About this Recording
8.223817 - ZIEHRER: Selected Dances and Marches, Vol. 4
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Carl Michael Ziehrer (1843-1922)

Carl Michael Ziehrer (1843-1922)

Volume 4

Without doubt, the greatest of all rivals to the superiority of the Strauss brothers was Carl Michael Ziehrer. His long musical career had similarities with that of the younger Johann Strauss, with the noted exception that Ziehrer was three times a military bandmaster, a fact that introduced an often brash and swaggering style into his compositions. This, combined with the influence of local folk-music, provides a recipe that is refreshingly different from his contemporaries. Ziehrer was launched with a brand new orchestra in 1863 at the Dianasaal by Carl Haslinger, an event sprung by the publisher as revenge against the Strauss brothers because of a financial disagreement. This was not entirely spontaneous, however, as Ziehrer’s father, a prosperous hatter, had financed his son’s musical education at the Vienna Conservatory in return for a contract with Haslinger to publish his compositions.

            Despite the initial fanfare, Ziehrer found the competition from all three Strauss brothers daunting, and often had to perform in the suburbs to make a living. Nevertheless, as he tirelessly pursued his career with one engagement after another, his activities soon attracted the attention of the press; his style was likened in one early article to that of Joseph Lanner, who of course had been the older Strauss’s prime competitor. Probably as a result of financial pressures, he accepted a three-year contract with the army as a bandmaster in 1870. Returning to civilian life he formed an orchestra in record time to play at the 1873 Vienna World Exhibition. He also founded the musical journal Deutsche Musik-Zeitung which became one of the prime sources of musical information of the late nineteenth century.

            Ziehrer changed his publisher to Doblinger, and rejoined the army for another spell, discharging himself in 1877. It was soon after that he took over in Vienna many of Eduard Strauss’s musicians who were reluctant to follow the latter on an extended overseas tour, naming the orchestra ‘The Former Eduard Strauss Orchestra’. This led Eduard Strauss to take out an injunction against the use of the title, which had, in fact, been demanded by the musicians themselves. In 1879 Ziehrer visited Bucharest with a reconstituted orchestra and became closely involved with the Royal family, and then went to Budapest to stage a now lost operetta. He met his future wife Marianne Edelmann, a popular operetta singer, while performing in Berlin in 1881.

            It was not until Ziehrer’s third spell as a bandmaster with the Hoch-und Deutschmeister Regiment in 1885 that he fully recovered his reputation in Vienna and within days he was raising the standards of military band performance to previously unknown heights, attracting huge crowds. At civilian concerts many of his players dropped their percussion and brass instruments and took up strings, a common practice at the time. He had at last found his own identity and many of his best dance compositions were written over the next decade. He played at innumerable balls and functions, many for charity, and was regarded very much as a peoples’ man.

            The peak of Ziehrer’s military career came with an invitation in 1893 to represent Austria at the Chicago World Fair, where he played nightly. At the same event Sousa conducted with his band, much being made later of probably fictitious competition. Ziehrer continued to tour the United States, outstaying his leave, only to be dismissed with his orchestra by the authorities on his return. He accepted an engagement to Berlin, taking his players with him under the title of the Chicagoer Konzert-Kapelle and toured no less than 41 German cities and towns, playing with precision and verve. Still very popular, he returned to Vienna and formed a new orchestra to perform at daily engagements all over the city. After an abortive attempt to play in London, he fell ill from overwork and retired to the Austrian mountains. At this stage he decided to turn seriously to operetta following half-hearted earlier attempts, of which only pieces from König Jerôme are remembered, the score being destroyed in the tragic fire at the Ringtheater in 1881. His first big break came in 1899, the year of the death of Johann Strauss and Carl Millöcker, with Die Landstreicher, which broke all records to date, running for over 1500 performances. This he followed with Der Fremdenführer, Die drei Wünsche, Der Schätzmeister and Fesche Geister. Of these, only Die Landstreicher and Der Fremdenführer are still occasionally performed, though at the time his operettas found their way into most continental European cities and some were played on Broadway. With his home-grown style and very Viennese librettos they did not travel as well as those of some of his contemporaries. Like Johann Strauss he published arrangements, dances and songs from his operettas, many becoming well known and outlasting the stage work itself.

