Famous French Horn Players

By Grant D. McKenzie

The French horn is a brass instrument with a distinctive circular body, a wide bell and a narrow, fluted mouthpiece. It has a smooth and mellow tone compared with the sharp and brassy sound of the trumpet. Mastering the instrument is extremely difficult.

Dennis Brain

Dennis Brain was the third in a line of great horn players. His father was Aubrey Brain and his grandfather was Alfred Brain Sr. Dennis Brain's uncle, Alfred Jr., was also a great horn player. Brain was born in London on May 17, 1921, and died in a car accident Sept. 1, 1957. Brain was such an accomplished performer that conductor Eugene Ormandy once remarked, "Dennis Brain had no peer."

Phillip Farkas

Unlike Dennis Brain, Philip Farkas was born into a non-musical family in 1914 in Chicago. He began his musical career at the age of 12 as a bugler for his Boy Scout troop. He continued with wind instruments in school at the direction of his parents who felt it would be good for his asthma. In 1933, before he finished high school, he became the first horn player for the Kansas City Philharmonic. Farkas founded the International Horn Society and wrote what is considered the "Bible" of horn technique, "The Art of French Horn Playing: A Treatise on the Problems and Techniques of French Horn Playing."

Barry Tuckwell

Barry Tuckwell was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1931. He began playing the horn at age 14 and one year later joined the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. At 19, he moved to England and was ultimately appointed principal horn for the London Symphony Orchestra. In 1968, after 13 years with the London Symphony Orchestra, Tuckwell retired to pursue a solo career. As of 2009, Tuckwell has a variety of fellowships and is the founder of the Barry Tuckwell Institute, an intensive summer camp specifically for horn players.

Dale Clevenger

Dale Clevenger has been principal horn for the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra and, as of 2009, still maintains that position. He is accomplished in several genres of music, including jazz, pop, chamber music and other forms of classical music. Clevenger has won three Grammy awards for his recordings. In addition to being a renowned horn player, Clevenger served 14 years as the conductor for the Elmhurst Philharmonic.