Ernest Krähmer’s Rondo and Variations for mandolin and orchestra (Vienna, ca. 1820)


During my routine searches in library catalogues, I spotted something interesting in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek München. Two manuscripts seemed to contain mandolin music with orchestral accompaniment which I never encountered before, even in the course of previous research of mandolin music in the same library. As it turned out, these manuscripts were part of a private collection (Gitarristische Sammlung Fritz Walter und Gabriele Wiedemann) not too long ago donated to the library. Most of this collection is focused on guitar repertory, but there are three mandolin-related exceptions. Two are the manuscripts for mandolin and orchestra with music by Krähmer of this article, the third is the well-known print of the Hummel mandolin-keyboard Grande Sonata (Vienna, 1810). The Covid-19 situation complicated research a bit, but I believe I have been able to gather enough of a basic level of information to no longer wait to share with the community. I have included a modern edition of the manuscripts and even some audio from my music notation software so you can have an impression (due to Covid-19, it’s bound to take a while before we’ll hear a live version). I have provided a lot more contextual information and a deeper level of analysis than usual – mainly because I believe this find really requires it.

Ernest Krähmer

Ernest Krähmer (1795-1837) is one of many lesser-known early 19th century Viennese composers. Initially, he received woodwind training in Annaburg in a military institute. He also trained for a while in Dresden, before moving to Vienna around 1814. As of 1815, he held a position as an oboe player at the Kärntnertortheater. This was one of the most prestigious music theatres in Vienna – it operated as the Habsburg’s Imperial Court Theatre in Vienna (Kaiserliches und Königliches Hoftheater zu Wien). The theatre’s importance can be easily deduced from the many creations of works by Salieri, Paer and Donizetti, as well as such works by van Beethoven as Fidelio (1814) or the much-acclaimed Ninth Symphony (1824).

Though Krähmer started first as the second oboe player in 1815, he moved to the first oboe chair in 1819. In 1822, Krähmer also obtained an appointment as a musician in the Hofkapelle. To highlight his connections in the Viennese musical society, we need only glance at his marriage. In 1822, Ernest Krähmer married Caroline Schleicher (1794-1873, about the musical accomplishments of Caroline, see below). The witnesses were Franz Xaver Mozart (one of the surviving children of Wolfgang) and August Mittag, the bassoon player at the imperial court and bassoon teacher at the Vienna Conservatory. The Krähmers performed at concerts in Vienna but also travelled abroad to perform (to Poland, Russia, Hungary, Bohemia amongst others). Beethoven was also acquainted with the Krähmers and mentioned them at least twice in his written legacy (see Herold 2009). Another good indication of his importance is the huge amount of concert and print advertisements by Krähmer in German and Austrian newspapers.

Caroline Krähmer (née Schleicher) deserves some attention as well: Ernest’s wife was an exceptionally accomplished professional musician herself. At that time, women performing in public were still quite rare and frowned upon. Especially so because of the choice of her instruments: she is mainly known for playing the clarinet and violin, both instruments which were viewed as male instruments, causing several comments of her contemporaries (see Herold 2009). After the early demise of her husband, her abilities made it possible to supplement her small pension as a widow of a court musician by giving concerts and teaching (see Lorenz 2021 and Herold 2009). She remained active until quite late in her life and some of the surviving children were also musically active.

Caroline Krähmer
Ca. 1815, Diethelm Lavater, portrait of Caroline Schleicher. Image courtesy of Zentralbibliothek Zürich. Taken from the online version of Herold 2009.

Most of Ernest Krähmers works are for woodwind instruments, especially for the czakan, an instrument which is quite unknown today (a type of duct flute often in the shape of a walking stick). Some other works reflect the concerts with his wife (duets for oboe and clarinet). As far as I know, no research into Ernest Krähmer ever laid bare any mandolin music.

Dating the manuscripts

As both manuscripts are by the same hand, it can be assumed these were from one and the same period, and maybe even performed together. It is quite doubtful that the manuscripts date from the period before Krähmer moved to Vienna. Hence I would put the earliest date to 1814. Krähmers date of death (1837) is the only other sure milestone for dating the manuscripts.