            In the twilight period prior to the outbreak of the First World War, Ziehrer operettas kept to the form of the so called Golden Era, soon to be overtaken by the more romantic style of the Silver Age, started by his friend Franz Lehár. In 1909 the Emperor Franz Joseph appointed him to the position of Imperial Court Ball Director in recognition of his popularity and contribution to music. Up to the outbreak of war, he composed further stage works including Ein tolles Mädel, Der Liebeswalzer, Ball bei Hof, Der Husarengeneral, and Das dumme Herz, the latter with Alexander Girardi in the leading rôle. Giving up his own orchestra, he became active as a guest conductor, along with Franz Lehár, Leo Fall and Oscar Straus. With Lehár, he was instrumental in forming a permanent orchestra to perform popular music to a consistently high standard, from which emerged the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, but the war destroyed him, and his fortune went, together with the Empire. In 1914 he conducted the very last Court Ball. He died penniless, the last of the original ‘waltz kings’, having produced little after 1915. Nevertheless he has kept his place in the hearts of the Viennese.

            Some limited film footage and sound recordings were made, and a film of Ziehrer’s life was produced by Willi Forst in 1949. Professor Max Schönherr, long-time conductor of the Vienna Radio Orchestra, arranger, composer, recording artist, and musicologist, published the largest ever dissertation on a light music composer in 1974, entitled Carl Michael Ziehrer, Sein Werk, Sein Leben, Seine Zeit, an invaluable source of reference in the production of notes for this series. In 1952 he arranged a posthumous operetta entitled Deutschmeisterkapelle, and during his lifetime played a major rôle in keeping Ziehrer’s music alive.

            Ziehrer’s legacy includes some six hundred dance pieces and marches, and 23 full-length operettas. This series of recordings brings an orchestral selection from his life’s works, introducing many world-première recordings of his lesser known compositions in addition to the more familiar. It is hoped that it will bring much enjoyment from a composer whose talent has been overlooked for too long.



[1]       Weaner Madl’n Walzer (Viennese Girls Waltz) Op.388

As popular as Weaner Burger (see Vol.1) the introduction of the Weaner Madl’n waltz includes a whistling sequence, a novelty created by Ziehrer. The waltz is most suited to concert performance. First performed at Dreher’s Etablissement in Vienna on 23rd January 1888 during his tenure as bandmaster of the Hoch und-Deutschmeister Regiment, the waltz ultimately established itself an equal to the compositions of Strauss’s most famous waltzes.


[2]       Augensprach Polka-Mazur (Catch Your Eye Polka Mazurka) Op.120

Ziehrer’s love for the polka mazurka is apparent by the number he composed. The Augensprach polka mazurka was first performed on 19th July 1868 at Wendls Etablissement near Vienna. Predominantly a major-chord composer, he recognises the poetic qualities of the minor key here. Only Ziehrer and Josef Strauss were capable of producing so many delightful polka mazurkas.


[3]       Duck’ dich Manderl! Marsch (Take Cover March) Op.548

The Duck’ dich Manderl! march derives from the 1911 operetta Ball bei Hof, which to Ziehrer’s great disappointment was never staged in Vienna. It was dedicated to the wife of Count Ferdinand and received its première in Stettin. The music became known, however, through the many arrangements he played in his concerts. The overture was reintroduced by the late Professor Schönherr when he was conductor for Austrian National Radio. This march does not follow conventional structure, having no repeats.


[4]       Liebesgeheimnis Polka Schnell (Secret Loves Quick Polka) Op.538

At the première of the beautifully constructed 1908 operetta Der Liebeswalzer on 28th October 1908 at the Raimundtheater, Ziehrer was called onto the stage repeatedly at the closing curtain. This was the last of the great Golden Age operettas to appear as the Silver Age emerged, led by Franz Lehár. Liebesgeheimnis, from the operetta, has been orchestrated from the piano score by Christian Pollack.


[5]       Liebeswalzer (Lovers’ Waltz) Op.537

At the hundredth performance, Ziehrer conducted the overture to the operetta as he did again in the 1913 revival for his seventieth birthday celebration. The hitherto unrecorded Liebeswalzer contains all the principal waltz themes. In June 1911 Ziehrer brought a fifty-piece orchestra to Paris and directed the music at a Franco-Viennese festival season at the Théâtre du Vaudeville. It represented the most popular stage works of the time in Vienna, and Ziehrer, Franz Lehár and Leo Fall conducted full performances of six of their operettas, including Die Liebeswalzer. It was widely performed, including on Broadway, where, under the title of The Kiss Waltz, it had melodies added by Jerome Kern. The overture and selected songs from Die Liebeswalzer were revived in 1993 with a new libretto.


