Swiss Alpine Music

Alphorn and Yodel in old art music

 

In 1756 Leopold Mozart wrote a Sinfonia pastorella for strings and corno pastoritio ad libitum. This piece was composed for a Moravian herdsman's instrument, but can also be played on the Swiss alphorn.

In the 19th century two Swiss compositions for voice and alphorn were written. The first one in 1815 by Johann Kunze for a political event in Basel, the so-called Erzherzog-Johann-Fest, the other in 1835, the Alpenlied auf Rigi-Scheideck by Franz Xaver Schnyder von Wartensee (1786-1868), a song for men's choir accompanied by a Büchel.

In contrast to the few 19th century compositions for the alphorn, there are symphonies and operas which use melodies similar to the traditional tunes of this wooden natural horn just in order to illustrate the milieu of herdsmen. As for example in Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony Nr. 6 in F-major op. 68, Sinfonia pastorale 1807/08 or Richard Wagner's opera Tristan and Isolde, 3rd act, Hirtenreigen (dance of the herdsmen), 1859.

Only one score of a herdsman's scene was written for an original alphorn, the one-act opera Daphne by Richard Strauss, first perf.mp3ed in 1938.

But the 16 measures for alphorn are usually played by the trombone.

Melodies in the style of alphorn tunes convey the Swiss local colour, as for example in the ouverture of Ernest Modeste Grétry's opera Guillaume Tell; Gioachino Rossini's ouverture to the 1829 opera Guillaume Tell; Die Schweizer Familie by Joseph Franz Weigl (1740-1820); Umberto Giordano's opera Fedora (1898) and Giacomo Meyerbeer's opera Dinorah (1859).

All those imitations of Swiss melodies, all those alphorn-like tunes, are played on English horn, French horn, flute, clarinet and trombone.

Classical Music

© Copyright swissinfo | swissinfo - an enterprise of SRG SSR idee suisse