A string quartet with a double bass instead of a cello? That is a combination which is both interesting from a musical point of view and “original” as, for instance, in Mozart’s divertimenti or Haydn’s early string quartets. This constellation also allows the Ensemble to fulfill its philosophy of incorporating lesser-known works by Franz Schubert, Joseph Lanner and the Strauss Dynasty into its otherwise classical programming. Accordingly, its repertoire extends beyond original compositions, including works arranged exclusively for the Ensemble Wien. The ensemble’s outstanding interpretation of the seemingly simple entertaining waltzes, polkas, German dances, country dances and minuets, clearly ranks these compositions among classical masterpieces.
By following these programming guidelines, the Ensemble Wien (all members with the exception of the bass player are also members of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra) has been very successful, holding a very popular subscription concert series for the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde at the Musikverein in Vienna since 1988/89.
The quartet regularly takes part in important festivals (e.g., the Salzburg Festival, the viennese “Festwochen” and “Frühlingsfestival”, the “Schubertiade” in Feldkirch, Berlin’s “Festwochen”, the Ravenna Festival) and gives concerts in other major music centers throughout Europe (Amsterdam, Athens, Cologne, Munich, Paris), Japan and America (New York’s Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, Orange County, Quebec, Toronto and Vancouver).
Appearances with artists of such calibre as T. Barto, J. Carreras, P. Domingo, B. Frittoli, A. Kirchschlager, G. Maisenberg, J. Vakarelis and S. Vladar round off the activities of the Ensemble.
A television appearance in the interval film of the 1999 New Year’s Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra broadcast worldwide as well as radio appearances on Austrian State Radio (ORF), including three concerts transmitted throughout Europe by the European Broadcasting Union, have helped consolidate the reputation of the Ensemble at home, throughout Europe and overseas. Last but not least, numerous CD-recordings testify to the multifaceted music of this unusual chamber music formation.
Albena Danailova (1st Violin) born into a family of musicians grew up in Sofia, where she started her musical training at the age of five with Prof. Nely Jeleva and Prof. Dora Ivanova. In 1995 she switched to the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Rostock and HMT Hamburg to continue her studies with Prof. Petru Munteanu. Several masterclasses added to her artistic development.
In 2001 she received her Diploma and was hired by the Bavarian State Opera in Munich as a second violinist, in 2003 she was appointed section leader of the first violins end eventually first concert master.
2003/04 she was concert master of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Since September 2008 Albena Danailova is concertmaster at the Vienna State Opera.
As a soloist and chamber musician she participated at festivals in Bulgaria, Germany, Israel and the USA. She appeared with orchestras like Mozart Orchester Hamburg, Sinfonieorchester des NDR, Kammerensemble Concertino, Sofia Soloists, Sofia Philharmoniker (amongst others) and recorded for Deutschlandradio Kultur, the NDR as well as TV and radio of her home country.
She was a stipendiary of the Deutscher Instrumentenfonds and has been awarded prices at several competitions (i.e. 2nd Prize at the “Kloster Schöntal Competition”, the “Tibor Varga” Special Prize, semi-finalist at the Tchaikovsky competition, 1st Prize at the “Vittorio Gui Competition” as well as 1st Prize for duo with piano).
Albena Danailova plays on a violin by Guarneri del Gesu (Cremona anno 1728).
Raimund Lissy (2nd Violin) comes from Vienna. He studied under Thomas Kakuska at the University of Music and Performing Arts and also under Alfred Staar.
After a short working period with the Orchestra of the Arena di Verona he joined the Vienna State Opera Orchestra in 1988.
In 1991, he became a member of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
He has been leader of the second violins since 1993.
The soloist Raimund Lissy can be heard on CD (Koch label) with violin compositions from Reynaldo Hahn.
Michael Strasser (viola) was born in Grieskirchen, received his first lessons by his grandfather, Hubert Kroisamer senior.
In 1990 he started to study at the Brucknerkonservatorium Linz with Prof. Boris Kuschnir and changed to Prof. Albert Fischer in 1996, after having won prices at the Prima la Musica competitions in 1992 and 1994. 1999 he graduated from the Akademisches Gymnasium in Linz and went to Vienna to continue his studies with Prof. Hans Peter Ochsenhofer at the University of Music.
In 2003 he won the audition for the orchestra of the Vienna State Opera and joined the viola section September 1st. Three years later he was appointed a member of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
In 2008 he taught at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and conducted a rehearsal of the Student Orchestra. In addition he was giving classe at the Anton Bruckner Privatuniversitat and the Orchestra Academy Ossiach.
Michael Strasser, who also appears as viola player of the Seifert Quartet and with the Ensemble Wiener Mozartistet under the direction of Hans-Peter Ochsenhofer, plays an instrument by Giovanni Pietro Mantegazza (Milano 1781) on loan by the Sparkasse Neuhofen.
Josef Niederhammer (double bass) was born in Linz and studied at the Academy of Music in Vienna with Ludwig Streicher.
Even before passing his diploma exam with distinction, he was a member of the Vienna Volksoper and the Vienna Symphonic Orchestra.
In 1977, he became deputy solo bassist of the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, and, in 1978, solo bassist of the Bavarian State Orchestra.
From 1986 to 1991, he was solo bassist of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra.
Since 1991, he is professor for double bass at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna.
Josef Niederhammer has several solo CD recordings to his credit; most recently, of Nino Rota’s Divertimento Concertante and Max Bruch’s Kol Nidrei under the Koch Classics label.