[6]       Frauenlogik Polka Mazur (Women’s Logic Polka Mazurka) Op.445

The Frauenlogik polka mazurka must rank amongst the best from which to learn the dance. It maintains a steady pace with its assertive and original melody and is also an enjoyable concert piece. Performed by a small group at concerts in Britain in recent years by the musician David Heyes, he prepared the full set of parts from the original manuscript score used here. Frauenlogik received its première on 17th January 1893 at a ball in the Sofiensaal.


[7]       Ohne Sorgen Polka Schnell (Without A Care Quick Polka) Op.104

Carrying the identical title to the better known polka by Josef Strauss (Marco Polo Josef Strauss Edition Vol.3, 8.223563) the Ohne Sorgen quick polka is another example from Ziehrer’s early period. It bears some similarity to Eduard Strauss’s famous fast polkas, but one is able to spot Ziehrer’s characteristic melodic construction in the trio. It was introduced at a masked ball on 8th February 1868 at the Dianasaal.


[8]       Natursänger, Walzer (Nature Singers’ Waltz) Op.415

A century or so ago, so called ‘nature singers’, people who earned a living imitating birdsong, were imprisoned if they took part in a ‘real’ singers contest. They entertained at concerts for poorer people, who were very proud of their artists. The singers often spent long hours hidden in damp undergrowth listening for birdsong, returning sometimes victorious at night with songs reflecting their latest coup. The Natursänger waltz was a hit following its première at a regimental concert on 17th January 1890 at the Harmonie-Saal, and has never entirely disappeared from the repertoire. At the time the Archduke Wilhelm purchased the piano score to have it played at a royal family dinner he was hosting, a sign of the respect the nobility had for their regimental bandmaster. The birdsong is highly effective, enhancing the impact of the waltz. Johann and Josef Strauss included birdsong occasionally in their music.


[9]       Ein Blümchen im Verborgenen Polka Mazur (A Little Hidden Flower Polka Mazurka) Op.202

Very little is known about the origins of Ein Blümchen im Verborgenen, other than that it was composed in 1873, a period in Ziehrer’s life where little is recorded and only a manuscript survives. This was during his second period as bandmaster of IR. Freiherr von John Regiment, and comes from a series of interesting if sometimes less inspired compositions that appeared at this time. Very few of these are known today, many remaining in manuscript, as he then had no firm publishing contract.


[10]     Buberl komm’! Walzer (Come Along, Laddy! Waltz) Op.505

Ziehrer arranged two waltzes from his 1901 operetta Die drei Wünsche (The Three Wishes). In jungen Jahren Op.504 and Buberl Komm’l!, which is based on the haunting waltz song of the same name. Die drei Wünsche was first staged in 1901 at the Carltheater following the success of Die Landstreicher and ran for some two hundred performances. The waltz, which opens in gavotte tempo, was introduced at his regular Academy Concert at Ronachers on 31st March 1901. The operetta was heard widely in mainland Europe, later in competition with Lehár’s 1905 Merry Widow, with performances in cities including Berlin, Prague and Budapest. For a while it was actually more popular in provincial theatres, but finally disappeared in 1922 when it was staged in Baden bei Wien for the last time just before Ziehrer’s death.


[11]     König von Sachsen Huldigungs Marsch (King of Saxony March) Op.64

The König von Sachsen march was written in honour of King Johann of Saxony, who fled to Vienna after his troops lost a battle in neighbouring Bohemia. He was a popular and intelligent man, married to the twin sister of the Queen of Prussia, Countess Sophie, mother to Franz Josef. King Johann was thus connected by marriage to both courts in the conflict, but took the Austrian side. The march is another early work and was first performed at the Neue Welt on 26th July 1866, only two years after Ziehrer’s début.


[12]     In Reih’ und Gleid Polka Française (Line Up French Polka) Op.159

Employed by the military for the first time, Ziehrer was also busy conducting civilian concerts, introducing the In Reih’ und Gleid polka on 9th June 1870 at the Kaffeehaus im Prater, a popular venue, where his military band, playing as a civilian orchestra, as was the custom, often performed.


[13]     Seculo Nuovo, Vita Nuova Walzer (New Century, New Life Waltz) Op.498

The Seculo Nuovo, Vita Nuova waltz was one of four pieces by Ziehrer to celebrate Vienna’s 1900 Carnival, appearing at his weekly Academy Concert on 6th January. The unique Italian title reflects its original scoring for mandolin and guitar for the Italian market, being published in Trieste. It launched the Viennese waltz into the twentieth century, something that Johann Strauss never quite made, having died in 1899, and featured in a London New Year concert in 2000.


John Diamond

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