Berlin Philharmonic pluck principal horn from … Dallas

It’s… David Cooper.

He’s from Michigan, presently principal horn of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

He likes dogs.


photo ©

This is the second principal horn position. It was last held by Radek Baborak who left the orchestra in 2009.

The search to replace him has taken seven years.

Stefan Dohr is the first principal horn.


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  • Unless I’m mistaken, he will fill the seat vacated by the great Radek Baborak in 2010; Stefan Dohr presumably continues.

    • I’m surprised he uses that term “French” so often. I thought most hornists dropped that. I suspect in Berlin he will.

      • It might be because Americans will – especially when talking jazz and pop – call anything a horn. In a blues band the “horn” section is typically 1-2 trumpets, 1-2 saxophones and a trombone.

        Apart from that, as the old joke goes, the FRENCH HORN is called so to differentiate it from the ENGLISH HORN which is French and not a horn. The French horn on the other hand is German and a horn …

      • I wonder if he has ever played one before? Do you have to take the audition on an Alex? How easy is it to switch instruments?

        • In my experience, the player’s tone will always be more distinctive than the horn, even though long exposure to a horn will leave an imprint on you.

          I have heard, e.g. Ronald Janezic of the Vienna Philharmonic play Donizetti on a high horn for safety. He still sounded like a Vienna Horn.

          Would changing to an Alex really change your tone radically? It’s not like you are switching to natural horn or single F with pump pistons.

          • I think it was about fifteen years ago, at a IHS convention in the US there was a presentation by Ken Pope (again memory is a little fuzzy on this). He had a panel of horn players play five different instruments behind a screen. He ask the audience to try and determine what horn was being played. The first and last horn of the five were actually the same instrument as another discriminator in the test.

            The consensus seemed to be that audience members felt they could identify horn players, but not the instrument they were performing on.

      • It would be tough to step down to an Alex having played a beautiful, hand-made Rauch. That would be like exchanging a Porsche Carrera for a VW.

  • It is my understanding that the two principals in a section are equals, who operate a 50/50 job-share. The section principals are in all cases listed in alphabetical order on the orchestra’s website

    • Absolutely correct. There is no such thing like a first and a second principal in German orchestras which are big enough to have more than one principal per section.

  • I’ve heard him play here in Dallas many times.

    He can nail a high note from a mile away and it is quite dramatic watching him turn increasingly deeper shades of scarlet as he navigates demanding passages, but… he has a coarser sound than befits most of the repertoire.

    None-the-less, I’m sure my critique will not hinder his career one bit.


  • Some searches take a long time. The Philharmonia Orchestra has spent the best part of the last six years – and still counting – trying to find a new principal viola (and not even a job-share!).

      • That’s because of player power. Nobody with any independent artistic vision wishes to be unduly constrained by eighty-odd prima donnas.

  • David Cooper can fill the Meyerson Symphony Hall in Dallas with a sound very reminiscent of Barry Tuckwell based upon my memory of Tuckwell’s farewell tour.

    Dallas has an up and coming horn section. Earlier this season they played “Accursed Huntsman”. There was one section where the 4th horn picks up the theme from 1st horn. If I hadn’t been looking at the section and seen it, i would not have know that Cooper quit playing and handed it off to Kevin Haseltine. He’s a young kid right out of Northwestern.

  • His sound will match the Berlin Phil’s sound very well. They will now have two American-born and one American-trained horn players in the orchestra.

    • As Steve points out below, Fergus McWilliam (if one considers studying in Canada to be American trained) and Stefan Jezierski (North Carolina School of Arts & Cleveland Institute of Music) are American trained.
      As for American born horn players in the Berlin Phil, there are now 3…David Cooper, Stefan Jezierski and Sarah Willis (born in Maryland, holding dual British-American citizenship).

  • Stefan Jezierski is also American born and trained. Fergus McWilliam was raised mostly in Canada and trained at U of Toronto. Lots of North Americans in the BPO horn section!

    • This is the type of comment that is completely unnecessary and makes this blog a little bit worse. Why don’t you ask Mr. Cooper if you are really interested in the answer? I’m sure you could figure out how to reach him if you try.

  • Is Mr. Cooper the first non-German principal horn as well as the first non-European principal wind player in Berliner Philharmoniker’s history?

      • They also had a Swedish principal horn (Bengt Belfrage) in the early 60s but he did not make the trial. When he was not confirmed, that actually triggered a crisis between Karajan (who wanted to keep him) and the orchestra not unlike the one around Sabine Meyer 20 years later, but in this case, it was quickly resolved.

        Dunno if they have had any “non-European principal wind players”, I can’t think of any off the top of my head but it’s not really relevant anyway. They have had lots of international and “non-European” members in all sections for a long time, and now more than ever before. I think they are now probably the most international of all top orchestras.

  • David Cooper’s playing is simply outstanding and he will be greatly missed in Dallas. My husband and I have exchanged many knowing looks during concerts after solos by David (or outstanding passages from the horns in general these days). He just never seems to miss a note. I don’t think I’ve ever been so disappointed about losing any single musician in our orchestra. In addition to that, he’s just a great guy, period. It’s a loss for the local music community in general, not just the orchestra. Berlin will be lucky to have him.

    • I wonder when we’ll hear about it in the local press? I haven’t seen anything in the morning paper or D-Magazine. (Unless I’ve overlooked it.)

  • 2018, he is gone, after all the typical american smiley/rainbow talk. Not surprising–either FATCA/CBT USA -Eritrea laws for its citizentry/tax persons, and/or his tone is too hollow/overly aggressive articulations like Erik Ruske. In fact, he appears to be a copy-cat of Mr. Ruske.

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