Cor anglais

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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.

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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.

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