Cor Anglais
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Cor Anglais

The cor anglais (, [1][2] or original French: [k l?];[3] plural: cors anglais), or English horn in North America, is a double-reed woodwind instrument in the oboe family. It is approximately one and a half times the length of an oboe.

The cor anglais is a transposing instrument pitched in F, a perfect fifth lower than the oboe (a C instrument). This means that music for the cor anglais is written a perfect fifth higher than the instrument sounds. The fingering and playing technique used for the cor anglais are essentially the same as those of the oboe, and oboists typically double on the cor anglais when required. The cor anglais normally lacks the lowest B key found on most oboes, and so its sounding range stretches from E3 (written B) below middle C to C6 two octaves above middle C.

Description and timbre

The pear-shaped bell (called Liebesfuss) of the cor anglais gives it a more covered timbre than the oboe, closer in tonal quality to the oboe d'amore. Whereas the oboe is the soprano instrument of the oboe family, the cor anglais is generally regarded as the alto member of the family, and the oboe d'amore--pitched between the two in the key of A--as the mezzo-soprano member.[4] The cor anglais is perceived to have a more mellow and plaintive tone than the oboe. The difference in sound results primarily from a wider reed and a conical bore that expands over a greater distance than the oboe's; although darker in tone and lower in pitch than the oboe, its sound is distinct from (though naturally blends with) the sound of the bassoon family. Its appearance differs from the oboe in that the instrument is notably longer, the reed is attached to a slightly bent metal tube called the bocal, or crook, and the bell has a bulbous shape ("Liebesfuss").

The cor anglais is usually notated in the treble clef, a perfect fifth higher than sounding. Some composers notated it in the bass clef when the lower register was persistently used,[5] and historically several other options were employed. Alto clef written at sounding pitch is occasionally used, even by as late a composer as Sergei Prokofiev. In late-18th- and early-19th-century Italy, where the instrument was often played by bassoonists instead of oboists, it was notated in the bass clef an octave below sounding pitch (as found in Rossini's Overture to William Tell). French operatic composers up to Fromental Halévy notated the instrument at sounding pitch in the mezzo-soprano clef, which enabled the player to read the part as if it were in the treble clef.[4]

Although the instrument usually descends only to (written) low B, continental instruments with an extension to low B (sounding E) have existed since early in the 19th century.[6] Examples of works requiring this note (while acknowledging its exceptional nature) include Arnold Schoenberg's Gurre-Lieder, Gustav Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde, Heitor Villa-Lobos's Chôros No. 6, and Karlheinz Stockhausen's Zeitmaße. Antonín Dvo?ák, in his Scherzo capriccioso, even writes for the cor anglais down to low A, though it seems unlikely that such an extension ever existed.[7]

Reeds used to play the cor anglais are similar to those used for an oboe, consisting of a piece of cane folded in two. While the cane on an oboe reed is mounted on a small metal tube (the staple) partially covered in cork, there is no such cork on a cor anglais reed, which fits directly on the bocal. The cane part of the reed is wider and longer than that of the oboe. Unlike American-style oboe reeds, cor anglais reeds typically have some wire at the base, approximately 5 mm (0.20 in) from the top of the string used to attach the cane to the staple. This wire serves to hold the two blades of cane together and stabilize tone and pitch.

Perhaps the best-known makers of modern cors anglais are the French firms of F. Lorée, Marigaux, and Rigoutat, the British firm of T. W. Howarth, and the American firm Fox Products. Instruments from smaller makers, such as A. Laubin, are also sought after. Instruments are usually made from African blackwood (aka Grenadilla), although some makers offer instruments in a choice of alternative woods as well, such as cocobolo (Howarth) or violet wood (Lorée), which are said to alter the voice of the cor anglais slightly, producing a more mellow sound. Fox has recently made some instruments in plastic resin and maple, the latter being the wood traditionally used for bassoons.

History and etymology

The term cor anglais is French for English horn, but the instrument is neither from England nor related to the various conical-bore brass instruments called "horns", such as the French horn, the natural horn, the post horn, or the tenor horn. The instrument originated in Silesia about 1720 when a bulb bell was fitted to a curved oboe da caccia-type body by the Weigel family of Breslau. The two-keyed, open-belled, straight tenor oboe (French taille de hautbois, "tenor oboe"), and more particularly the flare-belled oboe da caccia, resembled the horns played by angels in religious images of the Middle Ages. This gave rise in German-speaking central Europe to the Middle High German name engellisches Horn, meaning angelic horn. Because engellisch also meant English in the vernacular of the time, the "angelic horn" became the "English horn". In the absence of any better alternative, the curved, bulb-belled tenor oboe then retained the name even after the oboe da caccia fell into disuse around 1760.[8] The name first appeared regularly in Italian, German, and Austrian scores from 1741 on, usually in the Italian form corno inglese.[9]

