For the Sentimental Work section in the March 2023 issue of The Strad, British violinist Peter Sheppard Skærved chose the short piece Ranz des Vaches by Giovanni Battista Viotti:
In 2008, exploring the collection of the French National Library in Paris, I chanced upon a small pamphlet written by Viotti in 1792. It contained probably the most beautiful and extraordinary bit of writing about music that I’d ever come across. He described a walk in the Swiss Alps, where he got lost in a ravine and fell into what he called ‘a profound reverie’, overwhelmed by the beauty of the place. Then he heard the sounds of ‘a long trumpet’, which was obviously an alphorn: ‘These seemed to rise from one mountain and fly across to another, without being repeated by the echoes.’ At that moment he resolved to ‘engrave this Ranz des Vaches on my memory’, and write it down for all to hear.
Here, Peter Sheppard Skærved performs the piece at RSPB Farnham, in dialogue with the nature writer Laurence Rose. The film was made as part of his ‘Knowledge Exchange Violin’ project, with a violin made by Luca Alessandrini.