Music from Old Vienna (Thalia-Schrammeln) (Naxos: 8.550228)
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The traditions of folk-music in Vienna provided a fertile ground forgreat Viennese composers such as Franz Schubert, for Johann Strauss and hissons. Josef Lanner, and not least for Alois Strohmayer and the Schrammelbrothers. The city has long been famous for its music, noted in 1773 by theEnglish scholar Dr. Burney, who reported that even the stone angels sang, andcontinuing through the changing circumstances of the times. In the manybeer-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 Schrammelbrothers.
The Schrammel brothers Johann (1850 -1893) and Josef (1852 -1895) wereborn in Vienna and grew up in the tradition of Viennese folk-music. The musicalgifts acquired from their father Kaspar were developed through lessons at theVienna Conservatory with the director, the violinist Joseph Hellmesberger (1828-1893). Thereafter the brothers went their separate ways, Johann as anorchestral player and Josef as a folk-musician, but in 1878 they established atrio with the guitarist Draskovits, replaced the following year by the bestguitarist of the time, Anton Strohmayer (1848 -1937), a son of the composerAlois Strohmayer. The trio took the name D'Nussdorfer after the well known winevillage Nussdorf, near Vienna, where they performed. Their combination ofperfect technique with musicianship rooted in folk tradition quickly won them anextraordinary following. The family name of the Schrammel brothers becamesynonymous with the stylistic excellence of performance of Viennese music. In1884 the eminent folk-clarinettist Georg Danzer (1848 -1890) joined the trioand this was the beginning of the Schrammelquartett, which worked together foronly six years, establishing a world-wide reputation and giving this form ofViennese music its own name, Schrammelmusik.
The composition of the quartet, with two violins, high clarinet and bassguitar, was not unusual in popular Viennese music of the time, stemming from thetradition of the itinerant musicians, the so-called Linzer Geiger, adopted bythe Schrammel brothers and Alois Strohmayer. Unique, however, was theapplication 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 withleading artists of the time, such as Johannes Brahms, Johann Strauss and HansMakart, was reflected in their music. Johann Strauss described the work of theSchrammel brothers as characteristic of the peculiar poetry of Viennese folkmusic, while Hans Richter, at the height of his fame as conductor of the ViennaPhilharmonic Orchestra, could recommend to his players nothing better than theSchrammeis, whose concerts Brahms too attended with enthusiasm.
The countless compositions of the Schrammel brothers for their ownquartet were soon known throughout Europe, dances, marches, waltzes, polkas andsongs that are comparable to the music of the Strauss brothers. Unfortunatelymany of them have only survived in arrangements. The surviving manuscripts, ofthe Schrammel brothers were discovered in 1963 by Professor Lois Bock of Vienna.
The special musical quality of the compositions of the Schrammelbrothers lies in its clever treatment of polyphony. The G clarinet plays eithera characteristically interwoven part or a musical line parallel to the firstviolin, ensuring, through the careful interlacing of characteristic figures andtrills, the particular qualities of the music, its cheerfulness and boldness.
The second violin accompanies or plays a counter-theme to the first violin orclarinet, and the bass guitar, a 13-string instrument with two necks, providesthe harmonic and rhythmic foundation. This instrumentation, the combination of aG clarinet with strings, gives the music its special quality.
Alois Strohmayer (1822 - 1890)
Alois Strohmayer was born in Vienna-Lichtenthal in 1822 and beganwriting music at the age of seventeen. At first he wrote little pieces for soloviolin, turning soon to folk-music and the formation of various folk-musicensembles with well known musicians, among others Georg Danzer and theSchrammel brothers, before the Schrammel Quartet was established. In 1845Strohmayer married and of his two sons, Karl and Anton, the latter became theguitarist of the Schrammel Quartet. His compositions include waltzes, polkas,dances and marches and show the strong influence of Johann Strauss the eider andJosef Lanner, and also of Schubert, a fellow-student of his father MartinStrohmayer. Like the Schrammel brothers, he wrote principally for an ensemble oftwo violins, bass guitar and a woodwind instrument, flute or clarinet. Hisworks, some 200 compositions in the original manuscript, were firstre-discovered by Professor Lois Bock in 1971.
The Veilchen-Polka byAlois Strohmayer was written in 1864 and unusually shows more of the Viennesespirit of Schubert than of Bohemia. Josef Schrammel's Nussdorfermarch makes use of the well known \Nussdorfer Song" by CarlLorens and is one of the most popular pieces in the Schrammel repertoire. Hisbrother Johann's In Arte Voluptas,a march, is dedicated to the Schlaraffia, a social club, and uses in the triosection the "Schlaraffia Song EHE", by Rudolf Wach/Ritter Bliemchen.
The anonymous dances of Das picks??sseHolzl are dedicated to the best loved instrument in folk music, theG clarinet, known popularly as "picks??sses Holzl". The instrumentalso found a place in the orchestra of Johann Strauss the eider. The Zepperl-Polkaof 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 theOttakring district of the city rather than anything military. The Aiser-gr??ndlerWaltzes, dated 26th January, 1886, are dedicated to the inhabitantsof the ninth district of Vienna. Unlike his earlier waltzes, these have more ofthe character of Landler, something truly Viennese, continued in the Schrammelwaltzes.
The compositions mentioned above have been edited by Professor Lois Bockand Professor Anton P??rkner from the original manuscripts and published byEberle-Verlag. The other original compositions by the Schrammel brothersincluded in the present programme survive only in arrangements, although thecharacter of the music is preserved. Other items are arrangements of popularViennese pieces in the style of the Schrammel brothers or of Alois Strohmayer.