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The Johann Strauss Society
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Carl Michael Ziehrer (1843 - 1922)

ZiehrerCarl Michael Ziehrer was born in Vienna, the son of a well to do maker of top hats, and was a child prodigy at the piano. He was discovered by the famous music publisher Carl Haslinger who was looking for a composer to replace Johann Strauss son, following his financial dispute with the Strauss family.  So Ziehrer was sent to study music at the Vienna Conservatory, and Haslinger obtained all publishing rights in return for his promotion. He was launched in grand style at the Dianasaal in 1863 in a clear attempt by Haslinger to upstage Johann Strauss II.

Although Ziehrer was never to become a real threat to the great maestro himself, he came closer than anyone else to challenging the dominance of the Strauss brothers, and like Johann Strauss moved into operetta later in his life. He toured widely in mainland Europe, in particular Germany, Hungary and Romania, but he did visit other countries. Without exception these tours were always a success and he was a constant rival to Eduard Strauss in concert halls and the ballroom.

Ziehrer became a military bandmaster three times during his long career, the first two times a result of finding the intense competition financially too much, but in that period he composed a huge number of talented dance pieces. His last, and longest time as a bandmaster was with the famous Hoch-und Deutschmeister Regiment with whom he represented Austria at the Chicago World Fair in 1893 and then toured North America.

Ziehrer, like Johann Strauss son, started as a composer and conductor for the ballroom and concert hall and his great strength lay in melodic inspiration, and as he matured he developed his style, often swaggering and highly rhythmic, influenced now doubt by his periods in the military. He was a very down to earth individual, without pretension, had enormous energy, and became extremely popular with the general public.

He composed some 22 stage works up to the outbreak of the First World War, the most well known today being Die Landstreicher, composed in 1899, Die drei Wünche in 1901, and Der Fremdenführer in 1902. Some of his best pieces were arranged from his operettas, such as the waltzes Herrreinspaziert!, In lauschiger Nacht and Samt und Seide to name just three.  Of close to 600 compositions, his best known works are Weaner Mad'ln, Wiener Bürger, Schönfeld March, but not to forget Fächer Polonaise which introduces almost every Viennese Ball around the world, and he actually wrote more operetta hit songs than Johann Strauss.

After Eduard Strauss he was the last to hold the position of k.k. Hofballmusik-Direktor (Imperial-Royal Director of Music for the Balls at Court) by decree of the Emperor Franz Josef, and closely witnessed the fall of the Empire, conducting the last ever Imperial Ball. The First World War brought him nothing but misery and poverty.  He died, after long ill health in 1922, following the ravages of the war, and was the last survivor of the so called composers of the Golden era.

Today, in the 175th anniversary of his birth, he has become much more widely known through the extensive recording of much of his dance music and even now a few of his operettas. There is no doubt that his music is quite infectious, even if he stuck to conventional construction, and we can be certain that his prediction that ‘One day, my music will receive the public recognition that it deserves’ has come finally come to be. A list of his works with opus can be found on the drop down menu. A book in English on Ziehrer ‘From Gold to Silver’ by John Diamond is currently under revision with updated references.

Today a huge number of his works have been recorded, mainly by Naxos and Preiser. You can find the Preiser recordings at  
http://www.johann-strauss.org.uk/recordings.php?id=160
© 1997-2018 John Diamond, the Johann Strauss Society of Great Britain

All text and pictures © The Johann Strauss Society of Great Britain, 1997-2018, unless otherwise acknowledged or indicated. Trademarks and other copyrights acknowledged as belonging to their owners.

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Contemporaries
Oskar Nedbal
Jacques Offenbach
Jakob Pazeller
Juventino Rosas
Kurt Schmid
The Schrammel Brothers
John Philip Sousa
Robert Stolz
Oscar Straus
Franz von Suppè
Siegfried Translateur
Robert Vollstedt
Wilhelm Wacek
Josef Franz Wagner
Émile Waldteufel
Carl Zeller
Carl Michael Ziehrer
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