Several Viennese musical curiosities

Karl Nagl’s claim that, unlike the Germans, Viennese organ-grinders are musicians, because they have “crank-sense.” And female yodelling with Dudlerinnen Trude Mally and Maly Nagl.

Trude Mally.

Trude Mally. Image: Wiener Volksliedwerk.

Regrettably, most know female yodelling from the lonely goatherd in the Sound of Music:

… rather than from the DeZurik or Cackle Sisters, who “listened to the birds and tried to sing with the birds,” forming one of American country music’s most remarkable novelty acts (WFMU has MP3s):

Far from Zurik, though close to the eastern end of the Alps, the Viennese Dudlerin Trude Mally (1928-2009) also evokes a rural past. Here she is towards the end of her career in 1989 performing a song with yodel refrain, “Der Erzherzog Johann,” in tavern Zum Werkelmann (“[At the sign of] the organ-grinder”), at the Böhmischer Prater amusement park on the outskirts of Vienna:

The lyrics tell of this Archduke John of Austria (1782-1859) from the perspective of a Styrian postmaster’s daughter, Anna Plochl, who was married to him in 1829:

Woi geh und steh, tut ma’s Herz so weh,
um mei Steiermark, ja glaubt ma’s g’wiß;
wo das Büchserl knallt und da Gemsbock fallt,
und mei liaba Herzog Johann ist.

Where I come and go, oh my heart’s so low,
Without Styria I cannot rest.
Where the firelock pops and the chamois drops
And my darling Archduke Johann quests.

Here’s another recording of the song, from 1927, by the young Maly Nagl (real name Amalie Wolfsecker, 1893-1977), the previous queen of Dudler. The rubato in the refrain is even more pronounced, perhaps in part because the high notes are easier a tone lower:

Most of Trude and Maly’s repertoire is yodel-free, and qualifies as straightforward Wienerlied, which, once you subtract the dialect, strikes me as pretty close musically and thematically to the early 20th century metropolitan music hall and café-chantant repertoire we know from England, France, the Netherlands and Germany. Here is Maly singing “Mei Oide sauft so vü wiar i” (“My old man drinks as much as me” – and they take it in turns to carry each other home):

But to our organ business. In her Zum Werkelmann video, Trude is accompanied by organ-builder and -grinder Karl Nagl (1922-94) on accordion and by Karl’s son Peter (1947-) on Kontrabassgitarre, which I think we call a baritone guitar. Karl held a street grinding licence from 1977, and I hope someone will decipher his relationship to Maly from this information. He is celebrated by Alpine cranks for his surname (Nagl is Nagel is nail, without which an organ barrel is nothing) and for the following aphorism about micro-adjustments in cranking speed for special and mundane effect, turning orderly barrel pinning into music. It reflects the view held by musicians elsewhere that there are humans and then there are Prussians:

Der Wiener Werkelmann hat nach ‘n Takt draht, der hat die Musik auf der Walz’n verschönert und verfeinert mit ‘n Drehn. Des kann der Deutsche net, der draht wia a Kaffeemühl. I’ muaß genau wissen, wann i’ jetzt stehenbleib mit der Kurbel, wie lang der Magazinbalg den Wind gibt, wie lang i’ den Ton aushalten kann mit dem Wind. Und des is das eigene Gefühl, das Drehgefühl.1


By the time the Viennese organ-grinder has cranked a bar, he has beautified and refined the music on the barrel with his grinding. The German can’t do that and cranks like a coffee mill. I must know exactly when to stop the crank, how long the air chest will last, how long I can keep the sound going with the air. And that’s a personal sense, one’s crank-sense.

In the refrain of his version of “Mei’ Muatterl war a Weanerin” (“My mother was a Vi’nnese girl”), played on a Molzer instrument, Karl, who for some reason reminds me of Tommy Cooper, brings forward the second beat of the bar to give the typical Viennese waltz effect:

In the march “Koline, Koline” by the Bohemian František Kmoch, Karl’s love for bass notes at the beginning of bars is even more evident:

The Werkelmann video of Trude and Karl was filmed by fellow-organ-grinder Horst Rohmann, who used to perform in duet with his wife Irmgard. They are from Brunswick (Braunschweig) in north Germany, and, as predicted by Karl, their version of “Koline, Koline” is regular:

Here’s another video of Horst and Irmgard in which their automated bear and dog (or is it a cat?) are clearly visible. The title line of this waltz, “Warum weinst du, holde Gärtnersfrau?” (“Why d’you cry, you lovely gardener’s wife?”), also appears in 4/4 in “Müde kehrt ein Wanderer zurück” (“Weary turns a wand’rer, homeward bound”) by Lebrecht Blücher Dreves (1816-70), of whom more one day:

And here is Karl again, singing with accordion at Zum Werkelmann:

If you can’t be bothered to learn how to grind like him, you can always order some of my unique Austrian-style arrangements for organ, which manage all the rhythmic subtlety for you.

Anecnotes   [ + ]

1. Found by Wiener Volksliedwerk in Wolfgang Mohl’s “Der Meister des Wiener Werkls. Gespräch mit dem letzten Wiener Werkelmann Prof. Karl Nagl” in Wiener Bonbons. Zeitschrift der Wiener Johann Strauss-Gesellschaft für Musiker und Musikfreunde, Nr.4 (Vienna, 1993).

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