Wendell Hoss

by Norman Schweikert

With the passing of Wendell Hoss on April 15, 1980, the horn world lost one of its most respected and beloved colleagues. Wendell was known in all parts of the globe as a fine artist on his instrument, but most importantly as a kind gentleman, generous with his time and worldly possessions. Another like him will not soon pass our way again. 

My first acquaintance with Wendell came in the late-nineteen-forties when my parents took me to a chamber music concert held in a church somewhere in Los Angeles. On that occasion Wendell played a Mozart concerto and I was very impressed with what I heard. At that time I was studying the violin, but after hearing Wendell create such beauty I thought I might rather be a horn player. This experience, combined with other factors, brought me to the horn. A few years later, my teacher, Sinclair Lott, urged me to join The Horn Club of Los Angeles and it was as a member of this stimulating group that I got to know Wendell much better, playing in ensembles with him or under his direction. He was always so kind and helpful in every way, hardly thinking of himself at all, and freely giving his time where it was needed. I remember an occasion early in 1955 when the Los Angeles Philharmonic was to perform Bruckner's Symphony No. 7 and their management had rented a set of Wagner tuben from the New York Philharmonic. The tuben may never have been used in a performance by the Los Angeles orchestra, as far as I know, and Wendell graciously volunteered to help balance and work out the quartet parts with the tuba section (Sinclair Lott, Irving Rosenthal, Norman Schweikert and Arthur Briegleb). The conductor, Alfred Wallenstein, was evidently pleased with the results since he gave the quartet a solo bow. Thank you, Wendell. 

That same year I left Los Angeles for a position with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and although I had never studied with Wendell we began a correspondence which lasted over twenty years. He kept me informed of Horn Club activities, sending programs and other news, and always had time to send a post card from distant parts during his travels. 

When I arrived in Rochester in October, 1955, there were still a good many players in the orchestra who were there when Wendell was a member. As soon as they learned I was from Los Angeles, they asked me if I knew him and then would proceed to tell me how much they thought of him as a musician and a gentleman. I began to realize then the extent of Wendell’s reputation and just how remarkable a person he was. Late in 1964 I decided to start gathering material for an history of professional horn players in our country and Wendell was the first hornist I contacted for a biographical sketch. He responded early in 1965 (a typically modest page and a half, double-spaced) and encouraged me in this project. Over the years he added information as various questions came up and it is this data from Wendell himself which forms the nucleus of this article. Additional information came from published sources and from many helpful individuals. My special thanks go to Art Briegleb and Nancy Fisch who cleared up many details due to their close association with Wendell. 

Wendell Engstrom Hoss was born to George Washington and May Engstrom Hoss in Wichita, Kansas, on November 20, 1892. Both parents were highly educated college graduates and authors of books in their fields. In this intellectual atmosphere Wendell began the study of music. His first instrument was the violin but he taught himself to play the cornet, soon replacing it with a single F, piston-valved horn with crooks. He attended the Wichita College of Music as a student in the violin department and graduated in the spring of 1912. Not happy with his self-taught horn-playing he decided he needed professional guidance. This brought him to Chicago in September of the following year where he continued his violin study with Léon Sametini at the Chicago Musical College and began formal lessons on the horn with William Frank, the third horn of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. At Northwestern University he took a theory course starting in 1914 and about this time began horn study with Leopold de Maré, principal horn of the Chicago orchestra.

Wendell made rapid progress on the horn and gradually put the violin away since he was now moving into professional horn-playing. According to the records of the Chicago Federation of Musicians, Local 10-208, Wendell joined the union on April 14, 1914,“having had no previous union affiliation. He played as an extra (6th horn) with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at least as early as December 1 and 2, 1916, when the first Chicago performances of R. Strauss’ Eine Alpensinfonie was given by Frederick Stock. Later this same season, Wendell again played extra (7th horn) in another important Chicago premiere, the Symphony No. 8 of Gustav Mahler which was given three performances in the Auditorium Theatre as part of the Chicago Musical Festival, April 24-28, 1917, Frederick Stock conducting. 

In June, 1917, Wendell was hired to play 4th horn in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for the summer series of concerts and operas at Ravinia Park, some 25 miles north of Chicago, the regular 4th horn, Karl Albrecht, having taken the summer off. The following October, Frederick Stock appointed Wendell assistant first horn where he remained for the 1917-18 season playing next to his teacher, L. de Maré. At this time the United States was involved in the war with Germany and Wendell went into the Navy as soon as the season was over. He served his country at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station in Illinois where he played horn in the symphony orchestra, in one of the bands and conducted as well. His colleagues in the orchestra horn section included George Matz, Emilio Stango and Theodore Stass. In speaking about this period in Wendell’s life, Jacobs’ Band Monthly of March, 1921, stated that “...it was while playing with the orchestra which accompanied one of the sailor shows when on the road that he was selected as one of the men to make up the orchestra which later accompanied President Wilson overseas.” Wendell also mentioned seeing brief service in the band on board the U.S.S. Pennsylvania. 

