World violinist, pannonian at heart: Toni Stricker turns 90

With his violin, Toni Stricker can claim to have founded a musical genre as a figurehead of “Pannonian music”. The violinist told of landscapes, people and emotions in a style that he himself called “instrumental chansons” before saying goodbye to the stage in 2015. On April 4th, Stricker is now celebrating its 90th birthday.

The close connection to Stricker in Burgenland is by no means born, as the later musician was born on April 4, 1930 in Vienna, the son of a musical family in which he got to know Croatian folk songs and Viennese music at an early age. He received his first violin lessons at the age of six, and left school at the age of 16 to complete a seven-year classical education at the Vienna Conservatory. The young musician joined the jazz band Vera Auer in 1953, where he had prominent colleagues such as Joe Zawinul, Hans Salomon and Attila Zoller. As a swing violinist, Stricker played with his first own quintet and made music with Fatty George’s “Saloon” and in the Volksgarten in Vienna.

Stricker recorded entire series of LPs and earned his first spurs as a composer of Viennese songs and dance music, became concertmaster at the Theater an der Wien (until 1974) and began a series of top-class collaborations: he composed, played and arranged for greats like Peter Alexander, Hans Moser, Paul Hörbiger, Helmut Qualtinger, Andre Heller, Erika Pluhar and Shirley Bassey. In 1976 he ended his job as a contract musician and began a new phase of life with which he is still identified today: Stricker returns to Burgenland and thus “back to my roots”, as he describes it in his biography: his house in Sauerbrunn is close by the father’s birthplace.

Stricker describes this career in the book “My Way to Pannonia” (Seifert Verlag) published in 2014, since the step is one of the most decisive decisions in the life of the musician. In Burgenland, Stricker remembered “Pannonian music”, his own mix of instrumental reflections on nature and human stories. “Andre Heller encouraged me at the time and said: If there is no market, that’s the best thing – because then you can create one and don’t have to follow a trend,” Stricker once recalled during the APA interview. And Stricker succeeded in creating his own market, since in 1981 he received the German Record Award for “Pannonian Ballads and Viennese Dances”. The LPs “Bread and Wine” and “Harvest” (both produced by Heller) marked the beginning of an intense creative period.

The spectrum of the hustle and bustle remained large and also extended in this phase from stage music, a collaboration with Edita Gruberova under the title “Dialog” to music for TV series (including “Ringstrasse Palace”), television productions and films (“My sister Maria”). Stricker’s work was by no means limited to his home country. The musician, who received the Medal of Honor of the Federal Capital Vienna in Gold in 2008 and the Amadeus Austrian Music Award for his life’s work in 2010, has toured Italy, the USA, Abu Dhabi and Great Britain. And Stricker’s heart is not limited to Burgenland either, as he always spent a lot of time in the south of France with his wife Sybill.

The last great work was published by the knitter, often called “Pannonian devil violinist”, who played on a Czech instrument from 1796 and a German violin from the 1980s, in 2009 under the title “Pannonische Messe”. So the artist once again paid homage to his beloved adopted home.

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