The Alphorn through the Eyes of the Classical Composer

by Frances Jones

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‘Many thanks for your wonderful work’.

Professor Dr Raymond Ammann
Center for Music Research, University of Lucerne, Switzerland

‘It is all so very well written. I am sure many will enjoy reading it’.

Clive Fairbairn
Editor, Double Reed News, Journal of the British Double Reed Society

‘It is very readable as well as being fascinating. The broadness and depth of the research is most impressive. It looks to me like the definitive work and fills a gap in the literature’.

Dr John Middleton
freelance horn player, Cheshire, UK

‘Groundbreaking’, ‘a distinguished contribution to musicology’, ‘expertly and meticulously presented’ and ‘the history books must now be rewritten’.

PhD thesis examiners (University of Hull, UK)

We get a confident description of the alphorn, its context, organology, terminology, and playing technique.
Detail throughout the book is rich without being overwhelming. It is scholarly yet accessible to differing kinds of reader with differing levels of expertise.
The historical background is well handled and informative.

Professor Christopher R. Wilson
University of Hull

Frances Jones’s groundbreaking book is a detailed, ambitious and essential contribution to our knowledge of the alphorn and its contexts. Written by an expert in the field, whose work is informed by international performance experience, it includes plentiful images and unpublished musical works. It offers a valuable and enlightening perspective on the semiotic identity of the alphorn in western art music.
The text is written with precision and persuasively situates the alphorn within its various geographical and cultural contexts whilst navigating its distinct identity against other instruments based on the harmonic series. It will be of benefit not only to alphorn enthusiasts but to the wider fields of musicology and historically informed performance practice. It is a distinguished contribution to knowledge of the alphorn and its heritage.

Dr Simon Desbruslais
School of Arts, University of Hull

Meticulously researched from original sources and profusely illustrated with musical examples and photographs, “The Alphorn through the Eyes of the Classical Composer” details the centuries-long role the alphorn and its traditional melodies have played in the European classical music tradition. Frances Jones begins with the peculiar features of this unusual instrument before exploring the connotative function of Alphorn-derived melodies in an impressive range of repertoire extending from the early Christmas-themed Pastorella through the classical and romantic eras and into the contemporary scene. The engaging discussion benefits from the author’s unique insight as a performer in equal measure to her impressive scholarship. Dr Jones uncovers what for many will have been unnoticed connections between the melodies of many famous and familiar works with their less familiar Alpine origins and traditions. “The Alphorn through the Eyes of the Classical Composer” surely stands as the definitive musicological statement in English on this neglected but profoundly influential musical instrument.

Dr Timothy Wise
The School of Arts & Media
University of Salford

‘The Alphorn through the Eyes of the Classical Composer’ is the first and definitive book to be written about the alphorn in English. It has been written with English-speaking readers in mind, as it examines the extensive interest of primarily non-Swiss composers, writers and artists in the alphorn as a symbol of the Alps, the influence and significance of the alphorn in culture, literature and the arts across the globe, and the ways in which the instrument has been specifically utilised by the Swiss as the iconic representation of their country.
This book also explores the use of the musical language of the alphorn call, to ascertain why and how such references as those of Berlioz or Beethoven can convey so much meaning. Dr Jones seeks out what it is that a composer brings into the concert hall, the theatre, the opera house, the church, or the drawing room by such a quotation, to what heritage they are referring, and upon what basis there are grounds for an assumption that such a reference will be understood by an audience.
The book, which will be of interest to researchers in Swiss cultural studies and ethnomusicology, builds on Dr Jones’s research and PhD thesis. The six chapters deal with a variety of topics, including a basic introduction to the alphorn and an exploration of the promotion of the instrument as the symbol of Switzerland, as well as the reasons behind symbolic references to alphorn motifs by European and British composers in concert repertoire, jazz and film.

Table of Figures
Chapter 1 The Alphorn
Chapter 2 The Alphorn in Christmas Music, the Pastorella
Chapter 3 Leopold Mozart’s Sinfonia Pastorella for Alphorn and Strings
Chapter 4 ‘That Air’: The Appenzell Kühreien
Chapter 5 Alphorn Motifs in Romantic Repertoire
Chapter 6 The Alphorn for the Modern Composer
Appendix: Works that include Alphorn Motifs

Dr Frances A. Jones has over forty years of experience as a freelance professional classical musician, primarily as an oboist and French horn player. She has been a leading professional alphorn player in the UK since 2005, and she is regularly engaged as a tutor on international alphorn courses in the UK, Austria, and Switzerland. She has given lecture recitals and broadcasts about the alphorn internationally in English, French, and German.

J. S. Bach, Beethoven, Berlioz, Brahms, Britten, Clementi, Debussy, Elgar, Haydn, Liszt, Mahler, Mendelssohn, Orff, Schubert, Schumann, Richard Strauss, Viotti, Wagner, Walton

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Bibliographic Information

Book Title

The Alphorn through the Eyes of the Classical Composer





Number of pages


Physical size

236mm x 160mm


198 B&W

Publication date

October 2020