Following the year in the Navy, Wendell traveled to California to play first horn with the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra, Adolf Tandler, conductor, for the 1919-20, and final, season. The rival Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra under Walter Henry Rothwell was presenting its first season that year and the city found it difficult to support two symphony orchestras. Herr Tandler and the Symphony lost out and the orchestra was dissolved after having given concerts continuously since 1898. The horn section during that final season was Hoss, Felix Muetze, Nicola Novelli and Louis de Fabrity with Adolf Scholz replacing Novelli for the final five concerts. After the short time in Los Angeles, Wendell returned to Chicago and played in the orchestra at the Olympic Theatre, 1920-21.

In Cleveland, at about this time, the first horn, Arthur Geithe, was having difficulties with the conductor, Nikolai Sokoloff, and left the orchestra during their Eastern tour sometime in February, 1921. Wendell was called in to finish out this season, Cleveland’s third, as principal horn. The section that year was Hoss, Morris Speinson, Alphonse J. Pelletier, John d’Orio and Robert H. Brown, assistant. Wendell continued the next season, 1921-22, as principal with Brown, Pelletier, Emilio Stango and Frank de Polis, assistant. It was here in Cleveland that Wendell met Olive Woodward, a member of the viola section, and she soon became his wife. Olive had also come from an intelligent and successful family and she was the grandniece of Amos Woodward, founder (in 1870) of the Woodward Governor Company of Rockford, Illinois, now a worldwide corporation. Disparaging remarks from the conductor, Sokoloff, to Olive prompted both her and Wendell to resign from the orchestra at the close of the season. 

In 1922, Wendell again returned to Chicago, this time as principal horn of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. His section included Max Pottag, William Frank and Karl Albrecht. In a letter to me dated October 6, 1972, Wendell tells the following interesting story about his return to the Chicago orchestra: 

The second season for me involved a rather sneaky deal on the part of Stock and Wessels (Frederick J. Wessels was Manager of the orchestra, 1899-1926). I was engaged at a low salary—less than I had been getting in Cleveland and very much less than I could have got had I wanted to stay on there—because it was with the understanding that de Maré would continue as first horn, too. Then, as soon as I had signed, they dismissed de Maré. This created a personally embarrassing situation as well as leaving me alone on the chair, comparatively inexperienced—the CSO had a bigger repertory in that one year than the total history of the Cleveland Orchestra up to that time, and I think for some years after that. That season they called Harry (Johnson) in one time as assistant, when Heldenleben was programmed.
— WH

Leaving the uncomfortable situation in Chicago, Wendell headed west again and played in the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra for its second season of summer concerts (1923), the section being Richard Lindenhahn, Felix Muetze, Hoss, George Nelson and Samuel B. Bennett. 

Wendell was next engaged as first horn of the one-year-old Eastman Theatre Orchestra in Rochester, New York, for the 1923-24 season, replacing Ralph Mariani. This included playing the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra concerts since the Eastman Theatre Orchestra was the nucleus of the Philharmonic. Wendell remained in the Rochester orchestras for three seasons, the first two Philharmonic seasons having been shared by conductors Eugene Goossens and Albert Coates and the 1925-26 season conducted by Goossens who had been made the first permanent conductor of the orchestra. The horn section for those years included Fred Bradley, Charles Schug, Fred Vicinus and Charles Jepson with Otto Berndt replacing Jepson after the first year. During this time in Rochester, Wendell studied conducting with both Coates and Goossens and acted as assistant conductor of the Eastman Theatre Orchestra. He also appeared with the RPO as soloist in the Concerto No. 1 in E-flat, Op. 11, by R. Strauss on February 26, 1925, Albert Coates conducting. Ernest A. Weiss, writing for the Democrat & Chronicle on February 27th said: 

Mr. Hoss has attracted the attention of Rochester audiences by his remarkable playing of solo horn passages at many concerts in the past. The opportunity presented in the concerto yesterday could do nothing to increase the esteem in which this excellent musician is held, but it gave his audience the pleasure of hearing the full range of his capabilities at one time. Listeners sense the difficulties peculiar to this instrument and the technique displayed by the soloist yesterday was sufficient to interest them. His tone has a resonant, singing quality which is never blatant in forte and is always clear in pianissimo passages. His staccato is admirable and, what is most rare in performers of the instrument, his intonation is generally absolutely accurate. His breathing never shows evidence of strain.
— Ernest A. Weiss

In addition to performing and conducting, Wendell taught horn and woodwind ensemble at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester from 1924 to 1930, the last two years commuting from New York City where he took up residence in 1928. Albert Ulrich, personnel manager of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Edward Llewellyn, who succeeded him, both came to Rochester at different times to ask Wendell to return to Chicago, but Wendell explained to me in a letter that he was too afraid of undercutting William Frank (who was then first horn) as he had unwittingly done to de Maré. 

