• Salzkammergut Lake Mondsee

    Music in the Salzkammergut: A Mondsee-Serenade

    The landscapes of the Salzkammergut have long attracted composers: Richard Strauss, Franz Schubert, Gustav Mahler and Johannes Brahms – were inspired by spectacular mountain scenery and quiet lakes. Today, the region is still a very musical one.

    Pay attention, says Daniel Laganda, and listen closely: It is wonderful when a melody floats across the water. The musician is sitting on a wall by the banks of the Mondsee, the “Steirische” (a local type of accordion) around his shoulders, looking at a spectacular blue sky. Then he begins to play and passers-by stop in their tracks, children halt their play, and even the moored boats nearby seem to creak a little more quietly. He plays „Es steigen scho die Lercherl auf“, an old folk song from the Salzkammergut, one that is especially fitting for an early summer morning like this. And indeed it seems as if the sounds from the accordion linger on the water surface for a while before they disperse above the Mondsee.

    Salzkammergut Lake Mondsee - Daniel Laganda

    Daniel Laganda

    Folk Musician, Music Teacher and Accordion Virtuoso

    • Salzkammergut Lake Mondsee - Daniel Laganda with harmonica

      For seventeen years he has been playing the instrument which, like no other, represents the local Alpine music which has made its way around the world. As a child, he was allowed to accompany his father, a hobby musician, when he performed with friends at various local inns. “There was always someone playing the Steirische. At one point I knew that it was going to be my instrument. That I want to be able to master it.” Now he does. Daniel Laganda makes a living with music. He plays at weddings and company celebrations and is booked year-round. He is also a teacher at the Landesmusikschule (music school) Mondsee.

    It was lakes such as this one which attracted the great composers of the 19th century. Richard Strauss and Johannes Brahms strolled along the banks of Lake Altaussee, thinking of new melodies, perhaps singing along as they walked. Franz Schubert used to compose in the town of Gmunden by the Traunsee. Gustav Mahler furnished a „Komponierhäuschen“ (composition house) directly by the bank of the lake, and brought his entire symphony No. 3 to paper there.

    „It is as if a swimmer had to cover a huge distance all the way to the other side of the lake. In the beginning, the end is almost invisible, there seems to be nothing but water, for a long time. In the middle, the other side still seems far and unreachable. Then it slowly gets closer, inch by inch, and towards the end, the floods part and in a few strokes you have achieved your goal.”

    Gustav Mahler potrait of the composer
    Gustav Mahler - Composer
    Salzkammergut Schafberg - Himmelspforte refuge with a view of Lake Mondsee

    Of course, the quiet lakes of the Salzkammergut and the mountains surrounding them have inspired people to make music long before famous composers resided here for the summer. The body of folk songs from the region spans many centuries, with roots that go back even farther in time. “Der Almschroa” (Almschrei or Alpine pasture cry) for example stems from a time when herdsmen sang greetings over large distances from one meadow to the next.

    These cries were answered and even commented on by a third or fourth herdsman. The yodel probably also evolved from this vociferous mode of communication between mountain dwellers.

    Salzkammergut Lake Mondsee - Daniel Laganda with harmonica

    Music has always been important in the Salzkammergut, says Daniel Laganda. In many families, music is still an integral part of daily life and many generations play regularly together, as is the case in his own family. “Of course, this doesn’t happen as often as it used to, as people have too many other responsibilities nowadays. But we make time to play together whenever possible. And during Christmas season, the siblings are joining us. And all the cousins.” 

    Does he still need to practise? Of course! The Steirische is not an easy instrument, the fingers of each hand have completely different tasks, so you have to practise regularly. Of course, he prefers to do so outside rather than in the living room. On a garden bench, perhaps, with views of the mountains. An accordion is easy to bring along anywhere, and many musicians take advantage of that. If you know where to go, you can have exciting sound experiences in nature. “Be still,” he says, “and listen closely!”

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