The Viennese Dance Series for Chamber Ensembles
Bruder Halt! Galopp, Op.16 for String Quartet
Josef Lanner (1801-1843) and Johann Strauss Sr. were the original pioneer "Waltz Kings" of Vienna. Later they were both overshadowed by Johann Strauss Jr. While Strauss Sr is still remembered, outside of Vienna, Lanner and his music all but disappeared and today is forgotten. But he wrote some very extraordinarily lovely music and all of it was originally intended for small chamber music ensembles.
Was this music specifically written for string quartet or quintet. Most probably it was, for this is how both Lanner and Strauss Sr. began their careers. Lanner, a violinist began with a small ensemble--a few players. Perhaps 2 violins, a viola and a cello or bass. Maybe a piano, too. They played in cafes and restaurants and at small parties. Later, when fame came, he created an orchestra. At first 10 to 12 players, then 16-20 and on special occasions perhaps 25 to 30. But one combination he certainly never envisioned was the modern day 100 member symphony orchestra--probably the least valid arrangement of all. No, the music of Strauss Junior and Senior, of Joseph Lanner and the other Viennese waltz masters, first and foremost, was intimate chamber music. This is the time-honored way in which most Viennese then and now have listened to their beloved waltzes, polkas and galopps. It is in this spirit that our arrangement for string quartet is presented.
Josef Lanner, a violinist, was largely self-taught. At first a member of a small local Viennese dance orchestra, Lanner formed a string quartet and went out on his own. He met with immediate success and after a few years increased the size of his group to a small string orchestra which included Johann Strauss, Sr. who served as Lanner's deputy leader. Lanner's orchestra was a large success in great part to the performance of his own compositions. (Strauss, Sr.'s compositions were not being played much by Lanner and so he quit Lanner's group and formed his own competing orchestra.) Lanner and Strauss, Sr both thrived but soon became rivals. Eventually, Strauss, Sr.'s fame spread far and wide as he undertook several tours abroad while Lanner stayed at home in Vienna convinced that the rest of Europe was not as keen on the waltz as was Vienna where he remained equally as popular as Strauss, Sr.
In one short movement, Bruder Halt! is what the Viennese call a galopp. It dates from 1828 or perhaps 1830. Unlike the waltz and the polka, the galopp, the fastest of Viennese dances, only flourished for a short time and did not survive the Biedermeier period, roughly 1815-48. It was considered almost dangerous to dance a galopp and articles in Viennese papers warned that dancing too many galopps could be injurious to one's health. Nonetheless, these high-spirited dances captured the hearts of the young people taking to the dance floors at the famous dance halls of Vienna.