It was during his Rochester years that Wendell’s passion for physical exercise was nurtured. He became a pupil of the well-known physical culturist, Arthur F. Gay, who was the proprietor of the oldest barbell gym in America (according to an article about Art’s career in Strength & Health, April, 1959), having been established in the fall of 1916. Art had only the highest praise for Wendell, and this was the gym out of which had come such pupils as Vic Tanny who later moved to California and started his own body-building business. When Wendell learned that I was working out at Art Gay’s gym he would often send regards to Art through our correspondence. In addition to sending regards he wrote in March of 1965: “Today I weighed 155, the highest I have ever reached since my maximum of 158 lbs. when working with him.” The Art Gay influence stayed with him to the end.

In 1928, Wendell moved to New York City and entered the field of commercial phonograph and radio work. During his first year there he also played with the short- lived American Symphonic Ensemble (a symphony orchestra without a conductor) which gave a series of concerts in Carnegie Hall beginning in November, 1928. Benjamin Hudish, the second horn, provided me with a program of this orchestra and the order of the alphabetically listed horns: Hoss, Hudish, Nathan Pertchonock, Edward Horwitz and Herman Dutschke, Jr., Assistant. The following year, Wendell joined the NBC orchestra, replacing Lorenzo Sansone, which was under Walter Damrosch’s direction. Wendell remembered the horn section for that 1929-30 season: Hoss, Arthur Schneiderman, Arturo Cerino and Ralph Brown.

During his two years of commuting between Rochester and New York City he again appeared as soloist with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. The composer and pianist, Mark Wessel, had dedicated to Wendell his Symphony-Concertante for Horn, Piano and Orchestra which he had composed in Vienna during 1928-29. The first performance was given in Budapest by the Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Robert Heger and soloists Karl Stiegler, horn, and Wessel, piano, but the second performance was given in Rochester as part of the American Composers’ Concerts with Wendell and the composer as soloists and Howard Hanson conducting the RPO, February 20, 1930. Several days later, on March 3rd, two movements of this work were broadcast nationwide on the General Motors Hour by Damrosch and the NBC orchestra with Hoss and Wessel as soloists.

Wendell and Olive returned to the Cleveland Orchestra in 1930, Wendell to fill the principal horn chair left vacant by Arthur Berv who took that position with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and Olive to rejoin the viola section. Sokoloff, the original conductor, was still in Cleveland and he finished out his tenure, along with Wendell and Olive, in 1933, Severance Hall having been completed and opened (February 5, 1931) during those final years. 

From the beginning of his return to Cleveland, Wendell was involved with chamber music, becoming a member of The Cleveland Woodwind Ensemble (with Philip Kirchner, oboe; Weyert A. Moor, flute; Aaron Gorodner, clarinet; Morris Kirchner, bassoon) and The Lobero Trio (with his wife, Olive Woodward, violin, and Melville Smith, piano). An advertisement for these groups in the Cleveland Orchestra programs stated that for the February 27, 1931, concert in Chamber Music Hall of Severance Hall, the program would include “a Beethoven quintet, two pieces by Ropartz, a diversion by Paul Juon and Brahms’ interesting trio." During Wendell’s last season in Cleveland, 1932-33, The Cleveland Woodwind Ensemble (with new members Maurice Sharp, flute, and Alexander Pripadcheff, clarinet, assisted by Leon Machan, piano) again played on the Severance Hall chamber music series, March 14th, and Wendell was soloist with the Cleveland Orchestra, Rudolph Ringwall conducting, in the Romanze and Allegro from the Concerto No. 3 in E-flat (K.447) by Mozart on a Twilight Concert, date uncertain. The horn section for those three seasons was Hoss, William Namen, Alexander Andruschkewitsch, Karl Schinner and Waldemar Linder, assistant. 

In 1933, Wendell and Olive returned to California and took up residence in the Los Angeles area where Wendell entered the busy field of commercial playing, working with virtually all the major moving picture studios at one time or another. This was interrupted by two seasons, 1939-41, with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra under Fritz Reiner where he replaced Frank Corrado as principal horn. The first of these seasons the section was Hoss, Frank Gorell, Attilio de Palma, Ginesio Lecce and Mario Grilli, assistant. The following season Gorell and Lecce exchanged chairs and Tibor Shik came in on third horn replacing de Palma. Wendell was a soloist on one occasion with the Pittsburgh orchestra and that was for the concerts of December 29 and 31, 1939, when he performed Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat (K.297b) with Ben Storch, oboe, Bernard Portnoy, clarinet, and Jules Seder, bassoon, Fritz Reiner conducting. 

