“The symbol of folklore music from BIHOR”
Horn violin

The horn violin is a string instrument.

Although in the past it was quite common, the horn violin passed into obscurity in all but the Bihor musical tradition, where is has become a symbol of the region.

Bihor region stretches on the western border of Romania with Hungary. Until 1918 belonged to the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.

European studies concerning the spread and tradition of musical instruments note that the horn violin was used in folk music only in the eastern part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the turn of the century, across all parts of the border with Romania influencing Romanian folk music bands.

These violins were found in Nasaud, Mures, Banat and Bihor counties, but today are present only in Bihor, where folk music bands adopted the horn violin for its ability to amplify its sound; something which enables it to be heard at large or outdoor events and sets it apart from other string instruments.

In Central and Western Europe, the horn violin was not successful because when it was used in classical pieces (such as the works of Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Haydn, etc.) it was noticed that the instrument sounded too similar in tone to ‘fiddler’s music’, and was not compatible with the scores written for classical violins at that time.

Former Austro-Hungarian Empire (at 1900) and today's Romania with BIHOR county positioning (red area)
Horn violin

The horn violin is built on a very similar concept to the violin which John Matthias Augustus Stroh created in the early 1900s.

Stroh violin is much louder than a standard wooden violin, and its directional projection of sound made it particularly useful in the early days of phonographic recording. As long as regular violins recorded poorly with the old acoustic-mechanical recording methods, Stroh violins were frequently used in recording studios, but became rare after record companies switched to the new electric microphone recording technology in the second half of the 1920s.

At a closer look, it is observed that there are large differences in manufacturing. Horn violins are much more supple than those created by Stroh, and in the place of the violin's usual wooden body there is a metal resonator to produce a louder and more penetrating sound.

A gramophone and a trumpet

Stroh violins were built with a resonator based on a patent, but horn violins are built by incorporating a gramophone resonator into the woden frame on which a metal trumpet is attached.

Gramophone resonator into a woden frame
Resonator placed on a side
Metal trumpet attached to the resonator on the other side

The bridge is based on a membrane resonator which takes the vibration through a thin rod (pin), which has the role of leading mechanical vibration, and the sound of strings set in vibration is amplified inside the trumpet.

Resonator: the membrane takes the vibrations of the rod (pin)
Horn violin

The result is a penetrating sound, somewhat metallic, so the instrument is a powerful broadcasting tool especially at outdoors performances because of its powerful sonority, for that reason called “horn” violin.

So once again we observe that folklore is a living phenomenon, which does not perish, but is in continuous transformation and is animated by artisans and musicians who with their craftsmanship and inventiveness adapt to modern times, giving new meanings to ancient artistic tradition in general and to music events in particular.

Generally, all musicians build their own horn violins, but there are well-known, renowned architects including Dorel Codoban from the village of Lazuri de Rosia (Bihor county, Romania).

Dorel Codoban - Horn violin maker from Lazuri de Rosia, Bihor county
some of the horn violins built by Dorel Codoban

He built around 2500 horn violins throughout his life.

Shelves of tools from Dorel Codoban's workshop where he manufactured his horn violins
Marius Mihuţ - horn violin maker from Cihei, Bihor county

Newer generation of horn violin makers include Marius Mihuţ from Cihei. His craftsmanship is so high that every horn violin became a traditional work of art.

The wood of the horn violin is carved with geometric patterns and shapes found in nature, that are so often used in folk tradition: leaves, branches, trees, animals and traditional figures as a bride. Also he paint the fingerboard of the horn violins with same traditional patterns. And as many other horn violin's makers he built a double horn violin as experiment.

Carved leaves on the scroll of the horn violin
Carved branches on the body of the horn violin
Carved trees on the body of the horn violin
Carved animal head shape on the scroll of the horn violin
Carved bride shape on the scroll of the horn violin
Painted fingerboard on the horn violin
Double horn violin

Leading horn violin soloists from Bihor include Cabuţa Gheorghe (nicknamed Stângaciu), Carol Varga (nicknamed Zbiciu), Mitica Negrean, Gheorghe Rada, Mitzi from Tulca, Doru from Albeşti and many other artists who animate all the occasions where music delights listeners and so they maintain and continue the special musical arrangements of horn violin.

Stângaciu (Căbuţa Gheorghe) - Playing Horn Violin
Credits: Story

Informant — Floarea Codoban
Informant — Florea Crişu
Informant — Marius Mihuţ
Informant — Căbuţa Gheorghe (nicknamed Stângaciu)
Translator — Simona Fer
Curator — Mihai Jurcă

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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