The earliest known orchestral part specifically for the instrument is in the Vienna version of Niccolò Jommelli's opera Ezio dating from 1749,[10] where it was given the Italian name corno inglese.[11] Gluck and Haydn followed suit in the 1750s,[12] and the first English horn concertos were written in the 1770s. The Schwarzenberg Wind Harmonie of 1771 employed 2 cor anglais as well as 2 oboes, 2 bassoons and 2 horns. Prince Joseph Adam Johann Nepomuk Franz de Paula Joachim Judas Thaddäus Abraham von Schwarzenberg (1680-1732) was a keen boar hunter and so most probably employed oboe da caccia players, which explains the preference for the new cor anglais as opposed to the clarinet.[clarification needed] Johan Went was first cor anglais and Ignaz Teimer (father of the Teimer brothers) was second cor anglais. The first oboe trios were composed by Johan Went for the Teimer brothers.[clarification needed] The oboe and cor anglais writing in these original Bohemian/Viennese trios by Johan Went and Joseph Triebensee comprise the first music written by oboists for oboists and contain the first examples of florid virtuosic writing for the cor anglais, paving the way for the florid compositions of Bellini, Donizetti, Pasculi, and Liszt. In 1796 Johann and Franz Teimer died. The first recorded performance of an oboe trio was 1793 (which Beethoven attended). Within this short period of five years, when the Teimer brothers performed in Vienna and the other various Schwarzenberg Palaces, over 20 oboe trios were composed. Phillip Teimer continued to play the cor anglais in Schiknaeder's opera house in Vienna until his death in 1812. He also sang some roles with the company due to his sonorous bass voice. Many cor anglais parts were specially written for him by Stengel, Süssmayr, Paer, Winter, Weigl, Eberl, Eybler, Salieri, Hummel, Schacht and Fisher.[13]

Considering the name "cor anglais", it is ironic that the instrument was not regularly used in France before about 1800 or in England before the 1830s.[12] It is mentioned in the Penny Cyclopedia from 1838 as "The English Horn, or Corno Inglese, is a deeper-toned oboe [...]", while the first identified printed use of the term cor anglais in English was in 1870.[14] In the UK the instrument is colloquially generally referred to as the "cor".[4] The local equivalent for "English horn" is used in most other European languages, while a few languages use their equivalent of "alto oboe".

Due to the earlier bowed or angular forms it took, the suggestion has been made that anglais might be a corruption of Middle French anglé (angular, or bent at an angle, angulaire in modern French),[15] but this has been rejected on grounds that there is no evidence of the term cor anglé before it was offered as a possible origin of anglais in the late 19th century.[16]


Concertos and concertante

Until the 20th century, there were few solo pieces for the instrument with a large ensemble (such as orchestra or concert band). Important examples of such concertos and concertante works are:

+ Though concertante in nature, these are just orchestral works featuring extensive solos, with the player seated within the orchestra

Chamber music

Better known chamber music for English horn includes:

  • Johan Went's Trio for 2 oboes and English horn, Petite Serenade Concertante in F major c.(1790)
  • Johan Went's Trio for 2 oboes and English horn, Divertimento in Bb major c.(1790)
  • Johan Went's Trio for 2 oboes and English horn, Variations on a Theme by Paisiello c.(1790)
  • Johan Went's Trio for 2 oboes and English horn, Variations on a Theme by Haydn c.(1790)
  • Johan Went's Trio for 2 oboes and English horn, Pas de Deux in C major de Signore e Signora Vigano c.(1790)
  • Franz Krommer's Trio for 2 oboes and English horn, Trio in F major c.(1794)
  • Franz Krommer's Trio for 2 oboes and English horn, Variations on a Theme by Pleyel c.(1794-6)
  • Anton Wranitsky's Trio for 2 oboes and English horn, Trio in C major c.(1794-6)
  • Franz Poessinger's Trio for 2 oboes and English horn, Trio in F major c.(1794-6)
  • Josef Triebensee's Trio for 2 oboes and English horn, Trio in F major c.(1794-6)
  • Josef Triebensee's Trio for 2 oboes and English horn, Trio in C major c.(1794-6)
  • Josef Triebensee's Trio for 2 oboes and English horn, Trio in Bb major c.(1794-6)
  • Josef Triebensee's Trio for 2 oboes and English horn, Variations on a Theme by Haydn c.(1794-6)
  • Ludwig van Beethoven's Trio for 2 oboes and English horn, Op. 87 (1795)
  • Ludwig van Beethoven's Variations on "Là ci darem la mano", for 2 oboes and English horn, WoO 28 (1796)
  • Anton Reicha's Andante arioso, Andante and Adagio for wind quintet with featured cor anglais (1817-9)
  • Elliott Carter's Pastoral for English horn and piano (1940)
  • Felix Draeseke's "Kleine Suite" for English horn and piano, Op. 87 (1911)
  • Peter Warlock's 'The Curlew' for singer, flute, cor anglais and string quartet (1920-22)
  • Paul Hindemith's Sonata for English Horn and Piano (1941)
  • Charles Koechlin's Monody for English Horn, Op. 216, Nr. 11 (1947-48)
  • Vincent Persichetti's Parable XV for Solo English Horn
  • Karlheinz Stockhausen's Zeitmaße for flute, oboe, clarinet, English horn and bassoon (1955-56)
  • Igor Stravinsky's Pastorale for soprano and piano (1907), in the composer's arrangements for soprano, oboe, English horn, clarinet, and bassoon (1923), and violin, oboe, English horn, clarinet, and bassoon (1933)
  • Augusta Read Thomas's Pilgrim Soul for cor anglais and two violins (2011)
  • Heitor Villa-Lobos' Quinteto (em forma de chôros) for flute, oboe, clarinet, English horn and bassoon (1928)
  • Carlo Yvon's Sonata in F minor for English Horn (or Viola) and Piano (published ca. 1831), one of the few sonatas written during the Romantic era for this combination.