Until his Pittsburgh years, Wendell had not made any commercial phonograph recordings with the symphony orchestras in which he had played. Now he had a chance to leave a few examples of his principal horn work for future generations to enjoy. According to information the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra received from The Fritz Reiner Society, Columbia recorded the orchestra under Reiner in six selections from Wagner operas on March 14, 1940. The selections were: Venusberg Music from Tannhäuser, Prelude to Act III of Lohengrin, Prelude and Love Death from Tristan und Isolde, Prelude to Act I of Die Meistersinger, Waldweben from Siegfried and the Ride of the Valkyries from Die Walküre. All but the last of these selections were never released. However, Columbia and Reiner tried again the following year and re-recorded four of those selections which were released. The recording activity on January 9, 1941, produced the following: 

J . Strauss, Jr.: Vienna Life Waltz. 11579D (78). Included on LP ML-4116 along with Southern Roses Waltz and Treasure Waltz, both of which were recorded after Wendell left the orchestra.
R. Strauss: Don Juan, Op. 20. Set X-190 and MX-190 (78); 12-inch LP ML-4800 and 10-inch LP ML-2079
R. Wagner: Prelude to Act III of Lohengrin. 11987D (78). Waldweben from Siegfried. 11985D (78). Prelude to Die Meistersinger. 11984D (78). These three selections along with the Ride of the Valkyries (11987D) from the March 14, 1940, recording session and the Prelude to Act I of Lohengrin, recorded after Wendell left the orchestra, are all included on set M-549 (78) and LP ML-4054.
R. Wagner: Venusberg Music from Tannhäuser. Set X-193 (78).

At the end of his two years in Pittsburgh, Wendell was again soloist with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra as part of the American Composers’ Concerts in yet another work dedicated to him, the Sinfonia Concertante for Solo Horn and Orchestra by Bernhard Kaun. This first performance was given on May 1, 1941, Howard Hanson conducting, and, as had been the practice since the recording department was established at the Eastman School of Music in 1934, the work was recorded for their archives. A letter to the recording department confirmed that it was still in their archives and available to be heard although copies for distribution were forbidden by union regulations. Since I was scheduled to be in Rochester with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on August 11th, I made an appointment to hear the recording and took along a copy of the work (Jupiter Music Publications, Hollywood, 1940). When I arrived at the studio I was disappointed to learn that part of the recording was missing but I was told that the department was in the process of transferring all the old discs to tape and that the missing record may turn up. They would let me know if it was found. The 16-inch recording, cut during the performance, is on acetate over aluminum and begins in the center. The catalog numbers are 66.1, 66.2 and 66.3 for those who might like to hear the performance. It is the middle number which is missing. I was able to hear the other parts which were on opposite sides of the same record, which is to say, the first movement (minus the last two bars) and from about letter L of the fourth movement to the end. Upon hearing Wendell’s very musical playing I was immediately reminded of Frøydis Wekre. The tone was light, very clearly articulated and a light vibrato was present. It was clear from what I heard that the work received a very fine first performance. The Sinfonia Concertante is harmonically quite complex in the neo-romantic style and is very rhapsodic. I do not know of another performance of it. Returning to Los Angeles, Wendell continued with his free-lance work in almost every area of music-making. In addition to studio work he also played in area orchestras including the Werner Janssen Orchestra of Los Angeles (1940s) and the orchestra of the Ojai Festival (1949 and 1955). As a conductor he made a guest appearance with the Glendale Symphony Orchestra during the 1947-48 season, he conducted the Kern Philharmonic Orchestra in Bakersfield for its opening season and for ten seasons he conducted the chamber orchestra of the Fine Arts Foundation in Glendale.

In the summer of 1950, Wendell taught horn at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Leo Steffens of the piano faculty remembers this summer well since he, Wendell and Emil Heermann (Former concertmaster of the Cincinatti Symphony Orchestra) gave a performance of the Brahms Trio at the University Music Hall. On June 13, 1980, Mr. Steffens wrote to me this recollection of the occasion:

This was a first performance of the work for me—I wonder how many for Wendell Hoss! I have never forgotten the performance and it still remains a highlight. I consider it a rare privilege to have been able to perform with Mr. Hoss, a truly great musician and an especially fine gentleman.
— Leo Steffens

While in the general area, Wendell conducted a program on August 20, 1950, in Rockford, Illinois, with members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and their concertmaster, John Weicher, as soloist. The program was in memory of Herbert and Edith Woodward, Olive’s parents. 

It was at this time that Wendell was in the early years of a long association with the Walt Disney studios. Although the Disney studios did not maintain a staff orchestra under contract, as did so many of the other major studios, they were in the habit of using the same personnel as needed. Wendell played first horn for them over a period of some 18 years. The very short biographical sketch of Wendell for an article he wrote for the June, 1965, issue of The Instrumentalist stated that at that time he had been first horn at Disney for the past 17 years. That would mean he started at the studio about 1948 although some of his colleagues think he played for Disney as early as 1946. His regular second horn in the earlier years was Leon Donfray but Huntington Burdick and Fred Fox also worked with him and Waldemar Linder came in near the end of his time at Disney. 

