The Viennese Dance Series for Chamber Ensembles
Schönbrunner Waltzes, Op.200 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.
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.
The Schönbrunner Waltzes, Op.200, date from 1842. The summer palace of the Habsburg Emperors was just outside Vienna and called Schönbrunn (beautiful fountain in German). Just across from the palace was the then famous Domayer Casino. This was Lanner's stomping ground, or home territory. He was well-known and on friendly terms with the Domayer family and his orchestra often performed there. The Schönbrunner Waltzes were composed to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Casino. On its premier, it was so successful that 21 encores were called for! Within days, all sorts of arrangements were authorized and appeared. Since then it has remained one of Vienna's most beloved set of waltzes.