The english horn, also known as the cor anglais, is considered the alto member of the oboe family. When called for, the english horn is played by an oboist in the orchestra. It is a double reed instrument pitched in F with a conical bore and so overblows at the octave like the flute, other oboes, and bassoon. Like the bassoon and unlike the oboe, the slightly wider but shorter reed of the English horn is inserted into a small metal tube at the top called a bocal, which is slightly bent for playing comfort. This bocal is the most often overlooked and most important piece of equipment, affecting every aspect of performance and tone production. A poor bocal can result in weak projections, resonance, focus, and pitch stability. The overall size of the English horn is also approximately one-third longer than a standard C oboe.
The English horn is considered an auxiliary instrument to the oboe section, and is usually played by a lower chair player, who will specialize in English horn while the principal oboe will concentrate on the important oboe parts. The English horn is placed directly below the oboes in an orchestral score.
Famous Works featuring the English Horn
1. Dvorak - Ninth Symphony, 3rd Movement
2. Copland - Quiet City
3. Stravinsky - Pantomime from The Firebird
With help of the bulbous bell near the end of the instrument, the English horn, like the oboe d'amore, has a somewhat nasal tone quality to it, less shrill than that of the oboe's. Like all other double reeds, the timbre of the English horn is very sweet in the middle to high registers, and has a more prominent, open tone in the lower register. Unlike the oboe, differences between the european schools and the american school of playing are much less noticeable.
Range and Transposition
The English horn is written in F, sounding a perfect fifth below the written pitch. It is likewise pitched a perfect fifth below the stand oboe, whose fingering system it shares. The written range is from B natural below treble clef to G above treble clef, or concert pitches E3 to C6. The normal playing range rarely ever exceeds a written high Eb, and such notes in that range are discouraged in non-solo repertoire.