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Josef Lanner: Josef Lanner (b. Vienna, 12 April 1801; d. Vienna, 14 April 1843).
Together with his friend and colleague Johann Strauss (father of the 'waltz king'), Josef Lanner was largely responsible for introducing the waltz to Vienna. His father was a glovemaker, and young Josef Lanner had to teach himself music. By the time he was twelve he was sufficiently proficient on the violin to obtain an engagement with Pamer's dance orchestra, which was popular in the taverns and dance halls of Vienna. Michael Pamer was a composer of dance tunes, and his orchestra played these and other light music for dancing. At the age of seventeen, Josef Lanner left to form his own group which consisted of two violins, viola, 'cello and guitar, the viola played by Johann Strauss the elder, who had also defected from Pamer's orchestra. Josef Lanner's ensemble, which was enlarged as time went by, soon established itself as the leading orchestra of its kind, playing in the coffee houses and taverns, and in the Prater, the huge amusement park in Vienna. Such was its popularity that Josef Lanner eventually split the orchestra into two, directing one ensemble himself, and entrusting the other to Strauss. In 1825 the colleagues separated, and Strauss formed his own orchestra. Josef Lanner marked the occasion by composing a Trennungswalzer' or 'Parting Waltz'.
Now Vienna had two splendid orchestras to dance to, and, delighting in the rivalry between the rival composer-conductors, the Viennese paid homage to them both, playing them off against each other. The two former friends who had, as youths, shared lodgings, girls and even shirts, now became professional rivals, though in due course they resumed their friendship, and would meet to play each other's music. When Chopin came to Vienna to give concerts in 1830, he wrote that he found it difficult to interest people in his music, for 'Josef Lanner, Strauss and their waltzes dominate everything'.
In 1829 Josef Lanner was appointed Hofball-musikdirektor or director of music for all court balls. Unlike Strauss, however, he did not achieve great fame outside Austria, or even outside Vienna, for he had no love of travel or fame, preferring to live quietly in the Viennese suburb of Dobling, composing his gentle, almost Schubertian waltzes and Landler for his fellow Viennese to dance to. He was fond, too, of the Viennese new wine, the 'Heuriger'; perhaps over-fond for there was one occasion when he was conducting in the presence of the Emperor who, noticing that Josef Lanner was swaying rather dangerously as he conducted, asked his Master of Ceremonies to 'take Josef Lanner out, or he might fall off the platform and hurt himself.'
Josef Lanner's music, gentle, sensuous, but imbued with that melancholy which is as quintessentially Viennese as their gaiety and charm, contrasts quite clearly with that of Strauss. As the Viennese saying has it, 'With Josef Lanner, it's "Please, dance, I beg you", but with Strauss it's "You must dance, I command you".' The genuine vein of poetry which co-exists in Josef Lanner with his melodic fecundity has kept his music alive and is perhaps responsible for a renewed interest in him in recent years. He composed more than a hundred waltzes, including such real masterpieces of the genre as Die Werber, Abendsterne and Die Sehonbrunner.
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