The Viennese Dance Series for Chamber Ensembles
Carl Michael Ziehrer
Fächer Polonaise, Op.525 for String Quartet
From 17th to 19th Century, most court balls would be opened by a “Polonaise”. The name of that dance comes from the French word for “Polish”. It has indeed Polish origins and as many dances peasant origins too. In the 17th Century the dance became popular at the Polish Court. It is a processional dance in 3/4 time. Typically, couples enter the ballroom in a procession on this march-like music. Nowadays the Polonaise is still played at the opening of most Viennese Balls for the entrance of dignitaries into the ballroom and for the entrance of the debutantes. The most popular of the Polonaise of them all is the Fächer Polonaise composed by Carl Michael Ziehrer around 1900. The word Fächer, fan in English, refers to the practice of most ladies carrying a fan with them at balls.
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.