The Viennese Dance Series for Chamber Ensembles
Wie der Schnabel g'wachsen ist Waltzes for String Quartet, Op.177
Johann Schrammel (1850-1893), along with his brother Josef and Anton Strohmayer, created an ensemble and a type of music that was every bit as Viennese as that of the Strauss Family. In 1878, Schrammel, an orchestral violinist, his brother Josef, a Vienna folk music specialist, and the virtuoso guitarist Anton Strohmayer formed a trio. In 1884, the clarinetist Georg Dänzer joined their group and they became known as the Schrammel Quartet. (see left) Both brothers and Strohmayer wrote numerous works--waltzes, marches, polkas and galopps--for this combination. Their wonderful works, which were based on the folk melodies of old Vienna, became known as "Schrammelmusik". In the German-speaking world and throughout much of Europe, their music achieved the kind of fame which had been accorded the Strauss waltzes. In Vienna, their music was held in the highest regard by the likes of Brahms and Johann Strauss, Jr., both of whom could always be found in the audience, along with many other famous musicians, whenever the Schrammel Quartet gave a public concert. It is fair to say that Schrammelmusik is even more Viennese than the music of the Strausses. Schrammel ensembles--i.e., two violins, a clarinet and the 13 string bass guitar--could regularly be found playing at Heurigens, the wine bars, found on the outskirts of Vienna, so typical of that city and no place else. There, the Viennese drank the new wine at long tables and linked arms singing old Viennese folk melodies to forget the troubles of their daily lives.
Wie der Schnabel g’wachsen ist, literally ‘as the beak has grown’. But it’s Viennese dialect and means, ‘It’s not only the words that speak, but also the music.’ This set of waltzes is squarely in the tradition of the Viennese waltz as established by Josef Lanner and Johann Strauss, Sr. and continued by the Strauss sons, Carl Michael Ziehrer and the Fahrbachs. It was composed at the Viennese waltz’s high watermark of popularity and was designed to be a concert waltz for the dance hall and not merely a piece to be played in a wine bar. As such, it is one of the longest works Schrammel wrote. Though nearly all of the Schrammels' compositions were written for two violins, clarinet and bass guitar, the tremendous popularity of their music quickly led to arrangements for virtually every kind of small ensemble as well as the piano. While our soundbite is of the original combination, keep in mind that our version is for string quartet, a combination in which this music no doubt was often heard in the cafes of Vienna.