Solos in orchestral works

The English horn's timbre makes it well suited to the performance of expressive, melancholic solos in orchestral works (including film scores) as well as operas. Famous examples are:

Opening motive from the 2nd movement (Largo) of Dvo?ák's Symphony No. 9, From the New World


  • Andriessen, Hendrik, Elegia (1967)
  • Auerbach, Lera, The Prayer
  • Bancquart, A., Sonatine
  • Bentzon, J., Rhapsodique Etude, Op. 10
  • Berkeley, Michael, Snake (1990)
  • Brandon, J., In the City at Night
  • Caldini, F., Abendstück, Op. 12
  • Caldini, F., Aria di Eliogabalo, Op. 18
  • Cantalbiano, R., Sonata
  • Carbon, J., Four Impromptus
  • Carter, E., A 6-letter Letter
  • Cherney, B., Epitaph
  • Childs, Barney, Four Involutions
  • Dagher, Abdo, The New Egyptian-Arabic
  • Davies, Ken, Dark River
  • Douglas, Paul Marshall, Luquet
  • Downey, John W., Soliloquy
  • Filippi, A., Equations
  • Hall, Juliana, A Certain Tune
  • Head, Raymond, No Nights are Dark Enough
  • Isaacson, M., A Quiet Prayer
  • Koechlin, Charles, Monodie
  • Koechlin, Charles, Suite
  • Lawrence, Echoes in Wilderness
  • Persichetti, Vincent, Parable XV
  • Pfiffner, Miniature d'Umbria I
  • Rudin, R., Recitativ und Arie
  • Silvestrini, Paysage avec Pyrame eet Thisbe
  • Tomasi, H., Evocations
  • Turok, P., Partita


  1. ^ Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary, cor anglais, Cambridge University Press, 2011, p. 110
  2. ^ Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, 3rd edition, Pearson Education Limited, 2008, p.185
  3. ^ cor anglais in the Oxford English Dictionary
  4. ^ a b c Norman Del Mar, Anatomy of the Orchestra (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981): 143. ISBN 0-520-04500-9 (cloth); ISBN 0-520-05062-2.
  5. ^ William Alexander Barrett, An Introduction to Form and Instrumentation for the Use of Beginners in Composition (London, Oxford, and Cambridge: Rivingtons, 1879): 55.
  6. ^ Hector Berlioz, Berlioz's Orchestration Treatise: A Translation and Commentary, translated from the French by Hugh Macdonald (Cambridge Musical Texts and Monographs. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002): 108. ISBN 0-521-23953-2.
  7. ^ Norman Del Mar, Anatomy of the Orchestra (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981): 158-59. ISBN 0-520-04500-9 (cloth); ISBN 0-520-05062-2.
  8. ^ Michael Finkelman, "Oboe: III. Larger and Smaller European Oboes, 4. Tenor Oboes, (iv) English Horn", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001); also at Grove Music Online (Subscription access).
  9. ^ Willi Apel, "English Horn", The Harvard Dictionary of Music, second edition (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1969). ISBN 0-674-37501-7.
  10. ^ History of the English horn/cor anglais at the Vienna Symphonic Library
  11. ^ Adam Carse, Musical Wind Instruments: A History of the Wind Instruments Used in European Orchestras and Wind-Bands from the Later Middle Ages Up to the Present Time (London: Macmillan and Co., 1939): 144.
  12. ^ a b Michael Finkelman, "Die Oboeinstrumente in tieferer Stimmlage - Teil 5: Das Englischhorn in der Klassik", in Tibia 99 (1999): 618-24. (in German)
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ English Horn at
  15. ^ Michael Kennedy, "Cor anglais", The Oxford Dictionary of Music, second edition, revised, Joyce Bourne, associate editor (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2006); A. J. Greimas, Dictionnaire de l'ancien français jusqu'au milieu du XIV siècle, second edition (Paris: Librarie Larousse, 1968): 31. OCLC 802019668
  16. ^ Adam Carse, Musical Wind Instruments: A History of the Wind Instruments Used in European Orchestras and Wind-Bands from the Later Middle Ages Up to the Present Time (London: Macmillan and Co., 1939): 143; Sybil Marcuse, "Cor anglais", in Musical Instruments: A Comprehensive Dictionary, revised edition, The Norton Library (New York: W. W. Norton, 1975). ISBN 0-393-00758-8.

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