The Viennese Dance Series for Chamber Ensembles
Carl Michael Ziehrer
Ur-Wiener Polka, Op.371 for String Quartet
Zieher composed the Ur Wiener Polka in 1883. It was dedicated to the Verein Ur-Wiener—the Society of True Viennese or real Vienese. Actually, the Society, which was founded earlier that year was an organization for Vienna’s fashionable upper crust, people who strolled along the walks of Vienna’s Volksgarten with expensive pure breed dogs. The premiere took place in Dreher’s restaurant and ballroom, quite close to where Ziehrer lived. It was performed by the members of the K.und K. (royal and imperial) Hoch und Deutschmeister Infantry Regiment Band of which Ziehrer was the director. The premiere was a huge success which was repeated when Ziehrer took his band to Munich, Berlin and the 1892 World’s Fair in Chicago.
Like Johann Strauss, Sr. and Jr., Carl Michael Ziehrer (1843-1922) was born in Vienna. After studying with the famous Viennese composition and theory teacher Simon Sechter he then embarked upon a career which bore many similarities to that of Johann Strauss, Jr. Ultimately, he was to become Strauss Jr’s greatest rival. He enjoyed a long career as the leader of several orchestras and was a military bandmaster as well. His wonderful waltzes combined local folk-music with strains of military marches. The Viennese press likened his style to an earlier Strauss rival, that of Josef Lanner. His popularity as a bandmaster and composer was such that at the peak of his fame, he represented Austria at the Chicago World Fair, where his band alternated with that of John Phillip Sousa nightly. He composed over 600 hundred waltzes, galopps and dances along with and a number of operettas which enjoyed tremendous popularity both in Europe and America, and was considered the leading operetta composer between Strauss Jr. and Franz Lehar. Though he never was able to overtake Johann Jr. to become the waltz king, several of his compositions in their time were more popular than all but a few of Strauss’ best know works.
Although the music was certainly not intended for string quartet, the publishers, as they had for the music of the Strausses and Lanner, immediately made arrangements for several different small ensembles, including string quartet. Soon the Ur Wiener Polka could be heard throughout Vienna in its cafes, restaurants and outdoor parks and ultimately became better known in this format then the original. It is in this spirit that we present the current edition.