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J. F. Wagner and Under the Double Eagle March

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Josef Franz Wagner (March 20, 1856–June 5, 1908) was an Austrian military bandmaster and composer who is sometimes known by the nickname “The Austrian March King,” though he did write other music Born on March 20, 1856, in Vienna, Austria, he was a great soprano singing in a church choir as a young boy.  He later studied harmony, composition, and instrumentation under the renowned Johann Hasel.  Then he entered the military and became bandmaster of successively three Austrian regiments with which he travelled widely within the Austrian Empire, but always preferred to be in Vienna where he was very popular.

Wagner is best known for his 1893 march “Unter dem Doppeladler” or “Under the Double Eagle”, referring to the double eagle in the coat of arms of Austria-Hungary.  The march became a favorite part of the repertoire of American composer and bandleader John Philip Sousa, whose band recorded it three times.  The piece was the official regimental march of the Austrian Artillery Regiment Number 2 till its dissolution in 2007.  Wagner is also known for the “Holzhackerbuam,” or the “Jolly Lumberjack Polka.”  In 1895, his only opera, Der Herzbub, premiered in Vienna.  He resigned from the army in 1899 and formed his own orchestral band which soon became popular.

Wagner died on June 5, 1908, in Vienna.  During his life, having wrote about 400 compositions of which some 250 were published, including his most famous march, “Under the Double Eagle.”  He also wrote three operettas, but it is not known if they were ever performed.  “Under the Double Eagle” is well known in country music, having been recorded by a number of guitar and banjo players, several of them identified with the Bluegrass style.  The tune was parodied in the Benny Goodman recording “Benjie’s Bubble”, and was also used for the well-known Monty Python’s Flying Circus animation segment “Conrad Poohs And His Dancing Teeth.”  The first part of the march is used in the 1992 computer game Great Naval Battles: North Atlantic 1939-1943 when Germany is selected in the gameplay.

The following work by J. F. Wagner is contained in my collection:

Under the Double Eagle March, op. 159.

—material selected, adapted, and edited from several different sources

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