Isolde’s Garden & Cornwall Hunt

by Pamela J. Marshall

for 4 horns

Duration ~6.5 min.


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These two horn quartets are inspired by the Arthurian story of Tristan and Isolde. The story has been told many ways, and these two pieces take inspiration from conflicting versions of the story.

Isolde’s Garden is a gentle reminiscence of times past. Imagine Isolde at peace, somewhat melancholy but reconciled to love lost, on a warm summer day in Cornwall. A richly harmonized melody emerges gradually. There is a hummable tune, but not a song. The music sings of poignant memories, perhaps not reconciled after all. It is inspired by recent novels of Guenevere and Isolde. These novels contrasted with Wagner’s version, where Isolde dies an early and passionate death over Tristan’s body. Duration is approximately 2′ 30″.

Cornwall Hunt is a lively fantasy. There are extensive quotations from the wonderful hunting music for horns in Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde, Act II. It is challenging and fun to play. A modal medieval character alternates with the hunting calls. Duration is approximately 4 minutes.


Listen to a performance by massed horn choir conducted by Paul Mansur. The concert was in the wonderfully resonant Eastman Theatre at the 1997 International Horn Society Workshop in Rochester, NY.