Mellow, full, powerful, sonorous, resonant, expressive, vocal, insistent, wistful, plaintive, mournful, melancholy, acerbic, reedy, penetrating, distant, warm, veiled, pastoral.
Due to the lower pitch and the pear-shaped bell the English horn sounds darker and more powerful than the oboe. The timbre remains relatively homogeneous in all registers, so the transition between registers is smooth.
Lower register (E3 – Ab3, A3)
Sounds warm, intense and rather dull. At piano levels the effect is mellow, played forte the rough, shawm-like characteristics are more in evidence. The lowest notes are sometimes compared to stopped horn notes. It is not possible to play pianissimo in this register.
Middle register (A3, Bb3 – C5)
The most frequently used register on the English horn and a downward extension of the oboe. The sound is very versatile; it can express a wide variety of feelings, from melancholy and despair to carefree merriment and mischievous abandon. The sound seems to come from a long way away which makes it ideal for the creation of sentimental and nostalgic moods. This is why it is a favorite of composers for the performance of lyrical, expressive and melancholy airs, though it is also used for pastoral, merry, archaic and exotic motifs.
Upper register (Db5 – A5)
The high notes sound acerbic and insistent; penetrating when played forte.