Continually active in chamber music, Wendell appeared on the concerts of Evenings on the Roof at the Wilshire-Ebell Theatre a number of times including a performance of the Brahms Trio during the 1945-46 season and as a member of the New Music Quintet (Archie Wade, flute; Gerald Caylor, clarinet; Lloyd Rathbun, oboe; Adolph Weiss, bassoon) during the 1947-48 season. Always interested in new music, he participated in the first American performance of Andre Casanova’s Trio for Flute, Horn and Viola (with Henry Woempner, flute, and Abraham Weiss, viola) given on a chamber concert by the Los Angeles Chapter of the International Society for Contemporary Music, August 14, 1949. He appeared on the Coleman Chamber Concerts in Pasadena in 1953 with the New Music Wind Ensemble (Lorna Wren, flute; Joseph Rizzo, oboe; Franklyn Stokes, clarinet; Adolph Weiss, bassoon; Edward Rebner, piano) and performed the Quintet in E-flat (K.407) by Mozart (with Nathan Ross, violin, Harry Blumberg and Philip Goldberg, Violas, and Michael Penha, cello) on the Monday Evening Concerts, December 5, 1955. He appeared in other small ensembles on the Monday Evening Concerts during the years 1960 through 1963 and also took part in a number of the chamber concerts at the Los Angeles County Museum which were broadcast over KFAC on Sunday afternoons.

Throughout his life, Wendell had been passing on his knowledge of music and the horn to others. In addition to the Eastman School of Music and the University of Wisconsin at Madison mentioned above, Wendell had taught at San Diego State College (later San Diego State University) at least as early as 1950, at the University of Southern California (Lecturer of Horn, 1959-73), Mount St. Mary's College (1960s), the California Institute of the Arts and during many summers since 1947, the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara. He also taught privately. 

One of the organizations most frequently associated with Wendell is The Horn Club of Los Angeles. Its founding grew out of the desire of several studio hornists to keep themselves in good playing condition during the Weeks their particular studios were not working. The chief organizer of the project was Arthur Frantz who arranged a dinner meeting for the first day of December, 1951, at the Nickodel restaurant on Vine Street in Hollywood. All the professional horn players in the Los Angeles area were invited and, according to Symphony magazine (December, 1951), thirty-six attended. Frantz and Arthur Fleming, a bassoonist, put on a comedy act, thus inaugurating the “Schmutzig” series which was so popular at the annual Horn Club banquet. An impromptu business meeting was held, a resolution to form the Club was adopted and officers were elected as follows: Wendell Hoss, President; Alfred Brain, Vice-President; Arthur Frantz, Secretary-Treasurer; James Decker, Program Chairman.Wendell remained at the helm of this new organization until he gave up the gavel to Sinclair Lott at the Third annual dinner meeting held at the Pasadena Athletic Club on December 5, 1953. Gene Sherry, whose article, “The Horn Club Story,” appeared in the Los Angeles Musicians Union magazine, Overture (January, 1954), reported that “Retiring president Wendell Hoss was presented a beautiful carrying case in appreciation of his untiring efforts in leading the Club through its first two years." 

The Horn Club grew in prestige and added new works to the repertoire for multiple horns by sponsoring two national contests. Wendell served as the chairman for the second contest held in 1957. Two recordings of the club followed; the first, Color Contrasts (Capitol P-8525, later re-released as Music for Horns on Seraphim S-60095), having been finished in January, 1960. For this album, Wendell conducted and monitored. The second album, New Music for Horns (Angel S-36036) was recorded late in 1969 and Wendell had a hand in monitoring this, too. 

Chicago Symphony Orchestra Horn Section 1922-23 R. to L. - Wendell Hoss, Max Pottag, William Frank, Karl Albrecht

Chicago Symphony Orchestra Horn Section 1922-23
R. to L. - Wendell Hoss, Max Pottag, William Frank, Karl Albrecht

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of The Horn Club of Los Angeles, Wendell was presented a gold record of the Club’s first recording, framed and inscribed, and given an honorary life-membership in the Club. He received telegrams of congratulations from the staff of The Horn Call and from a number of leading hornists across the nation. Arthur Frantz wrote in The Horn Call (May, 1971) the following about Wendell on this occasion:

The Horn Club of Los Angeles has survived and prospered these many years through the untiring efforts of only one man: a famous horn virtuoso, a thorough musician; more important, a pure, fine, gentle man whose life and career have been an inspiration to all of us who had the privilege of knowing him: The guiding light of the Horn Club, Wendell Hoss.
— Arthur Frantz

