About this Recording
8.556848 - ZIEHRER (THE BEST OF)



Carl Michael Ziehrer was a significant rival to the Strauss’s and also served as a military bandmaster. He was launched with a brand new orchestra in 1863 by the music publisher Carl Haslinger, as revenge against the Strauss brothers because of a financial dispute. The influential publisher had previously recognised Ziehrer’s talent and had ensured a proper musical education at the Vienna Conservatory in return for a contract to publish his compositions. Ziehrer, however, found the competition from the Strauss family daunting. Nevertheless he tirelessly pursued his career and his activities soon attracted press attention. 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.

Ziehrer changed his publisher to Doblinger, and rejoined the army, discharging himself in 1877. Soon afterwards he took over many of Eduard Strauss’s musicians in Vienna, who were reluctant to take part in an extended overseas tour, naming the orchestra ‘The Former Eduard Strauss Orchestra’. The result was a damaging lawsuit. Ziehrer left Vienna for Eastern Europe and Germany with a reconstituted orchestra over the next couple of years.

It was not until Ziehrer’s third spell as bandmaster with the Hoch-und Deutschmeister Regiment in 1885 that he fully restored 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, which was a common practice. 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 people’s 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 exhibition Sousa conducted with his band, though it was unlikely that they ever met. Ziehrer continued to tour the United States, outstaying his leave, only to be dismissed with his orchestra by the authorities on his return. He then accepted an engagement in Berlin, taking his players with him under the title of the Chicagoer Konzert-Kapelle and toured all over Germany. Still very popular, he returned to Vienna and formed a new orchestra and again went on tour. Suffering in health through overwork, he retired to the Austrian mountains, where he decided to turn to operetta. His first big break came in 1899 with Die Landstreicher (The Vagabonds), which broke all previous records, running for over 1500 performances. This he followed with Der Fremdenführer (The Tourist Guide), Die drei Wünsche (The Three Wishes), Der Schätzmeister (The Pawnbroker) and Fesche Geister (Lively Spirits). Today, his operettas are only occasionally performed, but at the time they found their way into most European cities and some reached Broadway and even occasionally South America. Like Johann Strauss he published arrangements, dances and songs from his operettas, many becoming well known and still played today.

In 1909 the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph appointed Ziehrer to the position of Imperial Court Ball Director in recognition of his popularity and contribution to music, the last to hold this position after the Strauss family. Up until the outbreak of war he composed further stage-works including Ein tolles Mädel (Crazy Girl), Der Liebeswalzer (The Love Waltz), Ball bei Hof (Ball at the Court), Der Husarengeneral (General of the Hussars), and Das dumme Herz (The Foolish Heart), the latter with Alexander Girardi in the leading rôle. 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 remained 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, (Carl Michael Ziehrer, His Works, Life and Times). In 1952 he arranged a posthumous operetta entitled Deutschmeisterkapelle.

Ziehrer’s legacy includes some six hundred dance pieces and marches, and 23 full length operettas. This collection comprises a selection from five recordings previously released on the Marco Polo label that we hope will bring lovers of the light classics much listening pleasure.

[1] Overture to Der Fremdenführer (The Tourist Guide)
Along with Die Landstreicher, Der Fremdenführer is the best known of Ziehrer’s operettas, having been staged on and off from its première to this day. There was a new arrangement of the operetta in 1943, but the original score was rediscovered in the Doblinger archives in 1978 and it was staged at the Vienna Volksoper in 1978/9 and again in 1987, the most recent performance being in the 2006/7 season at the Stadttheater in Baden bei Wien. This recording of the overture is the first in its original form. The story enlivens a rather boring evening at a gentleman’s club where a baron, a man of total leisure, bets that he can support himself on his own wits for 24 hours, which leads to the usual operetta entanglements involving love and farce.

[2] Wiener Bürger, Walzer (Citizens of Vienna, Waltz), Op. 419
In December 1889 the opening of the festival hall within Vienna’s magnificent new City Hall was to be celebrated with a grand charity ball on 12 February 1890 in aid of the poor of the city. The building was decorated with an abundance of flowers and a special platform was built to welcome royalty and the many patrons. Interestingly there were two orchestras, Eduard Strauss conducting in the rôle of Court Ball Director at one end, and Ziehrer as Military Bandmaster of the Hoch-und Deutschmeister band, which by this time had become world famous, at the other.

