its own right!)

After listening to all of those, figure out which ones you liked best and then try something else by that same composer and keep working your way out from there. Have fun with it! There’s a lot of great music to be heard! And if you think you’re ready to venture out again, away from YouTube, then why not try an actual concert? Mahler’s 2nd and a Mozart’s Horn Concerto #3 are both coming up!


When talking to Erin, Adam, Julia and Gene, I asked them all where they saw the CSO in the next 3-5 years. They’ve already traveled a long (long) road within the last 5 years. They all spoke of having improved artistically under the leadership of Maestro Jean-Marie Zeitouni, but want to continue that trend with the next music director.

They all long for a longer schedule! (Obviously – they enjoy being working musicians!) Julia hopes for a new music director who can continue pushing them to make the best music possible.  Erin hopes for someone who can help grow the orchestra. Gene hopes for a return to a 35 week schedule, but knows that it comes down to fundraising. Adam hopes for a good balance of old and new, for innovation without alienating any existing segments of the audience.

Adam went on to say that in doing that, they could “catapult themselves into the next generation”.


This is the current generation of horn players within the CSO. Some are new. Some have been around for a while. So what about the next generation? What about some up and coming horn players?

Rite of Spring Horns

From left to right, Erin Lano, Julia Rose, Adam Koch, Gene Standley and Arty Robinson

While learning about the French horn, Maestro Wilson told me that,

There are regularly four members to the section (adding a fifth with the traditional assistant to the principal), so it is the largest wind section in terms of numbers.

Shown above, Ohio State senior, Arty Robinson auditioned for and made the substitute list with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra last fall where he’s been called to play at rehearsals and family concerts. In March, he had the good fortune of being called to join the horn section for their performance of Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.

Click here to hear the CSO’s performance of the Rite of Spring.  If you listen carefully, you can also hear the tapping of the dancers’ feet on stage!

Like the rest of the section he, too, thinks of Stravinsky as a genius and even wrote a paper on him while still in high school!  (Hmm – wonder if I can get a copy of that!)

Arty told me that he’s been a part of the CSO’s Youth Orchestra programs and has studied with former 2nd Horn, David Urschel, since he was in middle school. He’s currently studying under professor Bruce Henniss at the Ohio State University School of Music and plays a Lewis & Duerk LDx5 French horn. Last summer he attended the Aspen Music Festival and School as a scholarship student of David Wakefield, Horn and Chamber Music professor from Julliard.

Arty’s dream job would be as a horn player in the Chicago or San Francisco Symphony. I truly hope he makes it to one of those!

Perhaps the generation after him will someday consider a job in the Columbus Symphony Orchestra as their dream job!!


Well that’s it for French horn week! I hope that somewhere along the line someone out there is listening right now to one of the videos above. or is backtracking to Adam’s post to listen to his take on the theme to the new Star Trek movies, or kicking back and checking out the schedule of their local symphony. Heck – maybe someone will even think about suggesting that their child take up the French horn. Music is a wonderful thing and whether we listen to it or create it ourselves, it should always have a place in our lives.  I hope you agree!

Thank you very much for taking the time to read all I’ve written this week. I really appreciate it!  Now – what instrument should I write about next?! 🙂

Many thanks to Arty for the use of his (group) picture on this post! 

Bring on the Horns! (Preview) – Don’t Look ‘em in the Eyes – Erin Lano – Adam Koch – Julia Rose – Gene Standley Soul of the Orchestra – Thank you!   

3 thoughts on “Soul of an Orchestra

    • It’s my pleasure, Julia! I still can’t get over how lucky I was to have such enthusiastic participation from all of you – and Maestro Wilson, too! 🙂 I’ve had a lot of fun with this – and have learned a lot! 🙂

  1. Pingback: Hornblowing | Victor Wiebe III

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