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Karl Michael Ziehrer
Karl Michael Ziehrer (also Carl M Ziehrer) was an Austrian composer and military bandmaster (2 May 1843) - (14 November 1922). In his lifetime, he was better known as one of the fiercest rivals of the Strauss family, especially Johann Strauss II and Eduard Strauss.
He was taught music by Simon Sechter, a famous Viennese hat-maker who was financed by his own father. He was quickly discovered by music publisher Carl Haslinger , one of Johann Strauss II's publisher who fell out of favor with Strauss regarding the receipts from the latter's lucrative Russian venture that the two men could not agree upon and has since parted in high enmity.
Ziehrer was, in the words of Strauss' first wife, Henrietta Treffz, was 'one of Haslinger's machinations' and 'what Haslinger writes as his own would be passed on the ward to be published as his own.' Her prophesy did not materialise immediately although posterity certainly did agree with her to an extent as even though Vienna was lit up with Ziehrer's pulsating and lively waltzes and challenging the famed Strauss family for the Viennese public's affections, his many works did not survive long in today's classical repertoire.
Haslinger sought to promote his promising young ward and in 1863, the young conductor appeared as the head of a newly-formed orchestra aimed at toppling the Strauss dynasty at the Dianabad-saal in Vienna. Not long after that, he secured the place at one of Viennese military bands, as was the trend in the early 1870s and later, he took over as the Kapellmeister of a large civilian orchestra in 1873. He also published the journal "Deutsche Musikzeitung" at around the same time and was credited as being one of the important sources of music study in the late 1870s.
Not long after founding the music journal, he changed his publisher to Döblinger and toured Eastern Europe and Germany for many years, earning a good reputation as a strict yet efficient conductor. It was in 1881 that he met his future wife, Marianne Edelmann in Berlin who was a famous operetta singer.
Throughout the years from 1885 to 1893, Ziehrer toured extensively and was a military bandmaster with the distinction of "Übernahme der Militärmusik der Hoch" as well as the "Deutschmeister" decoration. Such was his fame as a talented conductor that he was also invited to perform at the World Exhibition in Chicago in 1893. After that, in a flurry of events, he toured 41 German cities and finally returned to Vienna where he formed an even larger and succesful orchestra that specializes in playing dance music. At this point, his works started to gain a wider circulation among the music-loving Viennese and works such as Wiener Mad'ln op. 388 as well as the more famous Wiener Bürger op. 419 was received with much more appreciation, the latter even triumphing temporarily over Strauss compositions when first written in 1890.
Despite being a strong challenger of the Strauss music dynasty, he was unable to achieve complete triumph over them and remained under their influence, which oddly-enough among them his personal appearance as well, with the 'Schnurrbart' moustache as well as similar hair-style. At the turn of the century, Ziehrer felt that he needed to devote his time and attention towards composing and his military band participation waned until he relinquished his last position in 1899, the year Johann Strauss II died.
Ziehrer enjoyed success in the operetta writing business, with stage works such as 'Die Landstreicher' in 1899 but it was the operetta 'Fremdenführer' (Tourist Guide) that he achieved success on the stage. He was one of the composers who bridged the 'Golden Age' of operetta with the new influence of the 'Silver Age' still to come with composers such as Franz Lehár who would dominate the operetta scene for many years later on.
In 1909, he was awarded the honorary title, the 'KK Hoffballmusikdirektor' post which was created exclusively for Johann Strauss I about more than half of a century before and subsequently dominated within the Strausses with Johann Strauss II and Eduard Strauss also holding the office for many years. He was also the final person ever to hold this post with the destruction of the Hapsburg dynasty in World War I. During the time before the war, he worked well with composers, Franz Lehár, Oscar Straus and Leo Fall and was guest conductor at their concerts on many occasions.
The outbreak of the war sealed his career as a composer and most of his property was destroyed. He died a poor and forgotten man on 14 November 1922 in Vienna. He was buried in the Zentralfriedhof in the graves of honour. His wife was also buried beside him.
His rich musical heritage may not be comparable to the Strausses who dominated for well over a century, but he alone was more prolific, with over 600 waltzes, polkas and marches which are still performed today. Some of his works are even more Viennese in nature than that of the Strausses. His works are vigorous and forceful, with melodies that are cheerful, when times were difficult and the Hapsburg dynasty was ominously close to its end.
Works of Ziehrer
- Das liegt bei uns im Blut! polka-mazurka op. 374 It lies in our Spirit!
- Loslassen! polka op. 386 Release!
- Wiener Mad'ln waltz op. 388 Viennese Beauties
- Wiener Bürger waltz op. 419 Viennese Citizens
- Ziehrereien waltz op. 478
- Herreinspaziert! waltz op. 518 Here Comes the Gentlemen! from the operetta Der Schätzmeister
- Sei Brav waltz op. 522 So Good from the operetta Fesche Geister
- Tolles Mädel! waltz op. 526 Crazy Girl! from the operetta Ein Tolles Mädel!
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