Horn 1: c1 - a2
Horn 2: a - a1
Horn 3: c1 - a2
Horn 4: d - e1
Horn 5: b - g2
Horn 6: a - f1
Horn 7: g - b1
Horn 8: D - c1
It was about time one of these lovely pieces were arranged for horn ensemble. Written for solo piano in 1888, all three Gymnopedies are in 3/4 time and share a theme and structure. As the composer at some point referred to some of his music as “furniture music”, this term, or the more up to date term “ambient music” are often used in connection with these pieces.
Whether an ensemble of eight horns can ever be considered “ambient”, is an entirely different question. Given the character of the piece, it is perhaps little surprising that the only two dynamics employed are pp and p. The key is transposed as-is, meaning the original E minor changes to A minor (no accidentals), and the horn players could technically read off the score in C. This is mainly due to the range used, which spans from pedal D to high A. Any lower, and the bottom end gets lost, any higher, and the dynamics will seem ridiculous.
So how does this arrangement compare to the original piano piece? Well, judging from the distribution of parts and instrumentation, Lynsdale-Nock actually took Debussy’s orchestration of Gymnopedie No.3 as a template. As the piece is in three parts (the first part containing several sections that are repeated and slightly modified in the second part, and then re-stated in the third), the re-statement of the primary theme is orchestrated in a similar way to Debussy’s (with the added lower octave), the rehearsal numbers are in the same spots (even though that could be a coincidence), and a similar amount of dynamic markings are missing.
There is, however, also an addition: an upbeat to the primary theme, which does not feature in either the piano or orchestrated version. Given that the first note is a high A, piano, that is a kind gesture (an can always be omitted if so desired). Other than that, this piece is an excellent exercise in matching ensemble articulation, sound, and precise tuning. It is quite unforgiving, and it shouldn’t be. For any group, this is one of the few arrangements that are an absolute must have if it wants to do serious ensemble work.
Provision of review score: John Lynsdale-Nock (Corniworld)