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Cor anglais
English Horn.jpg
Woodwind instrument
Other names English horn
Hornbostel-Sachs classification 422.112-71
(Double reed aerophone with keys)
Developed about 1720 from the oboe da caccia
Playing range
Range english horn.png
Related instruments
Musical instruments
String instruments

The cor anglais, or English horn, is a double-reed woodwind instrument in the oboe family.

The cor anglais is a transposing instrument pitched in F, a perfect fifth lower than the oboe (a C instrument), and is consequently approximately one and a half times the length of the oboe. The fingering and playing technique used for the cor anglais are essentially the same as those of the oboe. Music for the cor anglais is thus written a perfect fifth higher than the instrument actually sounds. Because the cor anglais normally lacks the lowest B flat of the oboe, its sounding range stretches from the E (written B natural) below middle C to the C two octaves above middle C.


Description and timbre

Its pear-shaped bell gives it a more covered timbre than that of the oboe, being 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. The cor anglais is perceived to have a more mellow and plaintive tone than the oboe. Its appearance differs from the oboe in that the reed is attached to a slightly bent metal tube called the bocal, or crook, and the bell has a bulbous shape. It is also much longer overall.

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 wire at the base, approximately 5 millimeters 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 instruments are the French firms of F. Lorée, Marigaux and Rigoutat, the British firm of T W Howarth, and the American firm Fox. Instruments from smaller makers, such as A. Laubin, are also sought after. Instruments are usually made from African Blackwood or 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, reputedly making it even more mellow and warmer. Fox has recently made some instruments in plastic resin.

History and etymology

The term cor anglais is French for English horn, but the instrument is neither English nor a horn. The instrument is thought to have originated in Silesia about 1720, when a bulb bell was added to the oboe da caccia, a Baroque alto instrument of the oboe family, possibly by J. T. Weigel of Breslau. The two-keyed, open-belled straight tenor oboe (in French called "taille de hautbois", i.e., tenor oboe) and more especially the flare-belled oboe da caccia resembled the horns played by angels in religious icons of the Middle Ages and this gave rise in German-speaking central Europe to the Middle High German name engellisches Horn, meaning angelic horn. But engellisch also meant English in the vernacular of the time, and so the angelic horn became the English horn, a name which was retained, in the absence of any better alternative, for the curved, bulb-belled tenor oboe even after the oboe da caccia fell into disuse around 1760.[1]

The earliest known orchestral part specifically for the English horn is in the Vienna version of Niccolò Jommelli's opera Ezio dating from 1749[2]. Gluck and Haydn followed suit in the 1750s[3], and the first English horn concertos were written in the 1770s. Considering the name "cor anglais", it is ironic that the instrument wasn't used in France until about 1800 and in England until the 1830s[3].

Its name is sometimes said to derive from its original resemblance to the oboe da caccia, which tended to be either bent or curved in shape and was thus supposedly called a cor anglé (bent horn), a name later corrupted to cor anglais. The cor anglais still has a bent metal pipe, known as the bocal, which connects the reed to the instrument proper. This, however, is a false etymology, as anglé does not mean angled in any language. The name first appeared on a regular basis in Italian, German and Austrian scores from 1749, usually in the Italian form corno inglese.


Many oboists double on the cor anglais, just as flautists double on the piccolo. (Although piccolo oboes, called oboe musette, do exist, they are very rarely played.)



Until the twentieth century, there were few solo pieces for the instrument with a large ensemble. Important examples of such concertos and concertante works are:

† Though concerto in nature, these are officially just extensive solos in orchestral works, as the players are seated within the orchestra

Chamber music

Better known chamber music for English horn include:

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:

Use outside classical music

Though primarily featured in classical music, the cor anglais has also been used by a few musicians as a jazz instrument; most prominent among these are Paul McCandless, Jean-Luc Fillon, Sonny Simmons, and Vinny Golia (see also Oboists performing primarily outside classical genres). The cor anglais also figures in the instrumental arrangements of several Carpenters songs. It has also made some appearances in pop music, such as in King Crimson's "Dawn Song" on their album Lizard, Lindisfarne's "Run For Home", Randy Crawford's "One Day I'll Fly Away", and many (e.g. Judy Collins' and Barbra Streisand's) versions of Send in the Clowns. In Britain, Tony Hatch's theme tune to the long-running soap opera Emmerdale Farm was originally performed on the cor anglais. The cor anglais is also featured in the Lionel Richie & Diana Ross version of "Endless Love", and in Elton John's "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" & "Candle in the Wind 1997". The song "A Mutual Friend" by the band Wire from the album 154 uses a cor anglais.

Paul McCartney holds a cor anglais on the album cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The instrument also features in the 2005 film American Pie Presents: Band Camp (referred to as the oboe).

See also


  1. ^ 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).
  2. ^ History of the English horn/cor anglais at the Vienna Symphonic Library.
  3. ^ a b Michael Finkelman, "Die Oboeinstrumente in tieferer Stimmlage, Teil 5: Das Englischhorn in der Klassik", Tibia 99 (1999):618–24.


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




Translation of French cor anglais


English horn

English horns

English horn (plural English horns)

  1. (music) a woodwind instrument similar to an oboe, but larger and pitched a fifth lower



Simple English

Redirecting to Cor anglais


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