Throughout the nineteen-sixties Wendell kept busy with studio work, chamber music, teaching, the Horn Club and writing articles, but also had time to do such things as travel to Topeka and Wichita, Kansas, in the summer of 1961 where he was engaged for a run of the show, “The Kansas Story,” and play Wagner tuba with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra for their tour of Japan during the 1967-68 season. At the end of that decade, Wendell was invited to Florida State University in Tallahassee, by faculty hosts William Robinson and Joseph White, to be part of the artist-faculty of the First Annual French Horn Workshop, June 16-20, 1969. This first horn workshop had been advertised in music journals and when I saw the list of faculty I decided at once that I had to be there. I will never forget the opening General Session that Monday morning when these living legends walked onto the stage: Arthur Berv, James Chambers, Philip Farkas, Carl Geyer, Anton Horner, Wendell Hoss, Max Pottag and Barry Tuckwell (John Barrows arrived later in the week). As if it had been pre-arranged, the audience rose as one and gave them a long, thunderous ovation. After all, no group of horn artists of such stature had ever been assembled in one place before! Wendell was visibly moved at this tribute, shaking his head in disbelief and wiping the mist from his eyes. It was a moving experience which will stay with me the rest of my life. During the week, Wendell delivered a lecture on “Accents in Horn Playing,” gave two master classes, took part in a panel discussion and shared the conducting of the massed Horn Choir on the final concert with Max Pottag.

It was during this week that Bill Robinson presented the idea of an international organization of horn players. A nine-member committee was established which included both Wendell and myself. Later, I was asked to assume the responsibility of chairman of the organizing committee and with much help and advice from Wendell and the other seven members the International Horn Society was launched. In 1970 we declared ourselves “founded” and elected our first officers from among the committee members: Barry Tuckwell, President; Wendell Hoss, Vice President; Norman Schweikert, Secretary-Treasurer. Later on, Harold Meek was appointed the first editor of The Horn Call. Wendell served as Vice President until 1972, at which time he continued to serve the Society as a member of the Advisory Countil until 1976. He was elected an Honorary Member of the Society in 1972.

Wendell returned to Florida State University in June, 1970, to take part in the second horn workshop. He lectured and shared a recital with John Barrows, playing selected movements from his transcriptions of the unaccompanied Suites for Cello by J. S. Bach (from memory). He was 77 years young at the time, or as he would have said, “mature.” (Photographs of his “mature” embouchure can be found on pages 30 and 31 of the book, A Photographic Study of 40 Virtuoso Horn Players’ Embouchures by Philip Farkas. The photos were taken at the first horn workshop in 1969). The final concert of the second workshop included performances by the massed Horn Choir which he conducted. Although not on the faculty of the third horn workshop, also held at FSU (June, 1971), Wendell attended as an officer of the Society, participated in two informal discussion groups and aided in auditioning participants for placement in classes.  

Cleveland Orchestra Horns, 1921-22 L. to R. Alphonse J. Pelletier, Emilio Stango, Robert H. Brown, Wendell Hoss, Frank de Polls.

Cleveland Orchestra Horns, 1921-22
L. to R. Alphonse J. Pelletier, Emilio Stango, Robert H. Brown, Wendell Hoss, Frank de Polls.

The following month he took part in the Horn Week of the Claremont Music Festival held at Pomona College in Claremont, California, as a member of the faculty. Late in 1971, Wendell broke his hip which put him out of action for a time. Whether this had a bearing on his not attending the fourth horn workshop in Bloomington, Indiana, I do not know, but he was again on the faculty of the Horn Week at Pomona College (Claremont Music Festival, July, 1972). The fifth workshop was held there at Pomona College (June, 1973) and Wendell gave a lecture on “Musical Mosaics - Melodic Sub-division” as well as conducted on the final concert.

Wendell suffered a great loss the following year, 1974, when his wife, Olive, passed away on February 22nd. Although they had led quite separate lives for some time they were nevertheless very close. Never one to be defeated by what life had to offer, Wendell kept busy and attended the sixth horn workshop at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, the following June where he coached throughout the week, attended the Advisory Council meetings of the IHS and conducted one number on the final concert.

In November of 1974, Wendell left the old familiar address in Glendale and moved to an apartment in San Diego. He rented a studio in the downtown area where he could practice and give lessons and which was only one block from the YMCA where he continued to exercise regularly. Now settled in his new surroundings he became active with the San Diego Horn Club and started a string orchestra which he conducted. Wendell came to the seventh horn workshop held at the Orford Arts Center in Magog, Quebec, Canada (June, 1975), where he took part in four forums on teaching the horn (along with Bill Robinson and Marvin Howe), attended the Advisory Council meetings of the IHS and conducted the entire final concert of music for six and eight horns with the artist-faculty performing. Those of us who were there remember the long walks Wendell took between our motel and the Orford Arts Center which was quite a distance out in the country. Two months later he took a tour of Eastern Europe and then a bus trip to Colorado and Arkansas to see the fall colors.

