About this Recording
8.550228 - Music from Old Vienna

The traditions of folk-music in Vienna provided a fertile ground for great Viennese composers such as Franz Schubert, for Johann Strauss and his sons. Josef Lanner, and not least for Alois Strohmayer and the Schrammel brothers. The city has long been famous for its music, noted in 1773 by the English scholar Dr. Burney, who reported that even the stone angels sang, and continuing through the changing circumstances of the times. In the many beer-gardens and taverns at the so-called Heurigen, when new wine is drunk, singers and musicians performed, among them Kaspar Schrammel, a clarinettist, and his wife Aloisia, a folk- singer, the parents of the famous Schrammel brothers.

The Schrammel brothers Johann (1850 -1893) and Josef (1852 -1895) were born in Vienna and grew up in the tradition of Viennese folk-music. The musical gifts acquired from their father Kaspar were developed through lessons at the Vienna Conservatory with the director, the violinist Joseph Hellmesberger (1828 -1893). Thereafter the brothers went their separate ways, Johann as an orchestral player and Josef as a folk-musician, but in 1878 they established a trio with the guitarist Draskovits, replaced the following year by the best guitarist of the time, Anton Strohmayer (1848 -1937), a son of the composer Alois Strohmayer. The trio took the name D'Nussdorfer after the well known wine village Nussdorf, near Vienna, where they performed. Their combination of perfect technique with musicianship rooted in folk tradition quickly won them an extraordinary following. The family name of the Schrammel brothers became synonymous with the stylistic excellence of performance of Viennese music. In 1884 the eminent folk-clarinettist Georg Dänzer (1848 -1890) joined the trio and this was the beginning of the Schrammelquartett, which worked together for only six years, establishing a world-wide reputation and giving this form of Viennese music its own name, Schrammelmusik.

The composition of the quartet, with two violins, high clarinet and bass guitar, was not unusual in popular Viennese music of the time, stemming from the tradition of the itinerant musicians, the so-called Linzer Geiger, adopted by the Schrammel brothers and Alois Strohmayer. Unique, however, was the application to folk- music of a high level of technical and compositional skill, through which the Schrammeis drew the particular attention of high society. Crown Prince Rudolf was one of their most important supporters and contact with leading artists of the time, such as Johannes Brahms, Johann Strauss and Hans Makart, was reflected in their music. Johann Strauss described the work of the Schrammel brothers as characteristic of the peculiar poetry of Viennese folk music, while Hans Richter, at the height of his fame as conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, could recommend to his players nothing better than the Schrammeis, whose concerts Brahms too attended with enthusiasm.

The countless compositions of the Schrammel brothers for their own quartet were soon known throughout Europe, dances, marches, waltzes, polkas and songs that are comparable to the music of the Strauss brothers. Unfortunately many of them have only survived in arrangements. The surviving manuscripts, of the Schrammel brothers were discovered in 1963 by Professor Lois Böck of Vienna.

The special musical quality of the compositions of the Schrammel brothers lies in its clever treatment of polyphony. The G clarinet plays either a characteristically interwoven part or a musical line parallel to the first violin, ensuring, through the careful interlacing of characteristic figures and trills, the particular qualities of the music, its cheerfulness and boldness. The second violin accompanies or plays a counter-theme to the first violin or clarinet, and the bass guitar, a 13-string instrument with two necks, provides the harmonic and rhythmic foundation. This instrumentation, the combination of a G clarinet with strings, gives the music its special quality.

Alois Strohmayer (1822 - 1890)
Alois Strohmayer was born in Vienna-Lichtenthal in 1822 and began writing music at the age of seventeen. At first he wrote little pieces for solo violin, turning soon to folk-music and the formation of various folk-music ensembles with well known musicians, among others Georg Dänzer and the Schrammel brothers, before the Schrammel Quartet was established. In 1845 Strohmayer married and of his two sons, Karl and Anton, the latter became the guitarist of the Schrammel Quartet. His compositions include waltzes, polkas, dances and marches and show the strong influence of Johann Strauss the eider and Josef Lanner, and also of Schubert, a fellow-student of his father Martin Strohmayer. Like the Schrammel brothers, he wrote principally for an ensemble of two violins, bass guitar and a woodwind instrument, flute or clarinet. His works, some 200 compositions in the original manuscript, were first re-discovered by Professor Lois Böck in 1971.

The Veilchen-Polka by Alois Strohmayer was written in 1864 and unusually shows more of the Viennese spirit of Schubert than of Bohemia. Josef Schrammel's Nussdorfer march makes use of the well known “Nussdorfer Song” by Carl Lorens and is one of the most popular pieces in the Schrammel repertoire. His brother Johann's In Arte Voluptas, a march, is dedicated to the Schlaraffia, a social club, and uses in the trio section the “Schlaraffia Song EHE”, by Rudolf Wach/Ritter Bliemchen.

The anonymous dances of Das picksüsse Hölzl are dedicated to the best loved instrument in folk music, the G clarinet, known popularly as "picksüsses Hölzl". The instrument also found a place in the orchestra of Johann Strauss the eider. The Zepperl-Polka of Alois Strohmayer, dated 11th October, 1864, takes its title too from dialect, the Viennese "zeppeln" signifying taking a short, leaping step.

Strohmayer's Ottakringer March bears the date 18th May, 1883, reflecting the Viennese character of the Ottakring district of the city rather than anything military. The Aiser-gründler Waltzes, dated 26th January, 1886, are dedicated to the inhabitants of the ninth district of Vienna. Unlike his earlier waltzes, these have more of the character of Ländler, something truly Viennese, continued in the Schrammel waltzes.

The compositions mentioned above have been edited by Professor Lois Böck and Professor Anton Pürkner from the original manuscripts and published by Eberle-Verlag. The other original compositions by the Schrammel brothers included in the present programme survive only in arrangements, although the character of the music is preserved. Other items are arrangements of popular Viennese pieces in the style of the Schrammel brothers or of Alois Strohmayer.

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