The Viennese Dance Series for Chamber Ensembles
Cerrito Polka for String Quartet, Op.189
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. 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, the Cerrito Polka takes its name from the then famous Italian dancer Fanny Cerrito, the last of the famous Romantic ballerinas. She appeared in Vienna for the first time in 1836. Her success was such that she returned in 1841 and staged her own ballet Amors Zögling (Cupid’s Pupil). Taking advantage of the great commotion her appearance created, he used one of the melodies from the ballet as the inspiration for his polka, sure that the Viennese would recognize its source.