The first composition for this event had been reserved for Johann Strauss, Eduard introducing his brother’s waltz Rathausball-Tänze. Eduard himself conducted his new polka Das tanzende Wien, O.op. This was, however, a rare occasion when it was universally recognised that Ziehrer’s contribution outshone the efforts of the Strauss brothers, and its vigour and freshness have been widely appreciated ever since. The Wiener Bürger waltz introduced a novelty into composition in the use of trumpet-calls which marked the appearance and withdrawal of the civil guard.

[3] Loslassen!!!!, Polka Schnell (Let go!!!!, Quick Polka), Op. 386
The quick polka Loslassen!!!! was introduced by Ziehrer at a promenade concert at Drehers Establishment in Vienna on 7 October 1887 when he was bandmaster of the Hoch-und Deutschmeister regiment. This establishment became his most popular venue over many years from 1885, the year he was appointed Bandmaster following intense competition from other aspiring musicians. It was one of the very few Ziehrer compositions to be included in a Vienna New Year’s Concert, performed in 1980 under Lorin Maazel. Ziehrer, at the age of 42, had matured somewhat, and with the remarkable discipline that he was able to instill in his players, became extremely popular, with laurels frequently showered on him at the end of performances. He introduced many pieces at this venue that have stood the test of time, not least, the well known waltzes Faschingskinder, Op. 382, and Weaner Mad’ln, Op. 388.

[4] Ballfieber, Polka française (Ball-Fever, French Polka), Op. 406
The Ballfieber Polka was introduced in a concert at the Sofiensaal for the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Vienna on 24 January 1889, along with a waltz by a Baron Lilienau, and a polka by Wilhem Wacek. The baron, an engineer and brewery owner was a student at the time, but later became one of the influential academicians who bridged science and the arts, sponsoring many musical events in addition to publishing his own compositions. He was an excellent pianist and his firm favourites were the works of Josef Strauss and Ziehrer.

[5] Weaner Madl’n Walzer (Viennese Girls Waltz), Op. 388
As popular as the Weaner Burger waltz, 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 Establishment in Vienna on 23 January 1888 during his tenure as bandmaster of the Hoch und-Deutschmeister Regiment, the waltz ultimately established itself an equal to Strauss’s most famous waltzes.

[6] Mein Feld die Welt, Marsch (The World is Mine, March), Op. 499
The Mein Feld die Welt march, first performed on 18 March 1900 at Ronacher’s, at one of Ziehrer’s regular Concert Academy concerts, was his second composition of the twentieth century, the first being Auf! In’s XX. Jahrhundert March, Op. 501, introduced in January. The march, like several he composed, is clearly for the cavalry, but there follows a rousing melodic inspiration in the second section. It demonstrates through its original melodies the endless possibilities in march composition and compares well with many better known marches.

[7] Sei brav, Walzer (Be Good, Waltz), Op. 522
The opening of the waltz Sei brav is identical with that of the better known overture to Ziehrer’s operetta Fesche Geister (Lively Spirits), from where the waltz comes. The first waltz theme from the song Sei brav, mein Kind, sei brav and the last waltz theme are outstanding examples of Ziehrer’s combination of a swinging rhythm and outstanding melody. The operetta was written in 1905 while Ziehrer was convalescing in Baden-bei-Wien, a spa town close to Vienna. In 1987 a week-long festival of his music was put on by the town and the Ziehrer Foundation. The idea of the spirit of ancestral portraits returning to life was not new; here, however, they experienced all sorts of illusory comic adventures in modern Vienna, used to great effect. The operetta ran for at least eighty performances from its first performance at the Sommertheater (Summer Theatre) in the Prater in Vienna on 7 July 1905, and still awaits a revival some day.

[8] Lieber Bismarck schaukle nicht, Polka française (Dear Bismarck, Do not roll, French Polka), Op. 465
One of the highlights of Ziehrer’s career was his visit with the Hoch-und Deutschmeister Regimental Band to represent Austria at the 1893 Chicago World Fair. His outward journey from Hamburg on the steamship Fürst Bismarck soon ran into trouble when the ship ran into a terrific storm near the Isle of Wight off the south coast of England. This flooded the promenade deck and made everyone seasick. Not slow to grasp an opportunity, Ziehrer composed this Scherz (joke) polka Lieber Bismarck schaukle nicht. The title had a double meaning, since the German Chancellor, Otto Bismarck himself, had only just been dismissed. The piece was dedicated to his fellow passengers, and Ziehrer chose to perform it on 24 May 1893 at a charity concert later in the voyage whilst a heavy fog swirled around the ship. Hundreds of immigrants cheered as they set foot for the first time in New York.

