The Viennese Dance Series for Chamber Ensembles
Carl Michael Ziehrer
Wiener Bürger, Op.419 for Piano Trio or Piano Quintet
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.
Among these is his Wiener Bürger (Viennese Citizens) Waltzes which were composed in 1890. It consists of an introduction, three waltzes and a coda. The introduction instantly reminds one of the military band, one hears the trumpet (violin) in the far off distance call everyone to order, gathering attention and then slow fading away. The three waltzes which follow are as Viennese as anything ever composed. The coda sums it all up.
While these were originally composed for Ziehrer’s own orchestra of about 30 players. 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.