Joseph Lanner (April 12, 1801–April 14, 1843) was an Austrian dance music composer, regarded by many as being the inventor of the Viennese Waltz as we know it today. He was born at St. Ulrich in Vienna. Largely self-taught on the violin and as a composer, he joined at the age of twelve the small string orchestra of Michael Pamer at about the same time as Johann Strauss I did, although at age sixteen in 1818, he decided to venture into the music business himself and left to form a trio partnered with Karl and Johann Drahanek. With Strauss I on viola, five years later they formed a quartet that bore Lanner’s name. The success of this string quartet led to its gradual expansion, and in 1824 Lanner was able to conduct a small string orchestra playing Viennese dance music. Such was the success of his orchestra that it was a regular feature in many Vienna carnivals, popularly known in the local dialect as the Fasching. It was in 1825 that Lanner allowed his soon-to-be rival Johann Strauss I to deputize in a second, smaller orchestra that was formed that year to meet the busy schedule of the Carnival activities.
Lanner was already gaining a reputation at the end of the 1825 Carnival season and Strauss I was frustrated at having to deputize when necessary and as a result, his works were not getting the recognition he thought they deserved. Two years later, Strauss I parted company with Lanner after a concert at one of the Viennese dance establishments, Zum Schwarzen Bock (The Black Ram). Although many press reports stated a furious encounter between the two composers including a rumor that Strauss forcibly departed the orchestra with a few of Lanner’s talented musicians, these remained largely unsubstantiated as Lanner dedicated a waltz to Strauss entitled “Trennungs-Walzer” (“Separation Waltz”), Op. 19, which indicated a decent level of goodwill and respect for the craft of the two composers. Further, Lanner and Strauss I worked together often despite having severed their partnership and even gave a benefit concert for their former employer, Michael Pamer who was taken ill, at the same establishment where they separated.
For their charity work Strauss and Lanner also accepted the honorary citizenship of Vienna in 1836 and jointly took the Citizen’s Oath. The music-loving Viennese however were championing both of these two popular dance music composers, and individuals generally identified themselves as Lannerianer or Straussianer. In fact, it was believed that the ruling Habsburg dynasty was anxious to divert its Viennese populace from politics and the revolutionary ideas that were feverishly sweeping Europe, with many cities preparing to overthrow any unpopular monarch. The answer would be to distract the population with music and entertainment, and the musical positions that both Lanner and Strauss held were soon seen to be very important. In 1829 Lanner himself was appointed to the coveted post of Musik-Direktor of the Redoutensäle in the Hofburg Imperial Palace, of which his primary duties were to conduct concerts held in honor of the nobility and to compose new works for the Court orchestra, and two years later he was appointed bandmaster of the Second Vienna Militia Regiment
Strauss’s popularity soon overshadowed Lanner in the early 1840s. Strauss was eager to undertake extensive lucrative tours abroad including England, whereas Lanner held on in Vienna unconvinced that the other nationalities were prepared to listen to Viennese music. He is best remembered as one of the earliest Viennese composers to reform the waltz from a simple peasant dance to something that even the highest society could enjoy, either as an accompaniment to the dance, or for the music’s own sake. Lanner succumbed to a typhus infection that racked Vienna in 1843 and died at Döbling on Good Friday, April 14, in the same year at the tragically early age of just 42 years. The famous rivalry with Strauss I had ended. Lanner’s death marked the beginning of a period where the Strauss family was to dominate the Viennese dance music scene for well over a half a century and concluded an era of interesting and exciting developments for the waltz and other popular dance music.
Although his music was a bit more strict and formal than the Strauss family’s, Lanner was in some ways the more versatile musician. Lanner’s musical output totalled over 200 works, more than half of them waltzes. He also wrote galops, Ländler and other dances. His Op. 1 was the Neue Wiener (New Viennese). Ländler. Among Lanner’s more popular works are the “Pesther-Walzer”, Op. 93; “Die Werber” Waltz, Op. 103; “Hofballtänze Walzer”, Op. 161; “Die Romantiker” Waltz, Op. 167; and probably his most well-known work, “Die Schönbrunner” Walzer, Op. 200, probably the most famous of all waltzes before “The Blue Danube” by Johann Strauss II in the mid-1860s. Most of Lanner’s waltzes were dedicated to members of the nobility as evidenced from the titles which was part of the nature of Lanner’s position at that time. His “Styrian Dances” (Steyrische-Tänze), Op. 165, was also played occasionally at the Vienna New Year’s Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
My collection contains the following works by Joseph Lanner:
Abend-Sterne Waltz, op. 180.
Bruder Halt! Galop, op. 16.
Dampf (Steam) Waltz and Galop, op. 94.
Die Romantiker Waltz, op. 167.
Die Schonbrunner Waltz, op. 200 (1842).
Die Werber Waltz, op. 103.
Hofball Tanze Waltz, op. 161.
Jagers Lust Galop, op. 82.
Marien Waltz, op. 143.
Neujahrs Galop, op. 61 no. 2.
Pesther Waltz, op. 93.
Tarantel Galop, op. 125.
—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources