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 thrice 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 bythe publisher as revenge against the Strauss brothers as a result of a financial disagreement. However, this was not entirely spontaneous, as Ziehrer's father, a prosperous hatmaker, 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 competion from all three Strauss brothers daunting, and often had to perform in the suburbs to make a living. Nevertheless, as he tirelessly persued 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 Josef Lanner, who of course had been Strauss Father'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 alse founded the musical journal 'Deutsche Musik-Zeitung which has become 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 Strausss musicians who were reluctant to follow the latter on a extended overseas tour, naming the orchestra The Former Eduard Strauss Orchestra. The result was a raid by the police to stop him during one of his garden concerts leading to a damaging lawsuit and consequent bad publicity. Ziehrers resulting self-imposed exile took him through Eastern Europe and Germany with a reconstituded orchestra for the next couple of years. He met his future wife Marianne Edelmann, a popular operetta singer, while performing in Berlin in 1881.
It was not until Ziehrers third spell as bandmster 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 thre 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 Ziehrers 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 fictious 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 in 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 daily engagements over all the city.
After an abortive attempt to play in London, he fell ill from overwork, retired to the Austrian mountains, and at this stage decided to turn seriously to operetta following half-hearted earlier attemps, of which only pieces from Knig Jerme 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 the younger Johann Strauss and Carl Millcker, with Die Landstreicher which broke all previous records to date, running for over 1500 performances. This he followed with Der Fremdenfhrer, Die drei Wnsche, Der Schtzmeister and Fesche Geister. Of these only the first two 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 stagework itself. In the twilight period before the outbreak of the First Worldwar, 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 Lehar.
In 1909 the Emporor Franz Joseph appointed him to the position of Imperial Ball Director in recognition of his popularity and contribution to music. Up to the outbreak of war, he composed futher stage-works including Ein tolles Mdel, Die Liebes wlzer, Ball bei Hof, Der Husarengeneral and Das dumme Herz, the latter with Alexander Girardi in the leading role. Giving up his own orchestra, he became active as a guest conductor, along with Franz Lehar, Leo Fall and Oscar Straus. With Lehar, 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, his fortune and the Empire too. 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 Ziehrers life was produced by Willi Frost in 1949. Professor Max Schnherr, 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 the series. In 1952 he arranged a posthumous operetta entitled Deutschmeisterkapelle, and during his lifetime played a major role in keeping Ziehrers music alive.
Ziehrers legacy includes some six hundred dance pieces en marches, and 23 full length operettas. This series of recordings brings an orchestral selection from his lifes works, introducing many world-premiere recordings of his lesser known compositions in addistion to the more familiar. It is hoped that this will bring much enjoyment from a composer whose talent has been overlooked for too long.
Published Compositions of Carl Michael Ziehrer
Neue Welt Blmchen, Polka francaise
Singen, Lachen, Tanzen
1 Wiener Tanzweisen, Walzer
4 Die Lustigmacherin, Schnellpolka
78 Im Fluge, Schnellpolka
94 Brgerlich und romantisch, Polka Mazurka
111 Auersperg-Marsch, Marsch
161 Cis und Trans, Polka Mazurka
202 Schnfeld-Marsch, Marsch
204 Nach dem Zapfenstreich, Schnellpolka
314 Wiener Volkspoesie, Walzer
315 Volksgarten-Strusschen, Walzer
318 In der Sommerfrische, Walzer
366 Alt Wien, Walzer
370 Liebesbrief, Polka francaise
372 Hoch- und Nieder-Marsch
373 sterreich in Tnen, Walzer
374 Das liegt bei uns im Blut, Polka
381 Echt Wienerisch
382 Faschingskinder, Walzer
383 Tanz-Poesie, Polka Mazurka
384 Pfiffig, Polka francaise
386 Loslassen, Schnellpolka
387 Schneidig, Polka francaise
388 Weaner Mad'ln, Walzer
390 Endlich allein, Polka francaise
392 Faschings-Beilage, Polka francaise
393 Die Dorfschnen, Lndler
395 Mnchner Kindl, Polka francaise
399 Mitzerl, Polka Mazurka
401 Couragiert, Marsch
403 Hab 'ns a idee, Schnellpolka
413 Das Buch der Liebe, Polka francaise
417 Nachtschwalbe, Polka francaise
419 Wiener Brger, Walzer
421 Herzens-Barometer, Polka Mazurka
432 Backfischerln, Walzer
434 Liebesrezepte, Walzer
436 Heimatsgefhle, Walzer
442 Diesen Kuss der ganzen Welt!, Walzer
449 Matrosen-Polka, Polka francaise
452 Clubgeister, Walzer
465 Lieber Bismarck, schaukle nicht, Polka francaise
474 Civil und Militr, Walzer
475 Es gibt kein zweites Wien, Marsch
485 Teuferln, Walzer
488 In lauschiger Nacht
490 Die Tnzerin, Polka francaise
492 Electrisch, Schnellpolka
493 Der Zauber der Montur
496 Landstreicher-Quadrille, Quadrille
499 Mein Feld ist die Welt, Marsch
500 Mein Herz hngt an Wien
506 Fesch und schneidig, Marsch
515 Samt und Seide
518 Hereinspaziert!, Walzer
522 Sei brav!, Walzer
523 Goldene Jugendzeit
526 Tolles Mdel, Walzer