Little can be learnt from the provenance of the collection. Most of the guitar manuscripts and prints from the vast collection are spread equally over the entire 19th century. So even the date of the other mandolin source in the collection (the Hummel Grande Sonata from 1810) is of little use to help date the manuscripts. In fact, the Hummel sonata was still readily available for quite a while after its publication (for example, present in the 1821 edition of Whistling’s Handbuch der Musikalische Literatur).

On the other hand, there is one crucial clue that can be glimpsed from the context in which the manuscripts were created. Vienna often lauded one sole mandolin player during the 1820s-30s: Pietro Vimercati (1779-1850). Vimercati started as a violin player (playing for a while at La Scala) before focusing on the mandolin around 1808 (see Aonzo 2001). Another important clue is that Pietro Vimercati played the Milanese/Lombard type of mandolin, and the manuscripts are also for that instrument (see following chapter). Furthermore, Vimercati’s first European tour not only brought him to Vienna, he actually played at the Kärntnertortheater. In fact, he returned to Vienna quite a lot and this theatre features quite a lot in his concert announcements and review. As already mentioned, Krähmer was employed as the first oboe at this venue.

Of course, this is circumstantial evidence, but it is enough to put forward the hypothesis that the music was most likely written for – or at the very least inspired by – Vimercati. The most likely date seems 1820, around the time of the first European tour of Vimercati, because Krähmer was more occupied with his own concerts and publications from 1821 onwards.

Noteworthy also is that Krähmer sometimes played Variations for oboe (and at least once an Adagio followed by Variations – see for example Wiener Zeitung, 1819, nr. 198, p. 792 or Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, 1819, nr. 38, p. 634.). There was also a Rondo for oboe announced (see Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, 1820, nr. 20, p. 336.). As it might be worthwhile to compare such oboe works with the mandolin works, I have tried to find variation manuscripts for oboe, and so far only found one (CZ-Pnm, shelfmark XLVI F 286). At least this one is not a duplicate of the mandolin variations, but it should not surprise us if someday an oboe version of the same manuscripts might be found. Re-use of repertory is quite natural, and there are other examples of interchange with the oboe (for example, see my post on the anonymous 18th-century sinfonia). But by the claim ‘composed for mandolin by Krähmer’ seems to imply it was originally intended for mandolin.

The Lombard mandolin

One item of the link between Vimercati and the manuscripts is the use of the six-course mandolin types (Milanese or Lombard), famously used by Pietro Vimercati. Though chords are rare in both the Rondo and Variations, those present show clearly the tuning of the six-course types.

We can’t be sure what type Vimercati used. We’re sure it was a six-course type, but not which exactly (Milanese with six double courses totalling 12 strings, or Lombard with six single strings). As both are tuned the same, it’s not possible to make a difference from preserved music alone. Alas, to my knowledge there are no pictures of Vimercati with his instrument or preserved instruments linked to him. There are some descriptions though, which seem to imply a Milanese rather than Lombard type – with one exception: 11 instead of 12 strings (see Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung from 22/4/1820). This usually means the top string is single (sometimes seen in Milanese mandolins in the 17th and 18th centuries).

Vienna in the early 19th century still had a taste for the Milanese/Lombard mandolin types, as can be proven through some musical sources as well as preserved instruments. It would lead to far to go into the detail of all of these, but it’s important to note that Vimercati might have found some amateurs of his chosen instrument in Vienna. Certainly, both the concert advertisements and lauding reviews in the Austrian newspapers confirm he found firm ground in Vienna.

There are two weird things about the mandolin types in relation to Krähmer and Vimercati. First of all, in the Krähmer manuscripts, there is a somewhat unusual spelling of the instrument’s name. Where most Viennese sources use either “mandoline” and/or “mandolino” (often interchangeable in one and the same source), Krähmer employs “mandolin”, without the “e” or “o” at the end. I have only seen this spelling once in a Viennese source, the Francesco Zucconi variations print (1801). Zucconi also has “mandolin” on the title page, but likely this is a copied mistake from the part name, where “MANDOLIN°” was used, with the “o” in superscript (most likely due to space issues during typesetting).