The eighth horn workshop was held as part of The First International Brass Congress in Montreux, Switzerland (June, 1976) and Wendell was there as part of the Advisory Council of the IHS. Dale Clevenger roomed with him at that gathering and tells of waking up very early in the mornings to sounds of Wendell doing stretching exercises and push-ups after which he would take long walks. He was now 83! Wendell attended the ninth workshop (June, 1977) at Hartt College in Hartford, Connecticut, where he conducted on the final concert and was also at the tenth (June, 1978) at Michigan State University in East Lansing. He made his last appearance at the horn workshop in Los Angeles where the June, 1979, gathering was held at the University of Southern California. Once again he conducted on the first concert (two of his favorite ensemble pieces - the Stabat Mater of Palestrina and the Echo Song of di Lasso).

In 1977, Nancy Fisch, a former student of Wendell’s, decided to pay her teacher a visit. She became concerned with what she saw in the way of his health and began regular weekend visits to give him a helping hand with the apartment. After a while it became evident that Wendell needed help full-time and from that moment Nancy was his constant companion, staying with him and giving him strength to the very end. All of Wendell’s friends owe a debt of gratitude to Nancy for her unselfishness and humanitarianism in taking care of Wendell during his last difficult years. The cancer which had been increasing its hold on him for the past few years had weakened him a great deal and his activities in his last year were held to a minimum although he continued to practice the horn and was studying a foreign language. When it looked like the end had come, Frøydis Wekre got in touch with Wendell and said that she wanted to visit and play for him in his apartment. The thought of this visit kept Wendell going and the visit itself cheered him immensely. He lived one week longer and on his last day Wally and Bette Linder visited him and brought him great comfort in talking about their good times in the past. That evening, Wendell asked Nancy to play for him a couple of horn recordings, the last of which was the first Horn Club album, and it was while his ears were filled with the sounds of his beloved instrument played by his close friends of the Horn Club that he left us and passed into a better world. I have no doubt that there was a large crowd of friends on the other side waiting to welcome him.

Following Wendell’s passing, a number of events were dedicated to his memory including a recital by the horn students of Vincent de Rosa and James Decker at the University of Southern California on May 6th, the Northwestern University Horn Ensemble concert of May 25th and the Twelfth Annual International Horn Workshop at Indiana University, June 15th through the 20th. A special musical memorial to Wendell was held on May 31st at the Friendship Gardens of the Glendale Brand Library at which Sinclair Lott and Ralph Pyle spoke very touchingly.

Horn Section of Orchestra at Great Lakes Naval Training Station G [At Horse Show in Chicago, 1918] L. to R. - George Matz, Theodore [Ted] Stass, Wendell Hoss, Emilio Stango

Horn Section of Orchestra at Great Lakes Naval Training Station G [At Horse Show in Chicago, 1918]
L. to R. - George Matz, Theodore [Ted] Stass, Wendell Hoss, Emilio Stango

David Raksin conducted 16 horns and bass tuba in George Hyde’s Ode, the Stabat Mater of Palestrina and the Ave Maria by Victoria. Those performing were hornists William Alsup, James Atkinson, Aubrey Bouck, Arthur Briegleb, Bruce Clausen, James Decker, James De Corsey, Fred Fox, Warren Gref, Sinclair Lott, James McGee, Todd Miller, Richard Perissi, Gale Robinson, Gene Sherry and Victor Vener with James Self, tuba.

Wendell left to us treasured memories of his friendship and musicianship. The former exist in our minds and hearts and in the many letters he wrote. The latter exist in more tangible forms: Articles, compositions, arrangements and recordings. His personal effects are safe in the hands of close friends including the instruments used throughout his career: Five-valve B-flat horns by Carl Geyer and C. G. Conn and a tenor Wagner tuba in B-flat by Alexander. A single B-flat horn by C. F. Schmidt used earlier in his career is also in private hands.

It is our loss that more recordings of Wendell’s playing were not made. In addition to those mentioned earlier in this article there exist, of course, the music tracks of the Disney films made during his time with that studio. Two additional recordings exist:

1. Three Movements for Wind Quintet by Adolph Weiss (with Ary Van Leeuwen, flute; Alexandre Duvoir, oboe; Alfred Peterson, clarinet; and Adolph Weiss, bassoon). This work was written in 1931 and recorded on the Co-Art label by Arthur Langer in Los Angeles around 1940. It is a 12-inch, 78 rpm recording and was produced in limited numbers. Two copies are in the Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive for Recorded Sound in the New York Public Library & Museum for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center and can be heard upon request.

