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Carl Michael Ziehrer

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Carl Michael Ziehrer

Biography

Carl Michael Ziehrer (2 May 1843, Vienna, Austria – 14 November 1922, Vienna, Austria) was an Austrian composer and conductor.

Ziehrer was taught music by Simon Sechter, a famous Viennese music theorist and pedagogue, and by Johann Emanuel Hasel. He was soon discovered by music publisher Carl Haslinger, one of Johann Strauss Jr.'s publishers, who had fallen out with Strauss regarding the receipts from the latter's lucrative Russian venture.

Haslinger sought to promote his promising young ward, and on 21 November 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 a place at one of the Viennese military bands. As was the current trend, he took over as Kapellmeister of a large civilian orchestra in 1873. He also published the journal Deutsche Musikzeitung 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, Ziehrer changed his publisher to Döblinger, and toured Eastern Europe and Germany for many years, earning a good reputation as a strict yet efficient conductor. Throughout the period between 1885 and 1893, Ziehrer toured extensively and was a military bandmaster, having assumed the direction of the "Militärmusik des Infanterieregiments Hoch und Deutschmeister", as well as the "Deutschmeister" decoration. His fame was such that he was invited to perform at the World's Columbian Exposition 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 successful orchestra that specialized in playing dance music. At this point, his works began to gain a wider circulation among the music-loving Viennese, and works such as Weaner Mad’ln, Op. 388, and the more famous Wiener Bürger, Op. 419, were received with greater appreciation, the latter even temporarily triumphing over Strauss compositions when first published in 1890.

During his lifetime, Ziehrer was one of the fiercest rivals of the Strauss family, most notably Johann Strauss II and Eduard Strauss. Despite being a strong challenger of the Strauss music dynasty, he was unable to triumph over them and remained under their influence, which even included his personal appearance; he maintained a "Schnurrbart" (moustache) as well as a similar hair-style.

By the turn of the century, Ziehrer felt that he needed to devote his time and attention to 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 Landstreicherin 1899, but it was with the operetta Fremdenführer (Tourist Guide) that he achieved stage success. He was one of the composers who bridged the 'Golden Age' of operetta with the new influence of the emerging 'Silver Age', with composers such as Franz Lehár Jr., who would dominate the operetta scene for many years later on.

The outbreak of the First World War ended Ziehrer's career as a composer, and most of his property was destroyed. He died a poor and forgotten man in 1922 in Vienna.

Ziehrer's rich musical heritage may not be comparable to the Strausses, who dominated for well over a century, but he was more prolific, having composed 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 cheerful melodies written near the end of the Habsburg dynasty.


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