The Viennese Dance Series for Chamber Ensembles
Die Eisern' Waltzes for String Quartet
Alois Strohmayer (1822-1890) was a Viennese violinist and composer. His son Anton Strohmayer became a virtuoso guitarist and along with Johann and Josef Schrammel, both violinists, formed a trio which consisted of 2 violins and guitar. Soon after, they were joined by the clarinetist Georg Dänzer and they became known as the Schrammel Quartet. (see above) Most of Alois Strohmayer's compositions--waltzes, polkas, galopps and marches were for this combination. They were based on the folk melodies of old Vienna and 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.
Die Eisern (Viennese slang for Eisernen thought to be a reference to Eiswein, a sweet dessert wine quite popular in Vienna) was composed in 1855 and was dedicated to the guests of the English Wine Hall. The popularity of Schrammelmusik 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.