Instruments | Cornet | Late Romantic | Classical
The cornet is a looped brass instrument with a wide bore and three valves. Beginning life as a development of the circular looped post horn, it became a valved instrument in France in the late 1820s. It apparently reached Britain in the 1830s, where its bright sound soon displaced the keyed bugle from amateur wind bands.
Most often to be heard as a brass band instrument, it did make occasional appearances in the orchestra (it was more popular with French composers), where it was doubled by horn players. The cornet is usually said to have made an early appearance in Rossini’s Guillaume Tell (‘William Tell’, 1829) and Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique (1830), though the naming of instruments at this time can be confusing, as designs were changing and composers occasionally referred to instruments by the wrong name. Even in the very eclectic twentieth century, it remained a rare visitor to the concert hall, but it can be heard in Vaughan Williams’s London Symphony and Constant Lambert’s (1905–51) Rio Grande (1927).
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