For over 500 years, Croats and Roma people have been living in the territory of what is now Burgenland - and their presence has left a lasting impression on the musical creativity of this region. One instrument, above all others, is associated with their music: the tamburica. It's a long-necked lute with frets, on which the strings are not plucked with fingers (as on a guitar), but sounded with a rapid strumming motion using a plectrum known as a “trzalica”. The tamburica came from Croatia to the Burgenland in the beginning of the 20th century, making it a relatively young but very vital tradition – with no fewer than 30 tamburica groups and around 750 members. With Romano Zölss, Burgenland has now also an instrument-maker who masters the ancient skill of tamburica manufacture.
The most famous Burgenland-Croat musician is Willi Resetarits aka Ostbahn-Kurti, who has been filling concert halls with his bold and cheeky dialect-based rock music since the mid-1980s.
Integration is a very important subject in Burgenland. As part of the State Treaty of 1955, all linguistic and ethnic minorities in the province were recognised, and provisions such as dual-language signage were rapidly implemented. Nevertheless, Roma people – who have been residing in Burgenland for centuries now – have repeatedly had to combat persecution and discrimination, yet their music is firmly associated with the history of Burgenland. For a long time it was played for special occasions, such as festivals, marriages and church celebrations (“Kirtage”) only, performed by Roma orchestras, known as “Bandas”. A typical Banda comprises a violin, viola, clarinet, cymbal and double bass. Over time, those songs were practically lost to memory, only to be rediscovered in recent years by performers such as the Hans Samer Band or the “Romano Rath” (“Roma blood”).
The Burgenland is also known for its rich vocal traditions, practically every village has its own choir. Burgenland folk songs are characterised by close two-part harmony, and practically all songs start up with just two voices. Even today, the German-speaking population often sings in “Hianzisch”, a dialect spoken in large parts of Burgenland.
Burgenland’s most famous contemporary musician is the violinist Toni Stricker. His lyrical music reflects the spirit of life in Pannonia, an ancient region stretching from Bratislava to Croatia, from the Plattensee lake in Hungary to the Burgenland. As he works the diverse musical influences of this region into his music, he is following in the tradition of another great son of Burgenland – the composer Joseph Haydn. He was, for instance, inspired by a Croatian folk song for his “Kaiserhymne” – the melody which is today the German national anthem.
Playing the tamburica
Franz Liszt Centre in Raiding
Franz Liszt Festival, Raiding
Dates: 27.-29.1.; 23.-25.3.; 20.-24.6.; 18.-22.10. 2012
Haydn Festival in Eisenstadt
An annual music festival is held in Eisenstadt to honour the composer, who was Director of Music for forty years to the Court of the Esterházy. He wrote the majority of his masterpieces here.
The Cultural Centre in Oslip offers evenings of traditional music, alongside cabaret, exhibitions and photo-workshops.
Culture in Burgenland