For Toni Stricker, the violin has become an extension of his soul. When he bows its strings, images from his native Burgenland stream forth. „Toni Stricker’s music smells like the earth — His violin transforms itself into a gypsy, the flute of a shepherd, a bird — He takes us to an imaginary Europe where people dance, make love, and sway in each other’s arms.“
- Toni Stricker, swinging
Such poetic metaphors have been used to describe Toni Stricker’s artistic oeuvre. „Ever since I moved to Burgenland, I have striven to describe its landscape with my music,“the musician says. „In my compositions, I want to find a musical expression for its diverse people, cultural heritage and nature.“
Lake Neusiedl (german: Neusiedler See)
Burgenland, Austria’s most Eastern province, shares the Pannonian Plains with Hungary. Commonly called the Puszta, the country’s lowest region is marked by vineyards and plains with Lake Neusiedl as its centerpiece. When Toni Stricker strikes up his composition, „Night on the Lake“, boats softly rock in the water. Gloomy thoughts, silver clouds, and night-time secrets pass by. A flock of herons spreads its wings and rises towards the dark sky.
In order to evoke these images, the virtuoso player transcends musical conventions. He draws tones from his instrument which no conservatory in the world could teach. With his manifold acoustic nuances he defies all musical classifications.
From the beginning of his career, Toni Stricker was exposed to different schools of music. As a young boy he listened to Viennese dances and Croatian folk songs, his mother stemming from the Austrian capital Vienna and his father belonging to Burgenland’s Slavic minority. At the age of six, his dream came true: he was given a violin and underwent classical training for the next seventeen years. As in many other European cities, jazz music took Vienna by storm in the early 1950s and Toni Stricker joined the Vera Auer Jazz Band. Other members included Joe Zawinul and Hans Salomon, who also rose to international fame in later years. Toni Stricker was the epitome of a „swing violinist“ at the time and toured all over Europe with different groups. In order to slow his hectic pace, he accepted the position of concertmaster in the orchestra at Vienna’s „Theater an der Wien“, arranging and composing for a wide variety of well-known artists such as Hans Moser, Helmut Qualtinger, Shirley Bassey, and André Heller.
Once again, in 1976, after the death of his father, Toni Stricker switched to an even calmer lifestyle: He moved his family to Sauerbrunn – at his father’s native Burgenland – to rediscover his roots. What he found was his very own creativity, being free to write music only for himself and express the rich diversity of his surroundings. His compositions integrate musical traditions of peoples from the Pannonian region and include not only Austrian and Hungarian tunes, but also Oriental rhythms. His ballads tell tales of faces, feelings and forlorn villages. As scholar Bernd Lötsch (now hes ist the General Director of The Natural History Museum Vienna ) has noted, Stricker goes against the grain of half a century of „absolute music“ which has merely focused on formal aspects of composition. For him, music should communicate and convey certain interpretations of the world the artist lives in. Just like Ludwig van Beethoven in his Pastoral Symphony and Franz Liszt in his Hungarian Dances, Toni Stricker expresses the genius loci of his region. „I would like to compose like Marc Chagall paints,“ Toni Stricker once said. „He never denied his roots, the village Liosna near Witebsk, but brought the dreams and tales of the Russian Jewish community to his canvas. As a result, he inspired Expressionist and Surrealist artists.“
Stricker’s music, however, never turns folksy or tries to please a mass audience by simplifying the region’s musical traditions. „Regionalists like him are true cosmopolitans because it is only from the outside that we grasp the nature and value of a region’s unique character,“ Bernd Lötsch once said. „A wealth of artistic opportunities opens up, and we realize what this indigenous culture means to the people living in the area.“ And to all of those who listen to Toni Stricker’s music, we should add.
(Quoted from: „A PAGANINI FROM THE PLAINS“ by T. Gruber & K. Hanta)
On dec 13, 2008 Toni Stricker’s „pannonian mass“, which he composed this year, will have the world premiere at Vienna’s Radiokulturhaus. It will also be produced on CD.
„I heard him playing in New York. Really a fantastic music – just Stricker-music.“ – Joe Zawinul
TONI STRICKER „Pannonien & Jazz“
„Viele Musiker, die wie Toni Stricker vom Jazz kommen, haben in den letzten Jahren versucht, ihr Klangspektrum zu erweitern. Toni Stricker ist – neben Joe Zawinul – einer der wenigen, die eine eigenständige Sprache gefunden haben. Neben dem Klangreichtum des Jazz fließt in seine Musik die melodisch-harmonische Struktur der pannonischen Tiefebene ein. Im Ensemble des Violinisten, Komponisten und U-Musik Stars Toni Stricker spielen der Saxophonist Hans Salomon und Richard Österreicher an der Mundharmonika, beide selbst Legenden des österreichischen Jazz.“