The Viennese Dance Series for Chamber Ensembles
Carl Michael Ziehrer
Loslassen! Polka, Op.386 for String Quartet
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.
The Loslassen Polka dates from 1887. A quick polka, it became one of Ziehrer’s most popular works and at least in Vienna equally as popular as Johann Strauss Jr.’s more more famous works. It was regularly the high point and final dance at many of Vienna’s grand balls. The literal translation of loslassen is release but it is generally used in exciting situations and often shouted, and perhaps could more accurately be translated as ‘let ‘er rip!’, shoot! or fire! Like those popular works of Strauss Jr., the demand for arrangements was virtually instantaneous and within weeks versions for string quartet and piano trio were appearing and soon the music was being played through Vienna’s café’s and restaurants. Our edition is based on an arrangement made a few years after the work first appeared.