420 alpenhorns on the Piazza del Duomo: it’s a Guinness World Record!

They came from every corner of Switzerland: from Bellinzona to Chur, from Zurich to Basel, from Lausanne to Sion, and from Geneva to Bern. And they played. A group of 260 alpenhorns kicked things off at the Swiss Pavilion before joining another 160 players on the Piazza del Duomo. There were 420 horn players altogether: beating the record and earning a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. They were counted one by one to prove they set the new record: it’s the first time that such a large number of alpenhorn players have performed outside of Switzerland.

Accompanied by flag throwers and a group of halberd bearers, the alpenhorn players opened with the composition “Rossini San Gottardo”, an adaptation of Rossini’s famous overture from the opera “William Tell”. The composition was arranged for the occasion by Hans-Peter Danuser, who came up with the idea for the record-breaking concert and was its driving force.

After two classical pieces – “s’Guldetal im Ring” and “Uf dr Bänklialp” – the musicians delivered the world premiere of “La battaglia di Marignano”. Skilfully directed by composer Hermann Studer, the piece evoked the famous battle, which was fought on 13 September 1515, through a moving duet between alpenhorns and drums.

Federal Councillor Ueli Maurer, dressed in traditional attire, made the second-class train trip from Olten with the musicians. In his welcoming remarks on the Piazza della Madonnina, he spoke of the solidity of the relationship between Switzerland and Italy. Councillor for Culture Filippo del Corno emphasised how Expo Milano revealed the cultural vibrancy of the city, which put together a packed schedule of cultural events to which Switzerland made a very important contribution with alpenhorn concerts on the Piazza del Duomo and at the Swiss Pavilion.

At the concert at the Swiss Pavilion, held on 12 September, 260 alpenhorn players stirred the crowd’s enthusiasm in a stadium-like atmosphere. Ambassador Nicolas Bideau, the head of Presence Switzerland, recalled the important role of both traditions – in promoting the image of Switzerland – and music – in bringing together and uniting the country’s linguistic regions. Under the direction of composer Robert Oesch, the musicians then offered the premiere performance of the composition “Expo Milano 2015”.

Switzerland, the first country to confirm in 2012, its participation in Expo Milano, capped its programme of activities in Italy and at the Swiss Pavilion with the two record-breaking concerts. The number of people visiting the Swiss Pavilion reached 1.5 million on the 26th of September.

These two concerts echo the philosophy of Expo 2015, which invites all countries to gather around one table where shared flavours, experiences and values unite all and sundry. The thundering, vibrating sound of 420 alpenhorns took over the Piazza del Duomo – the very symbol of Milan – in a festive and amiable atmosphere. This unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience helps soothe the memory of the defeat suffered by the Swiss at the hands of the French 500 years ago in Marignano. The alpenhorns delivered a message of peace and union between peoples.