[9] Wenn man Geld hat, ist man fein!, Marsch (If one has money, one is great!, March), Op. 539
The rousing Wenn man Geld hat march is taken from Ziehrer’s 1908 operetta Liebeswalzer, his last major stage success. It demonstrates the quality of the music that Ziehrer was still capable of producing. The operetta ran for over a hundred performances at the Raimundtheater but may have seen over five hundred performances altogether. After the première the critics described Ziehrer as ‘the last of the old guard who had his roots in dance music and rose above it, and he should consider the work a great personal success’. The operetta was performed all over the world, including Paris, and Milan where it was called Valzer di Amour, and on Broadway, in an Americanised version with Jerome Kern melodies added, under the title The Kiss Waltz.

[10] 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 8 February 1868 at the Dianasaal.

[11] Endlich allein! Polka française (Alone at last, French Polka), Op. 390
The polka Endlich allein was introduced by Ziehrer as a choral work at Drehers in Vienna on 5 February 1888 at a Hoch-und Deutschmeister concert, but nowadays it is only performed orchestrally. Anticipating this first performance, the Viennese Fremdenblatt newspaper, on 2 February noted that ‘it should quickly achieve the success of Ziehrer’s earlier polkas on account of its bright melody and witty text’. Unlike many other polka melodies, it is easily memorable.

[12] Österreich in Tönen, Walzer (Melodies of Austria, Waltz), Op. 373
Although the title of the waltz Österreich in Tönen suggests folk-lore melodies, they are all original. First performed with the Hoch-und Deutschmeister at a New Year’s Eve function entitled “Grosse Jahresrevue 1885” at Drehers Establishment, Ziehrer introduced the piece which, following a typically brash opening, comfortably rolls on, full of attractive melodies including a touch of melancholy. This is an almost forgotten waltz, yet it presents all the attributes of a well constructed composition and stands repetition well.

[13] Bürgerlich und romantisch, Polka Mazur (Citizenly and Romantic, Polka Mazurka), Op. 94
To mark the opening of the popular Vienna music salon “Dianasaal” for the winter season on 20 October 1867, Ziehrer introduced the interesting polka mazurka Bürgerlich und romantisch. Clearly identifiable as one of his earlier works, parts are slightly reminiscent of Josef Strauss’s style. The third section is somewhat unusual, with echoes of the Tirol. The Dianasaal itself was very popular with the public, and Ziehrer after three years was a firmly established favourite. The title was taken from a comedy of the same name, and, reflected the difference between the classes at the time.

[14] Matrosen, Polka française (Sailors, French Polka), Op. 449
The polka Matrosen is an almost forgotten work. It shows Ziehrer’s ability to provide highly descriptive compositions, this dance piece being reminiscent of the hornpipe, whilst using original melodies with a distinctly military flavour. It was first performed on 29 January 1893 at the Danube Steamboat Company’s Ball held at the Sofiensaal during Ziehrer’s tenure with the Hoch-und Deutschmeister regimental band.

[15] Overture to Manöverkinder (Children of the General)
One of Ziehrer’s last operettas, Manöverkinder was first staged in 1912. It was reworked as Der Husarengeneral a year later, with the same overture. The operetta was staged at the summer theatre in the Prater in Vienna. There is a strong Hungarian influence in some of the music. It is interesting for its variety of construction, and as such, quite a novelty.

[16] Freiherr von Schönfeld-Marsch (Schönfeld March), Op. 422
Ziehrer’s Freiherr von Schönfeld-Marsch has been an official regimental march of the Austrian Army since 1920 and is second in fame only to the Radetzky March of Johann Strauss Sr. It often features as an encore in Austrian festival concerts and, like the Radetzky March, is accompanied by enthusiastic hand clapping from the audience. Almost every military band around the world has at some time or other included it in its repertoire. Ziehrer composed the march for Baron von Schönfeld, then Chief of the Austrian General Staff, almost as an afterthought. It seems that the Baron had submitted a request for a march to be dedicated to himself, as was often the case with eminent persons who wished to raise their self-esteem in this particular manner. When he asked Ziehrer after a prolonged wait what had happened to his march, a colleague much later recollected that Ziehrer had exclaimed ‘Lord, I’ve completely forgotten about it’. Sitting at his piano, it seems, in a stroke of inspiration, Ziehrer outlined the themes and asked the player to go away and orchestrate it for the band—and that is how the march was born. It was practiced in the barracks square by the Hochund Deutschmeister, and the first public performance took place in the Stahlehner in Vienna on 16 October 1890. It was probably this piece, and his spells as a military bandmaster that have misled some musicologists into labelling Ziehrer as primarily a composer of marches.

John Diamond

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