The other thing of note, this time regarding Vimercati, is that in the German and Austrian newspapers in the 1820s, the instrument he plays is described alternatively “english Mandola”, “lombardische Mandoline”, “lombardische Mandola”, or simply “Mandoline”. (See Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, Augsburgische Ordinari Postzeitung von Staats-, gelehrten, historisch- und Ökonomischen Neuigkeiten, Baierische National-Zeitung, Grazer Zeitung, Leipziger Zeitung, Österreichischer Beobachter, Wiener Theater-Zeitung, etc.). The Italian newspapers are not that different: “mandola inglese” appears quite a lot in the early period (1810s-1820s), later on it’s often “mandola” or “mandolino” (see L’Eco, Giornale Italiano, La voce della verità, etc.).

Did Vimercati’s “English mandola/mandolino” end up described as “mandolin” instead of the normal “mandoline”/”mandolino” by Krähmer? Maybe future research will find other Austrian sources with the terminology “mandolin” which will shed more light on the matter.

The manuscripts

Both manuscripts were part of the donation of the Gitarristische Sammlung Fritz Walter und Gabriele Wiedemann to the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek München:

  • Rondo: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek München, Mus.N. 122,467 (RISM ID no.: 1001041735)
  • Variations: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek München, Mus.N. 122,468 (RISM ID no.: 1001041738)

The manuscripts are in a landscape layout of 24,5 centimeters in height x 31 centimeters in width.

The Rondo manuscript consists of:

  • score: 44 pages (1 looks blank at first sight but has some pencil notices)
  • “mandolin” part: missing
  • violino Imo part: 4 pages (some corrective pieces on pages 2, 3 and 4)
  • violino IIdo part: 4 pages (some corrective pieces on pages 2, 3 and 4)
  • viola part: 4 pages (some corrective pieces on pages 2, 3 and 4)
  • basso part: 4 pages (some corrective pieces on pages 2, 3 and 4)
  • flauti part (both flutes): 4 pages (1 title page, 1 blank)
  • corni in G part (both horns): 4 pages (1 title page, 1 blank)

The Variations manuscript consists of:

  • score: 36 pages (one blank)
  • mandolin part, in another hand: 4 pages
  • violino Imo: 4 pages
  • violino IIdo: 4 pages
  • viola: 4 pages
  • basso: 4 pages
  • flauto: 2 pages
  • corni in G (both horns): 4 pages (one blank)

Most of the manuscript is written by one and the same hand. I am quite sure that the score of both pieces and most parts have been written by one and the same scribe. There are a few remarks though:

  • Quill hand “A”: score and most of the parts. Very trained hand, rarely any corrections (except for the extensive corrected places (sometimes almost a third of a page) in the parts of the Rondo), also very few mistakes or omissions.
  • Quill hand “B”: the mandolin part of the Variations looks to be in another hand.
  • Quill hand “A2”: the horn and flute parts of the Rondo have some differences, but not very striking. Rather than claiming another quill hand, I would suggest these parts were possibly written by the same hand A, but at a different time (earlier or later than the rest). Possibly this was caused by the same changes triggering the corrective places in the parts. A real specialist might be able to determine if A2 is indeed another hand or not, for now, I’ll maintain these parts were likely written later by the same hand. One important difference are the tempi of the Rondo movements: the first usually called Larghetto, is called Adagio; the second usually called Allegro is suddenly refined to Allegro moderato. As A2 is likely written later than the rest, I am inclined to take these new tempi seriously (and in my personal opinion, it does feel like a better fit with Adagio and Allegro moderato).
  • Pencil hand “C”: on both the Rondo and Variations manuscripts there are a few pencil markings (very few in the Variations, but quite a significant amount in the Rondo). These go way beyond the marks expected from a librarian – there are corrections and additions on the manuscripts (dynamics, corrections of the number of bars in a multiple bar rest, etc). There are also added titles on the parts and some small markings at the back of the last page of the Rondo.
  • Pencil hand “D”: likely from a librarian (possibly several hands), marking the folio numbers and the manuscript shelfmark

To further our knowledge of these manuscripts, it would make sense to compare them to holograph manuscripts (or at least written text) by Ernest Krähmer and Pietro Vimercati. That was not possible at the time of this article.

