Hornroh Modern Alphorn Quartet

Ilan Volkov conductor and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

I thoroughly enjoyed this Prom. It was fun, it thrilled and it had light moments as well as the dark. The colour was turned right up full for the Alpine Symphony, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and conductor Ilan Volkov seemed to be enjoying the piece and that came over in an exuberant joyous performance. The glacier amazed, the mountain peak thrilled and the storm threatened. The homecoming and the final resting peace completed Richard Strauss’ complicated score for a large orchestra. They carried it off with aplomb and more, a pride and sense of occasion. Lots of genuine smiles at the applause. Maybe it helps that they are Scottish and have their own mountains: surely many of them will take their boots to the hills when not performing.
The Alpine Symphony was certainly "maximum acoustic drama" on stage but it was Mozart’s Serenade K286 for Four Orchestras that was billed as "maximum acoustic drama" because the four bands performed from different locations in the hall, the stage, the rear of the arena, in the gallery and the circle. So this was like an Ambisonics demo with sound both all the way around and with height. I was standing down the front and the timing, as the themes were handing around by the score, reminded me of those attempts on the Last Night of the Proms to get remote audiences to sing along to the audience in the Albert Hall. But Mozart’s music thrived on the effect, transporting one to a warm summer evening performance in, say, a castle or a palace

And the Alphorns. Big lumbering wooden horns, these concert version have removable mouthpieces and are tuneable by adding or removing sections. The Hornroh Quartet’s virtuosity produced amazing sounds from these primeval horns. Haas’ Concerto Grosso celebrates the dexterity of the orchestra - tempo, tone and timbre - in contrast with the inflexibility but power of the dinosaur horns. There’s not much that outguns orchestral brass but the alphorns certainly upstaged them and outblew them.
A charming encore which the promenaders appreciated with cow calls as well as applause.
My photo when I heard a traditional Alphorn quartet performing in Annecy last year: Ancilevienne 2017


Prom 21: An Alpine Symphony

Mozart: Serenade No 8 (Notturno) for Four Orchestras K286
G.F. Haas: Concerto Grosso No 1
Strauss: Alpine Symphony

Hornroh Modern Alphorn Quartet
Ilan Volkov (conductor)
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra