As a horn player, the music of Mozart has always been the backbone of my artistic repertoire. As a historical horn player, it has become a much more intimate and deeper matter. For some time I had been wondering how to play Mozart, and researched traditional classical execution : articulations, tempi, etc. But as I moved to natural horn - and in the end, to many different natural horns -, I became more and more interested in the very material aspect of the question. While playing a Mozart concerto on a French romantic hand horn, I started to wonder : am I really doing the right thing here ? Apart from music theory, am I sounding on this horn the way Mozart should sound ? And from how to play Mozart, my question became which horn to play Mozart on.
Mozart’s horn concertos were written between 1781 and 1786 for his horn player friend, Josef Leutgeb1, whom we don’t know much about. Lesser is known about the horn he may have played. Besides the theory, was the instrument Mozart wrote for - the one Leutgeb played - different from what we may think ? My preliminary investigations have shown that there is no actual certitude about this.
From this first question came an other, even more ambitious : how does such a horn feel like ? Is it different in terms of sound, articulation, tone colour, dynamics, and does it affect the way I play Mozart’s music ? The idea is to use the instrument as an urtext, and see if the question what to play Mozart on can answer the question how to play Mozart.
To sum up, the problematics of this research are : What was the horn Mozart and Leutgeb knew ? How does such a horn impact my interpretation of Mozart’s music ?
Obvioulsy, these two questions have to be treated separately and in this order. To begin with, a historical research about what horn Mozart actually knew is necessary. Eventhough an exact answer is probably impossible, I intend to get as close as possible to the horn Leutgeb played ; this will be the first part of this study, in which I will investigate horn history, manufacture, iconography etc., and of course Leutgeb’s life. After this historical part, my purpose is to find such a horn in playing condition. I will then analyse the response of this instrument when playing Mozart's music, compare it to what we are used to, and eventually record it.