Pencil hand C is an interesting case. It adds a bit of information in the titles (see chapter Orchestration). Though rare, hand C has put in some additions (dynamics, corrections), which points towards someone present at a rehearsal or performance. It hence seems not to be the usual case, as with hand D, that pencil marks are made by the librarian archiving away the manuscripts.

In conclusion, I believe that the manuscripts are very well-made, likely by a professional musicians or music copyists (for hands A, B and C).

Structure and music form

The Rondo breaks down into the following items:

  • Larghetto/Adagio, C in G major
    • Tutti: 8 bars introduction G major
    • Solo: 8 bars (with tutti end phrase) + 8 bars D major + 7 bars transition (with melodic exchange between mandolin and flute 1)
    • Solo: Piu mosso in g minor, 7 bars, at then end a transition to Bes major + 10 bars Bes major (again melodic exchange between mandolin and flute 1)
    • Tutti: 2 bars transition & 2 bars dominant pedal D major chord leading up to the cadenza
    • Solo: barless cadenza for the mandolin without accompaniment (dominant pedal D major) (counted as one bar in the edition)
  • Rondo Allegro moderato, in G major
    • A theme
      • 8 bars (solo) + 8 bars (tutti) + 4 bars (solo) + 3 bars (tutti), g minor
      • variation of previous part: 4 bars D major (solo) + repeat of first 2 bars then alternative for 6 bars (including modulation to A major) + A major 4 bars (condensed theme, reduction of motives, repeated notes) + 2 bars buildup on dominant pedal A major towards theme B
    • B theme
      • B theme first part: 8 bars (tutti) + 12 bars (solo, tutti last bar) + 4 bars repeat of tutti start of episode 2 (solo) + 5 bars alternative (solo)
      • B theme second part: piu lento 2 bars (solo) + repeat in piano + 2 bars transition + 2 bars with motive reduction (with descending bass) + repeat with further melodic reduction + 2 bars (further reduction) + 3 bars dominant / tonic alteration + leading up to 4 bars D major dominant pedal with further dominant / tonic alteration to lead to theme A’
    • A’ theme (bar 141)
      • Start with theme A until bar 169 (shortly after the start of the varied part of theme A) + 6 transition bars (instead of modulation to A major, modulation to G major)
      • 8 bars (solo): alternative motive (starting on tonic pedal theme of 4 bars + 4 bars of mini-modulation to D major, but immediate return to G major afterwards) + 12 bars of a varied version of the previous motive (including mini-modulation to D major at the end) + tutti repeat of 4 bars of beginning + varied version 5 bars (condensed)
      • build-up to fine: 8 bars + repeat (7 bars, condensing starts in what would be bar 8 of repeat) + 4 bars dominant-tonic alteration + 4 bars harmonic alterations + 4 bars dominant-tonic alteration + 4 bars tonic pedal as finale.

The Rondo follows an A – B – A’ pattern. This might not look like a “rondo” in the strict sense, (for example like ABACADA). Though the term rondo was still sometimes used for a rondo with repeating refrains, there is also a tradition in the first Viennese school to simply use an A-B-A’ pattern with lots of different contrasting episodes in each theme. This was usually a standalone movement, and quite often a bravura piece, designated as such with titles like “rondo concertante” or “rondo brillante”. A good example of such a rondo is the Rondeau favori op. 11 by (1804) Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837). Another characteristic of the Rondo by Krähmer is the Larghetto/Adagio which preludes the actual Rondo. An introduction movement for a standalone rondo is not unusual in Vienna. Examples are the Adagio and Rondo by Mozart (1791) KV 617 or the Rondo Concertante by Schubert (1816) D 487.

The Rondo by Krähmer clearly shows some of the typical stylistic figures expected for its genre and time – such as the contrasting and surprising episodes. The fact that it is a rondo with a soloist also points in that direction. Also found in quite a lot of these pieces is a link to the opera buffa, and indeed, some places of the Rondo might well fit in a finale of an overture of an opera buffa. The finale, where the A’ theme starts to be different from the A theme, has a musical drive that invokes an opera buffa overture or aria finale. Equally, the build towards the cadenza in the introduction movement feels a bit operatic. These similarities can be expected, as they are usually employed in the genre of the standalone rondo concertante, and such techniques would have been very familiar to someone employed as an oboe player in the Austrian court opera.

