The Viennese Dance Series for Chamber Ensembles
Hans Jörgl Polka for String Quartet
Josef Lanner (1801-1843) along with Johann Strauss Sr. were the original pioneer "Waltz Kings" of Vienna. Later overshadowed by Johann Strauss Jr., today, they are all but forgotten. But some very extraordinarily lovely music came from their pens. And all of it was originally intended for small chamber music ensembles. 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.
Sometime around 1841 a series of satirical letters appeared in a well-knownr Viennese humor magazine under the title Komischen Briefe des Hans Jörgl an seinen Schwager in Feselau. (Han Jörgl’s humorous letters to his brother-in-law living in Feselau). They were intended as a satire on the every day life of “Mr. Biedermeier”, the Viennese petty bourgeois of the time. They were right on the mark and as a result became incredibly popular among the Viennese. Lanner wrote his polka, intended to convey a sense of what the letters portray sometime in 1842, the year before his death. Todays hears, unfamiliar with the Viennese mise-en scene would find nothing humorous or satirical about this charming and elegant piece. However, to the Viennese of the Biedermeier period it would have been quite obvious that this polka was too cute to be the real thing.