2. Bouree II from Suite No. 3 and Gavotte II from Suite No. 5 of the Unaccompanied Suites for Cello by J. S. Bach, transcribed for horn by Wendell Hoss. These were recorded live on June 18, 1970, at the Second Annual French Horn Workshop at FSU in Tallahassee, Florida. This souvenir recording of that workshop is very special since it contains spoken comments by Wendell. A number of the souvenir horn workshop albums contain works conducted by Wendell and there are tapes of his lectures given at the workshops which have been retained by the host institutions and are also in the IHS archives at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.

His compositions and arrangements include the following:

  1.  Cadenza for the Concert Rondo in E-flat (K.371) by W. A. Mozart, edited by Max Pottag. Albert J. Andraud, 1941. This cadenza is included in French Horn Passages, Vol. 3, extracted by Max Pottag. Belwin, 1945. The entire horn part of the Concert Rondo is included in Book I of 305 Selected Melodious Progressive and Technical Studies for French Horn. Albert J. Andraud, 1955.
  2. Ten exercises (seven for cultivation of a pure legato and three for scale velocity in legato or staccato). These are included in Book II of 305 Selected, etc. Albert J. Andraud, 1955.
  3. Etude for Horn and Piano. The horn part of this work appears in Book II of 305 Selected, etc. Albert J. Andraud, 1955. A new version with an additional bar of trill before the D.C. and a piano part by Mark Wessel is published by A Moll Dur, 1978. 
  4. Etude in One Breath for Horn with Piano. The horn part of this work is included in Book II of 305 Selected, etc. Albert J. Andraud, 1955.
  5. Horn duets included in the Los Angeles Horn Club's book, 60 Selected Duets for French Horn, W. Hoss, editor. Southern Music Company, 1966.
  6. Nine Studies for Horn. A Moll Dur, 1980.  
  7. Sonata in E-flat for Cello and Bassoon by W. A. Mozart, Transcribed and edited for two horns by W. Hoss. Cor Publishing Company.

  8. Suites by J. S. Bach for Violoncello alone, transcribed for horn by W. Hoss. Albert J. Andraud, 1950.

  9. Two Gavottes by J. S. Bach, arranged for two horns by W. Hoss. Southern Music Company.

  10. Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 for Soprano and 8 Celli, transcribed for soprano and 8 horns by W. Hoss. Unpublished?

The works originally published by Albert J. Andraud are now published by Southern Music Company (copyright assigned, 1958). A number of compositions by others bear Wendell’s name in the dedication. In addition to the works by Wessel and Kaun mentioned earlier, there is the Fantasia for Six Horns by Rudolph Mayer. The Short Fantasy for Violin and Horn by Otto Luening is dedicated to Olive and Wendell Hoss and the Second Suite (4 horns) by Ronald LoPresti is dedicated to Wendell Hoss and the Horn Club of Los Angeles. The Sonata for Horn and Piano by S. Thomas Beversdorf, Jr., is dedicated to Conrad Bohn (Christmas 1945) with deep appreciation to W. Hoss and W. Valkenier.

Wendell’s various writings about the horn and horn playing include the following:

  1. French Horn. A short essay on the instrument written for The Orchestral Manual for Orchestra Players by Adolph Tandler, Copyright 1946 by the author.
  2. The Development of the French Horn. The Instrumentalist, Vol. 3, No. 5 (May-June, 1949).
  3. Which Horn Do You Prefer—F or B-flat? A symposium. Contributors: P. Farkas, W. Hoss, H. Meek, E. C. Moore, W. Muelbe, M. Pottag and L. Schmidt. The Instrumentalist, Vol. 5, No. 4 (January-February, 1951).
  4. Stresses in Playing the French Horn. The Instrumentalist, Vol. 19, No. 11 June, 1965).
  5. Making the French Horn Articulate. The Instrumentalist, Vol. 20, No. 6 (January, 1966).
  6. Gadgets and Gimmicks. The Horn Call, Vol. 1, No. 1 (February, 1971).
  7. Music Available for Ensembles of Horns. Compiled and edited in collaboration with Arthur Briegleb. The Horn Call, Vol. 2, N0. 2 (May, 1972).
  8. Musical Building Blocks. The Horn Call, Vol. 3, No. 2 (May, 1973).
  9. Drills and Devices in Playing the Horn. The Horn Call, Vol. 7, No. 1 (November, 1976).
  10. The Horn Trill. The Horn Call, Vol. 9, No. 2 (April, 1979).

In addition to authoring these articles, Wendell was the Los Angeles correspondent to Symphony and Woodwind World magazines for a number of years and wrote many of the Horn Club columns in Overture, the official organ of the Musicians Union Local 47, Los Angeles.

Wendell's life was filled with inspired creation in myriad forms and we are all the richer for it. His accomplishments as a musician and human being stand as an example for all of us to follow and we can be ever thankful that his life touched ours. As Wally Linder has said elsewhere in this journal, "...his many friends will miss him dearly."