(1989) IN PRAISE OF THE ALPHORN
‘In praise of the Alphorn’ are the words engraved on a medal, produced in 1805 to celebrate the first Festival of Alpine shepherds in Unspunnen. These words should again be remembered to-day, when the value and origins of this shepherds’ instrument have given way to painted, carved and embroidered alphorns.
A true alphorn player with his tube, the length of two men, to his lips, is a living monument to the customs and art of Switzerland. For the first time this Swiss national instrument is presented by Claves of Thun, who specialize in recording Swiss musicians and who sponsor Swiss composers. Every effort has been made to present the alphorn in its different forms and functions, rather than in its usual form as an instrument for light entertainment and folklore. For the first time you can hear together the Bernese alphorn, the curved alphorn (Büche) of Central Switzerland and the tiba of the Grisons.
On one side is recorded alphorn soloists taken out of doors, with the echo as their natural accompaniment, on the other, performances in a concert hall. Leopold Mozart is said to have met a Swiss alphorn player who passed the winter strolling from town to town and he was so impressed that he included a part for the player in his ‘Sinfonia Pastorella.’ Swiss composers of today have but recently discovered the possibilities of including the alphorn in their compositions. Johannes Brahms, however, knew how to combine folk-music with classical music. In 1868, he wrote down a melody for alphorn, which he had heard on the Rigi, and later incorporated it in the last movement of his First Symphony.
Thus, a hundred years before the appearance of this present record, a Swiss melody for alphorn was known throughout the world.