B-flat Baritone Horn

Baritone Horn

baritone horn range

This is the lowest member of the cornet family.  It looks like a skinny Euphonium, but is not.  For decades, the terms “Baritone” and Euphonium were interchangeable.  However today, most composers, players, and band directors are savvy enough to know the difference.  The British brass bands have always known the difference between the two and provided two parts for each the Baritone Horn and the Euphonium in their ensembles.

In order to fully understand the difference between the Baritone Horn and the Euphonium, please read this article.

Unlike a Euphonium, the Baritone Horn will almost never have a fourth valve, and when they do, that valve will be more for securing intonation rather than extending the range of the instrument.  Also, curiously, the Baritone Horn is always written in treble clef sounding a ninth lower.  However, I wonder at this, as it will always be a trombone or Euphonium player who plays the Baritone Horn, and those players are almost exclusively bass (and tenor) clef players.  Maybe we should start writing for this instrument at sounding pitch out of convenience to the players.

Only once, has the Baritone Horn been used in a concert band alongside a Euphonium (and thus relegating the need for a true Baritone Horn in the ensemble).  Again, I go back to Lincolnshire Posy.  It is a fascinating study to look at how Grainger uses the two instruments throughout the work.  The Baritone Horn serves as a bass to the Trumpets or as a solo voice, while the Euphonium serves as a tenor to the tubas or a bass to the Horns.  He groups the two instruments together in the score (as is traditional).  Unfortunately, when we hear this piece played, the Baritone Horn part is almost never played on the actual instrument.  Instead two Euphoniums cover both parts, and thus ruining the intentions of Mr. Grainger.  Find an English recording (where Baritone Horns are both available and common), and you will hear the difference!

In the orchestra, there is only one big place where the Baritone Horn shines, the very beginning of Mahler’s Seventh Symphony.  The part is marked for Tenorhorn, which as I mentioned is the German name for this instrument.  The part is completely ruined when played on a large-bore Euphonium.  Mahler wants a pointed and direct sound, which the Baritone Horn delivers perfectly.  Sadly, one of the times I heard this piece played, the Tenorhorn solo was blatantly played on a Euphonium (by no less than one of the best Euphonium players in the country, who I know for a fact also plays the Baritone Horn!).  The sound was not at all what the composer intended, and the player and conductor should feel ashamed of themselves.

Like the Alto Horn, the Baritone Horn is rather uncommon, but not so unknown that instruments cannot be procured fairly easily.

The sound of the instrument is closer to that of the trombones that it is to the Euphonium.  Like the Alto Horn, it is a direct and bright sound.  Paired with the Alto Horn in a quartet (or duet) we can have a most interesting effect.  Of course it will function as the bottom voice in a cornet choir, but can also work as the top or middle voice of a tuba group.  Both the Baritone and Alto Horns can put a punch into the sound of the Horns and bolster their numbers.

Mute selection will be limited to only straight mutes, and even those will be rare.

I will again make a note on the name of this instrument.  You will notice that throughout this section I always call it a Baritone Horn and not simply a Baritone.  I dislike the term “Baritone” for use for a brass instrument as it conjures up images of band composers who simply did not know or did not care enough to make a distinction between the two instruments.  If you really want to make sure your part is played by the right instrument, write Baritone Horn and not Baritone.

Mahler 7 solo on a Baritone Horn (Tenorhorn)

Mahler 7 solo in context.  Solo is in the very first measures of the piece.

The Swan for solo Baritone Horn and brass band.

Nessun Dorma for Baritone Horn

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11 thoughts on “B-flat Baritone Horn

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  7. DB

    Actually, Holst called for both instruments in his original scoring for the first suite in Eb. It was later immured and it’s part split between the alto clarinet and Bari sax, the next edition restored it, and the one after eliminated it and gave the important parts to the euphonium at the expense of what holst actually wrote for the euphonium.

    1. I found a recording with the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra where they do use a Baritone Horn. You can hear the different in the 2nd movement. I don’t like how they arbitrarily switch between trumpets and cornets though.

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