The Wienerlied really is a phenomenon – what other city can claim to have a whole genre of music named after it? First surfacing around 1800, today Wienerlieder songs have since found their way into many musical genres. The traditional Wienerlied, as heard at the city’s wine taverns, always focuses on typically Viennese topics such as love, death, wine or the city itself.
Young Wienerlied bands are now giving it a contemporary spin, as they flirt with other genres such as jazz, blues and pop. Artists such as André Heller and Roland Neuwirth paved the way for others to follow, and now others have picked up the creative baton, such as writer and musician Ernst Molden and local bands including 5/8erl in Ehr’n. Exceptionally gifted proponents include the accordionist Otto Lechner, as well as button accordion virtuoso Walther Soyka who forms half of a duo alongside master zither player Karl Stirner, specializing in authentic Viennese folk music with a healthy dash of improv.
Many of today’s Wienerlied performers are testing the genre’s limits, each in their own way.
The six men that make up Buntspecht have won a place in their fans’ hearts with a mix of gypsy swing, bossa nova, Wienerlied and folk. Singer and guitarist Lukas Klein sums it up: “Our music is a colorful mix. The genres and the topics covered by the impressionistic lyrics are all jumbled together. And maybe that is what is so Viennese about it, since Vienna is and always has been multicultural and diverse. We love that organic, earthy feeling and, above all, playing together. I think that’s probably why we work so well live. Because we are so close – audiences tap into that honest and life-affirming energy.”
Voodoo Jürgens’ trademark is humorously dark lyrics executed in Viennese dialect. The young, classically trained musician Felix Kramer offers up emotional Viennese ditties that really get under the skin. Double act Wiener Blond spice up the classic Wienerlied with beatboxing, loops and pop, while cheeky rockers Wanda and glam poppers Bilderbuch have long been packing out arenas at home and abroad with their music.
The best way to get an immersive experience of the capital’s music scene is at one of the numerous festivals: wean hean (Wien hören/hear Vienna) and the Accordion Festival take place in the spring, Wien im Rosenstolz in October and its derivative Landpartie in May. The Danube Island Festival at the end of June serves up around 600 hours of live music, while Popfest in July shows a cross-section of musical life in the city.
Audiences can get to know the musicians in person at the capital’s clubs and music venues. Ernst Molden, Nino aus Wien, Voodoo Jürgens and Wiener Blond have all created some unforgettable moments at Theater am Spittelberg, with their inimitable takes on the Wienerlied genre that reflect the soul of the city.
Text: Susanna Burger