Lenox — There’s not much call for alphorn in Richard “Gus” Sebring’s job as associate principal horn of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and principal horn of the Boston Pops Orchestra. So he writes his own pieces and performs them with other BSO horn players in appropriate recital spaces. Of course, as Sebring warns, the only appropriate recital space for an alphorn is the great outdoors — alps if you have them, the Berkshire hills if you don’t. Yes, the Tanglewood grounds would be perfect. So that’s where Sebring and fellow BSO hornist Michael Winter set up their impossibly elongated, Dr. Seuss-inspired instruments one fine day in June and gave the world premier of Sebring’s “Awaken! A New Day!” for two alphorns. Drawing from the Swiss Ranz des Vaches tradition, the piece is serenely haunting, especially when played in tune, which Sebring and Winter do as a matter of course. But don’t expect such precision from just any old Swiss alpine herdsman. The alphorn is almost impossible to play in tune.
Sebring’s “Awaken!” is first on the streaming video. Take a listen and see if you don’t start to feel a little homesick. A second piece by Sebring and harpist Charles Overton, “Listen, to the Cry of Your Fellow Man,” is a contemplative and probing blend of Overton’s harmonic sensibilities and Sebring’s melodic imagination.
The remainder of the program is as follows:
SCHUMANN Adagio and Allegro, for horn and piano
DUKAS Villanelle, for horn and piano
MOZART Horn Duos selected from K.487/496a
Rachel Childers, horn
Tatiana Dimitriades, violin
Cathy Basrak and Kathryn Sievers, viola
Mickey Katz, cello
MOZART Horn Quintet in E-flat, K.407 (18)
This last Mozart performance is stunning — electric. All the players, having recently escaped from COVID lockdown, are in top form and on high alert throughout the piece. As they sit at a pandemic-safe distance from one another, eye contact keeps the group together, and players exchange leadership roles according to the musical need of the moment.
It’s no surprise that the audio quality is superb throughout this recital. In fact, Studio E sounds like it was configured acoustically to meet the express requirements of this program. (Because it was.)
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This program will be available for streaming through July 17.