Josef Lanner


Born: April 12, 1801 Died: April 14, 1843
Country: Austria Period: Romantic
The Viennese waltz had no mother, but it did have two fathers -- Johann Strauss I and his one-time boss, Joseph Lanner. It was Lanner who launched the waltz craze, taking the first steps as a teenager. Largely self-taught as a violinist and composer, he'd joined a dance orchestra when he was 12, and formed his own trio in 1816 to play light music in the taverns in and around Vienna. Sometimes this group expanded to a sextet or more, and within a few years Johann Strauss I signed on as a violist. Lanner met with such success that in 1825 he split his group into two small orchestras, placing Strauss in charge of the second. Strauss went his own way two years later, developing a rivalry with his former employer-partner.

Lanner had already expanded the waltz from the rudimentary form he inherited, employing broader melodies and flirting with minor modes. It was Strauss, though, who established the definitive waltz pattern (introduction, five double waltzes, coda), and Lanner adopted this format in 1830.

Although his music was a bit more strict and formal than the Strauss family's, Lanner was in some ways the more versatile musician. He was a highly skilled violinist, not just a café fiddler; he often played demanding concertos by the likes of de Bériot between dance sets. Lanner was also a canny businessman and promoter. His various ensembles -- he employed 200 musicians split among several groups during the carnival season -- spread across Vienna, playing everywhere from coffeehouses to elegant balls. Lanner made several tours of the Austro-Hungarian empire and into Italy, spreading his fame. At home, his posts included music director of the Redoutensäle (from 1829), conductor of promenade concerts in the Volksgarten (from 1831), and kapellmeister of the Second Viennese military regiment (from 1833). At the height of his success, Lanner died of a typhoid infection at age 42. He left behind a catalog of more than 200 pieces, more than half of them waltzes.

- James Reel, Rovi - All Music Guide

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