The Variations breaks down into the following items:

  • Andantino, C in G major, 8 (tutti) + 45 (solo)
  • Thema Allegretto, C in G major, 8 (solo):||: 8 (solo) :|| 4 (tutti)
  • Var. 1, C in G major, 8 (solo):||: 8 (solo) :|| 4 (tutti)
  • Var. 2, C in G major, 8 (solo):||: 8 (solo) :|| 4 (tutti)
  • Var. 3, C in G major, 8 (solo):||: 8 (solo) :|| 4 (tutti)
  • Andante, C in g minor, 8 (solo):||: 8 (solo) :||
  • Var. 4, C in G major, 8 (solo):||: 8 (solo) :|| 9 (tutti)

As you can see, the variation sequence isn’t very surprising in form. It conforms quite well to the expected structure, by having a theme of 8 + 8 bars, which are varied in exactly the same amount of bars. Somewhat less usual is the addition of a tutti passage of 4 bars at the end of the theme and each variation. But this is easily explained as the way the composer orchestrated: outside of these tutti bars, the orchestration is thinned out to let the mandolin solo shine. This type of orchestration in “block” is somewhat crude, but not unusual for variation sequences. It balances the limitations in terms of volume of the mandolin versus the orchestra and still lets the orchestra take part. It’s also reminiscing of that other type of Viennese form, the rondo, to continuously have a certain refrain returning.

The Andantino introduction is less usual but there are several Viennese (or Viennese influenced) variations sequences which have such an introduction movement. For example, Hummel’s Variations for oboe and orchestra (1824), the Variations in Es for clarinet and piano by archduke Rudolph, Pecháček’s Introduction und Brilliant Variations op 28 for violin and piano (1845) and not surprisingly, Krähmer’s own oboe Variations (CZ-Pnm, shelfmark XLVI F 286).

This leaves us with the Andante movement in-between variations three and four. This is essentially another variation of 8 + 8 bars, but without the tutti phrase at the end, and in g minor. This slight modulation might explain why the tutti was not involved and this movement not officially called another variation. The tutti “rondo” motive in g minor somehow doesn’t work, nor does playing the motive unaltered in G major fit well.


Both pieces are written for practically the same ensemble, the only difference is that the Rondo has two separate flute parts. It can’t be ruled out that the flute part in the Variations was played with two flutes – standard wind sections of the late 18th, early 19th century and the orchestra at the Kärntnertortheater would seem to confirm this. The orchestration fits quite well with the most basic wind section of the symphonic orchestra, which already at the end of the 18th century consisted of two horns as well as two flutes or oboes.

  • Rondo: Mandoline, vl 1,2, vla, b, fl 1,2, cor 1,2
  • Variations: Mandoline, vl 1,2, vla, b, fl, cor 1,2

The mandolin part is clearly earmarked as soloist in both pieces. Though the mandolin part of both pieces is quite extensive and nice solo material, there are no idiomatic phrases. The ‘bravura’ of the solo part usually relies on scales, broken chords, trills and repeated notes. I deem it safe to say that there are enough technical challenges, and enough information from the context of the manuscripts, to assume these pieces were composed for or inspired by Vimercati.

In the case of the Variations, the orchestra is hardly more than accompaniment. There are a few cases where there is melodic exchange but mainly the orchestration is “in block”. Either the mandolin plays the solo part, reducing the rest to accompaniment, or the whole orchestra plays in tutti. This orchestration in blocks is even reflected in the structure (see chapter above).

The Rondo is much more interestingly orchestrated. There are several places where the tutti plays a role in the development of the music structure, and the orchestra also has more of a melodic role. Even during some of the solo passages, the mandolin has a melodic exchange, for example with the first violin and/or flute. The orchestration also varies more, sometimes having a different setting during the repeat of a similar or identical phrase, making the Rondo much more interestingly orchestrated.

