The Viennese Dance Series for Chamber Ensembles
Die Werber Waltzes, Op.103 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.
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.
Was this music specifically written for string quartet. It was written for a small ensemble, most probably a string quartet, to be played at a ball being given by Count Johan Nitzky at his palace in Pest in November of 1835. The fact that the ball was being given in Hungary, then part of the Austrian empire, explains why the introduction has a Hungarian-style rhythm.
Die Werber (variously translated as The Suitors or The Wooers, i.e. one who courts a woman) is one of Lanner's larger compositions, consisting of an introduction, serveral waltzes and a substantial finale. Our sound-bite has taken bits of a number of waltzes and part of the finale and presents a little less than a third of the composition. Published shortly after its premiere, Die Werber immediately became popular, not only in Vienna, but throughout much of Europe. Today, it is still one of Vienna's most beloved set of Waltzes.