Stoelzer (1864 - 1947) was the leader of this small chamber music ensemble of 4 to 8 musicians which played all over America and Canada from around 1891 to 1905. The Richard Stoelzer Collection at the Adelphi University Library in Garden City, New York has more on his biography, but he and Blodeck serve as two examples of the many immigrant German musicians who helped to develop classical and orchestral music in late 19th century America.
This cabinet card photograph is a recent discovery which I acquired after the first photo, which is its obvious companion. The photographer was George Schmitt of Cincinnati, Ohio who is cited in Artists in Ohio working from 1893-1895.
The Mozart Symphony Club played from New York to Toronto to Seattle to Jacksonville, FL to Charleston, SC and seemingly everywhere in between. The University of Iowa has an online exhibit of Traveling Culture - the Circuit Chautauqua which describes the hundreds of different artistic and musical groups that toured America from the late 1800's through the 1920's.
In this collection I found a promotional brochure of the Mozart Symphony Club from their 11th season, 1901-02 which describes Stoelzer, Blodeck and two other musicians, Miss Marie Stori a violinist and soprano; and Theodore Hoch, a virtuoso on the cornet and alpine echo horn.
This image from the back of that brochure shows how the group emphasized novelty but no doubt in a serious and educational manner. In addition to the viola d'amore and viol da gamba, the quartet displays the alpine echo horn with its two bells, a herald trumpet, a lute type instrument, and a violin, viola and cello. Though Stoelzer and Blodeck were demonstrating instruments that came from previous centuries, their repertoire was arrangements of 19th century opera tunes and light classics and not at all representative of the music originally played on these instruments. Nonetheless they brought a very unique and unusual ensemble to many cities and towns that had very limited exposure to quality chamber music performances.
The modern Early Music movement is usually credited to the British instrument maker Arnold Dolmetsch (1858 - 1940) who popularized music from the 18th, 17th and earlier centuries by setting up his own workshop to make harpsichords, lutes, and recorders. But his efforts were in the first decades of the 20th century, so it's possible that Stoelzer and Blodeck were the first musicians to reproduce early string instruments that had otherwise been left out of the modern orchestra. Despite their non-historical repertoire, they still deserve to be recognized for promoting the distinctive sounds of these forgotten instruments.
Here are some media examples of the instruments Stoelzer and Blodeck played. First is the sound of the viola d'amore as played on this YouTube video by the group PRATTICA TERZA with Maria Krestinskaya - Viola d'amore, Omay Bayramov - violoncello, and Georgy Blagodatov - harpsichord. At the beginning you can see the viola's upper playing strings and lower sympathetic strings that are under the fingerboard.
+The viol da gamba was made in different sizes from treble to bass, similar to the violin string family but it was played da gamba - between the legs. A consort of viols was the precursor to the string quartet and from the Renaissance to the Baroque period it was the standard bowed string instrument of musical ensembles. Mario Blodeck had a wonderfully decorated viol with inlay and carved figurehead on the pegbox, but his instrument left off the most important feature of viols - the frets. These were made of gut tied around the fingerboard. Presumably Blodeck, as a cellist, preferred using modern cello technique and kept his viol like Stoelzer's viola without frets. I found a great video on YouTube which explains the difference between the cello and viol da gamba. The musician is Craig Trompeter from the Chicago early music ensemble The Baroque Band.
This week on Sepia Saturday the theme is an antique photo of the Lighthouse Workers' String Band from Måholmen, Sweden. You'll have to click the link to see the full photo and links to other enthusiasts of vintage photographs, but here is a clip of one of the musicians. His instrument is not an ordinary violin but a Norwegian instrument called a Hardanger Fiddle . Norway was actually part of Sweden for much of the 19th century until it gained independance in 1905. The Hardanger fiddle is similar to the viola d'amore in having extra sympathetic strings that run under the finger board. Like the viol, it is also ornately decorated in a Scandinavian style with inlay and sometimes carved figureheads, as seen in this image from the Wikipedia entry.
It continues to be played in folk ensembles and can be played at a virtuoso level. I found this stylish video on YouTube of a solo Hardanger Fiddle or Hardingfele played by Sindre Vatnehol. With the same concept of tuned sympathetic strings that resonate to the melodies and chords played on the upper strings, the sound is very similar to the viola d'amore.