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The American Musical Instrument Society


The Curt Sachs Award 2001

Gerhard Stradner

Gerhard StradnerThe Board of Governors of the American Musical Instrument Society designated Gerhard Stradner the recipient of the Curt Sachs Award for the year 2001 in recognition of his service as Director of the Collection of Ancient Musical Instruments of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, and for his published research in organology and historical performance practice.

Born into a musical family in Klosterneuburg, Austria, Gerhard Stradner received musical instruction in violin and piano as a child and later studied the clarinet and recorder with a specialization in early music at the Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Vienna. He went on to pursue scientific disciplines at the University of Vienna (mathematics) and the Viennese Technische Hochschule (descriptive geometry), returning later to the University for graduate work in the arts (musicology and art history). Subsequently he studied at the University of Saarbrücken, Germany, where he again specialized in musicology and art history, also completing academic studies in the science of education. At Saarbrücken he was awarded the Dr. Eduard Martin Prize for extraordinary accomplishments. In addition to holding certificates of qualification in educational and artistic fields, Gerhard Stradner has earned academic master's and doctor's degrees. He has also been awarded the title of Hofrat (equivalent to that of Privy Councillor in Great Britain) by the Austrian government as a sign of his distinction.

From 1959 to 1971, and again in the period 1976—80, Stradner taught the subjects of mathematics, descriptive geometry, geometrical drafting, and instrumental music at schools in Lower Austria and Vienna. From 1972 on, he also served as a lecturer and advisor, specializing in the field of organology, at several institutions of higher learning–both universities and conservatories–in Graz, Saarbrücken, Vienna, Innsbruck, and Salzburg. In 1980—81 he pursued a research project entitled "Musikinstrumente in Österreich" for the Austrian Academy of Sciences. During the earlier period of his academic teaching, he also began his activity as a performer on cornetto, recorders, and historical string instruments in the Ensemble Musica antiqua Wien, Concentus Musicus, Capella academica, Collegium aureum, and other professional early-music ensembles.

Gerhard Stradner served as the Director of the Collection of Ancient Musical Instruments (Sammlung alter Musikinstrumente) at the Kunsthistorisches Museum from 1981 until 1999, when he entered into retirement. During this eighteen-year period he was responsible for many improvements in the Collection's physical space and research capabilities, as well as important additions to the holdings. Under his direction the exhibition and storage areas were increased and provided with improved climate control, conservation facilities, and security measures. The professional staff was augmented to include an additional curatorial scholar and a restorer. The instruments on public display were newly arranged to reflect historical considerations, and the educational quality of the exhibits was increased through the use of radio earphones and other self-controlled electronic devices for the use of visitors.

Of particular significance among the improvements to the Collection accomplished by Stradner is the group of approximately 300 items–many of Austrian origin–that were added to the holdings during the years of his directorship. They include a sixteenth-century flute and case; a clarinet and walkingstick flute owned by Ludwig van Beethoven; a tenor trombone made by Jörg Neuschel in 1557 (the second-oldest surviving trombone in the world); trumpet mutes, drumsticks, and horns of the eighteenth century; a viola da gamba by Jakob Stainer Absam (ca. 1700); violins owned by Leopold Mozart and Joseph Lanner; a violin from the Amati school; a mandora made by Blasius Weigert in Linz in 1732; the oldest Viennese harpsichord, converted to a piano in 1726; the oldest Viennese harpsichord still playable, made by Pantzner in 1747; a square piano, presumably the oldest made in Austria; and a positive organ by Johann Hencke of Vienna. Additional historical items added to the Collection include mechanical implements used for musical composition by the blind Viennese pianist Maria Theresia Paradis, as well as oil paintings of Franz Schubert, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Richard Strauss. As a further service to the public, Stradner arranged concerts, held in the Marble Hall within the area of the Collection, featuring well-known soloists playing old instruments.

Gerhard Stradner's contributions to scholarship are especially noteworthy. The author of some 95 articles, essays, and books, he has specialized in the study of musical instruments and their performance, particularly in the musical practice of the sixteenth century. The following list of books only highlights his extensive scholarly output: Spielpraxis und Instrumentarium um 1500 dargestellt an Sebastian Virdungs "Musica getutscht" (Basel 1511) (Vienna, 1983), Musikinstrumente in Grazer Sammlungen (Vienna, 1986), Die Klangwelt Mozarts (Vienna, 1991), and Für Aug' und Ohr: Musik in Kunst- und Wunderkammern (Vienna, 1999). In addition, he has accomplished the planning and realization of seven major exhibitions of musical instruments in several locations in Austria: Zur Austellung von Tasteninstrumenten (Graz), Zur Entwicklung der Geige (Graz), Die Wiener Geige (Vienna), Musica ex machina (Linz), Linzer Musikinstrumente der Brucknerzeit (Linz), Die Klangwelt Mozarts (Vienna), and Für Aug' und Ohr (Schloß Ambras).

Gerhard Stradner has described the experiences that have contributed to his life's work in the following words: "I believe that my achievements in the field of organology have resulted from the reciprocal forces of preparation for teaching, the scholarly method of observation, and the influence of my activity as a practical musician. Above all there is my affection for young people and for those with whom I have found a fertile field of activity in my occupation as a teacher, in my museum work, and in my contacts with people of similar mind the world over."

The American Musical Instrument Society presented Gerhard Stradner with the Curt Sachs Award for 2001 at an awards ceremony during the thirtieth annual meeting of the society, held at the University of North Carolina at Asheville.

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