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The Mandolin in Austria : with Olivia Artner

Olivia Artner was born in 1994 in Graz.
She started her musical career early in childhood, taking piano and mandolin classes.
After graduating “Musikgymnasium Dreihackengasse” in 2013, she lived in central america for one year, learning about language and culture. Since 2015, she studies the mandolin at the University Of Music Saar with Juan Carlos Muñoz, and since 2019 composition with Arnulf Herrmann. Olivia Artner has taken master classes with Prof. Marga Wilden-Hüsgen, Prof. Caterina Lichtenberg, Vincent Beer-Demander and others.
She won several prices at national and international youth competitions, in 2017 she reached the finals at the “11th ARTE International Competition” in Osaka, and she participated in the EGMYO 2012 and 2014.
Since 2016, she is part of the GIOCOSO summer school teachers team in Austria.
In various chamber music groups as well as soloist, she gives concerts in different countries of Europe.
Olivia Artner focuses on contemporary music, trying to find new repertoire and extended techniques and searching new concepts for concerts and performances.


How did you meet the mandolin ?

I grew up with the mandolin, since my father founded the Ensemble GIOCOSO, a still existing amateur ensemble, so I came in touch with it very early, but I didn’t start to play it until I was 7 years old.

How is your activity organized around the mandolin ?

I focus on finding contemporary repertoire which is not often played, solo or in different kinds of ensembles/chamber music.
Also, I try to reach out to young contemporary composers to show them the possibilities of our instrument and I´m researching and experimenting with extended techniques and electronics, since there is still a big gap compared to the development of other instruments in the last century.

Can you tell us about the history of the mandolin in your country ?

In Austria, mainly Vienna, the mandolin has quite an interesting history.
Around 1800, our instrument was quite popular within the higher circles of society.
After disappearing for a while it reappeared around 1900 and, like for example in Italy, many big amateur orchestras were founded. The society “VAMÖ” (Society of Socialist Working Class Mandolin Orchestras) was founded in 1924, more than 100 orchestras were part of it.
Due to the socialist background, it was forced to be liquidated in 1934.
Also during that time, contemporary composers got interested in the mandolin and used it in their ensembles (for example Schönberg in his Serenade op.24).
After war, VAMÖ was reopened, and musicians like Vincent Hladky and Lieselotte Jancak were teaching the instrument at a high level, in music schools and the conservatory of Vienna.
Unfortunately, in the last decades the mandolin almost disappeared.
Some small orchestras exist in Vienna, Salzburg and Graz, but there are almost no music schools that offer our instrument.
Small organizations like GIOCOSO try to keep the mandolin scene alive, organize international courses and provide classes for students.

How has the mandolin and its repertoire evolved in your country ?

Little pieces were written by famous classical composers like Mozart and Beethoven during a time when high society ladies played the instrument.
Then, in the early 20th century, due to the circumstances stated above, big orchestra pieces were written by composers like Hans Gal, and Armin Kaufmann, using the whole family of the mandolin (like alto-mandolin and Liuto).
Composers of the 2nd Viennese School also got interested in the instrument, so it is present in some pieces by Schönberg and Webern.

What is the position of the mandolin currently in your country ?

There are some orchestras in Vienna, Graz and Salzburg, and few mandolin classes exist in the same cities, with a very small amount of students.
But people usually know the instrument.

What is the most played repertoire in your country ?

Not much repertoire is played, so I don’t think I can say for sure, but I think mostly people play Austrian folk music or the typical romantic repertoire like Calace.

Where is the mandolin taught ?

-Musikschule Lieboch
-Ensemble Giocoso
-Musikschule Ottakring (Wien)
-Landesmusikschule Steyr (but Im not sure if this still exists)
(And I think somewhere in Salzburg)

I´m not sure if this is all!

If you had to choose a word that represents or defines the mandolin, which would it be ?