One question comes naturally: how big was the orchestra? Let’s try and go through the information available. First of all, quite some information exists about the size of the Kärntnertortheater. There is a print that has a sketch of the orchestra pit, and there are some payment lists. This implies a string section of six first violins, six second violins, four violas, four celli and four double basses, totalling 24 bowed string players (see Brown 1988 and Edge 1988). This should be seen as the maximum amount of players for the music in the manuscripts.

Picture by Franz Xaver Stöber, the orchestra pit in the Kärntnertortheater, Vienna, addendum of Wiener Zeitschrift für Kunst, Literatur, Theater und Mode, nr. 109, 1821. Image courtesy of Wikimedia commons. This sketch includes the stands for the full orchestra, including the full wind section (much larger than in Krähmer’s orchestration).

Alternatively, it could be that the music was played in chamber music style. This seems unlikely as hand C writes “Orchester” in the additional titles. As hand C had to have been present during rehearsals or performances, it seems reliable enough to conclude the music wasn’t meant to be played with the smallest possible ensemble of 7/8 players plus mandolin. It also would create a better balance the wind and string section. And on top of that, the indications “Tutti” and “Solo” might also be an argument against chamber ensemble. Usually the orchestration during the “Solo” phrases is thinned out so the mandolin can easily be heard. Important to note though is that hand C sometimes specifies even further to “kleines Orchester” (Rondo: all parts “kl. Orch.”; Variations: violin 1: “Orchester”). This likely means a reduced number of players as opposed to the full orchestra.

In the end, it’s anybody’s guess how many players then would have been involved, but likely less than the maximum number of the full Kärntnertortheater orchestra (29) and more than the minimum for a chamber music ensemble setting (8). In my personal opinion, about half sounds like a good starting point: three first violins, three second violins, two violas, two celli and two double basses plus the four wind instruments and mandolin (17). This even still allows for a concertino and ripieno group which seems intended by the markings of “Solo” and “Tutti”.

Yet another remark should be made about the orchestration: hand C mentions an alternative. This remark is written on the back of the last page of the score, but it’s not very readable. I currently make out only two words for sure: “Clavierbegleitung” (keyboard accompaniment) and “Larghetto” (the first movement of the Rondo). It’s not clear enough to base too much on, but it seems to imply that the piece was also played with keyboard accompaniment at the time of hand C. No keyboard part is attached to the manuscript, but most trained accompaniment keyboard players, such as are often found in opera orchestras as the Kärntnertortheater, would be able to play a reduction from the score at sight.


I’m grateful to have been granted a license to provide editions of these manuscripts by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek München for both the Rondo (shelfmark Mus.N. 122,467) and Variations (shelfmark Mus.N. 122,468). Below you can find both the score and all parts. I kept the wind instruments combined as a pair (horns and flutes together), as in the original manuscripts. The score contains the editorial notes at the end. I’ve also included an (artificial) audio sample from my music notation software. I think that is useful for readers not very used to reading score, and as in the current situation, it might still take quite some time before we get an opportunity to listen to this forgotten mandolin music come alive with a live orchestra.




Aonzo, C.  (2001). art. “Vimercati, Pietro”, in: Grove Music Online. Retrieved 19.2.2021 (

Bone, P. J. (1914), The Guitar and Mandolin. Biographies of Celebrated Players and Composers, London, 1914.

Brown, C. (1988) art. “The orchestra in Beethoven’s Vienna”, in: Early Music Series, vol. 20, p. 4-20.

Edge, D. (1988) art. “Mozart’s Viennese Orchestras”, in: Early Music Series, vol. 20, p. 63-88.

Herold, A. (2009) art. “Krähmer, (Maria) Caroline, Karoline, Carolina, geb. Schleicher”, in: Europäische Instrumentalistinnen des 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts. Retrieved 19.2.2021 (

Kornberger, M. (2019): art. “Krähmer, Familie”, in: Oesterreichisches Musiklexikon online. Retrieved 19.2.2021 (

Lorenz, M. (2021): art. “The Late Years of Caroline Krähmer”, in: Musicological Trifles and Biographical Paralipomena. Retrieved 19.2.2021 (