KOMZAK I / KOMZAK II: Waltzes, Marches, and Polkas, Vol. 2
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Karel Komzak I (1823-1893) and Karel Komzak II (1850-1905):
Waltzes, Marches and Polkas 2
There were three composers named Komzak, father, son and grandson, each of whom shared the first name Karelor Karl, and who together made a significant contribution to the popular light music of Central Europe during thenineteenth and early twentieth century. The central, and most successful, member of this dynasty was Karel (Karl)Komzak II, ten of whose compositions are recorded here. He was undoubtedly one of the most outstanding amonga host of highly-gifted composers whose dances and marches made Vienna the light music capital of Europe in theclosing decades of the nineteenth century. His father, Karel Komzak I, an eminent orchestral conductor and militarybandmaster, is represented here by three works.
The Komzak family came from southern Bohemia where, in 1823, Karel I was born in the village ofNet??chovice near T?¢n nad Vltavou. He moved to Prague and founded his own orchestra which was so successfulthat in 1862 it became the resident orchestra of the newly-founded Prague Provisional Theatre, forerunner of therenowned National Theatre. Antonin Dvofiak was a viola-player in this orchestra, which also included theconductor's son, Karel II, on violin. Karel I left his orchestra in 1865 to take up the appointment of bandmaster tothe Austro-Hungarian imperial army's 11th Infantry Regiment. Over the next fifteen years he served with theregiment in a succession of locations from Trento, in the west, to Hradec Kralove, in the east. Everywhere, both asbandmaster and composer, he was extremely popular and the band became noted for the regular inclusion of Czechfolk-songs in concert programmmes. Then, after moving on to the 74th Infantry Regiment in 1880, Karel I foundhimself in less favourable circumstances where the performance of Czech national airs was forbidden.
Consequently after only a year in this new post he left military service. In December 1882, however, when theauthorities were looking for an accomplished bandmaster to undertake the formation of a military band for thenewly-established 88th Infantry Regiment in Prague, Karel I was persuaded to take up this important appointment.
Five years later, with the band flourishing, he finally retired for good at the end of April 1888, spending the rest ofhis days at Net??chovice, where he died in 1893. Of his reputedly more than two hundred compositions, we nowknow (thanks to the scholarly work of Max Schonherr) that a fair number have survived in various archives. Atleast two waltzes, forty-odd polkas, around twenty polka mazurkas, a handful of galops and quadrilles, and aboutfifteen marches still exist, either in printed or manuscript copies, mostly without opus numbers.
Karel Komzak II was born in Prague on 8th November 1850. His father supervised his early musical training,and he studied violin, musical theory and conducting at the Prague Conservatory between 1861 and 1867. InMarch 1869 he joined his father's 11th Regiment band at Linz, playing violin and baritone. He also gained usefulexperience conducting the Linz theatre orchestra during his two-and-a-half years with the regiment. When theposition of bandmaster to the 7th Infantry Regiment became vacant in 1871, Komzak applied and was successful,taking up his new post at Innsbruck at the age of 21. During this period the \Bohemian musician" came to knowthe folk-music of the Tyrol, and this showed its influence in the choruses he wrote for the Innsbruck LiedertafelChoir, of which he was also choirmaster.
A long-standing desire to come to Vienna was eventually fulfilled in 1882, when Komzak was called to thecapital to take over the duties of bandmaster to the 84th Infantry Regiment. It was while he was with this regimentthat his fame gradually spread throughout the Austrian Empire. His congenial appearance, friendly nature andenergetic conducting soon made him a firm favourite of the Viennese public, who regarded him as one of theleading military composers, together with Ziehrer, Fahrbach, Czibulka, Kral and J.F.Wagner.
An important contribution of Komzak to the development of Austrian military music was his use of stringedinstruments on whose contribution to the music he laid great emphasis. His band contained no less than fourteenfirst violins and could therefore be compared favourably with the usual concert orchestra of the period. Thefrequent and widespread tours undertaken by Komzak with his regimental orchestra were everywhere received withpopular acclaim.
In 1892 Komzak was given leave of absence from his regiment on health grounds and the family moved to thespa town of Baden, some fourteen miles southwest of Vienna, where the following year he took over direction ofthe Spa Orchestra. In the meantime, on 20th September 1892, he gave a farewell concert in Vienna with the bandwhich was being moved to the regiment's new garrison at Mostar, Herzegovina. Komzak retained the position ofbandmaster until his eventual retirement in 1896, spending the winter months with the regiment in Mostar andreturning to Baden in the spring to direct the season's spa concerts. Probably the climax of his career was the seriesof concerts he gave with the Wiener Farben Orchestra at the World Exhibition in St Louis in America, which washeld between August and October 1904. Only six months later he met his tragic death, on Easter Sunday, 23rd April1905. In attempting to jump onto a departing train at Baden station he slipped and fell under the wheels. He wasburied at Baden but in the following November his remains were exhumed and transferred to the Central Cemeteryof Vienna, where the beloved artist was given an honourable grave by the city authorities. A monument, showingthe composer with baton in hand, was erected on his grave in 1907.
The compositions of Karel Komzak II reached the opus number 306, but how many he actually wrote it isimpossible to say. (Around two hundred scores have been traced according to Schonherr's list.) Titles weresometimes changed, some works cannot be ascribed with certainty to a particular member of the family, and thereare many pieces for which an opus number does not exist. Nevertheless, his oeuvre contains examples in a varietyof forms written for a wide range of performers including concert orchestra, military band, string quartet, violin andpiano, solo voice, chorus and piano. His operetta Edelweiss was first performed in 1892 at Salzburg and was latergiven at Munich and Vienna. Although Edelweiss was greatly acclaimed by the public, Komzak was too sagaciousa musician not to realise that dramatic music, even in its lighter forms, was not really his metier and so it remainedhis only work in this field.
Although he is generally known today by a mere handful of works, these are of a very high quality and there aremany others equally memorable which remain in relative oblivion. Bad'ner Mad'ln is of course reasonably wellknown and is certainly in the front rank of Viennese waltzes. This work with its surprising contrasts of brilliantmartial music and languorous melodies for the strings is typical of Komzak's best waltzes. Other notable examplesare An der schonen, gr??nen Naranta, Op. 227, Phantome, Op. 160, and his last work Maienzauber, Op. 306.
Of Komzak's many vigorous galops his Sturmgalopp, Op. 156, is still heard today and the polka mazurkaFeinsliebchen, Op. 123, is representative of his contributions to this form. The marches, still very popular withcentral European military bands, vary in type from the typical parade-ground specimen such as the 84th RegimentMarch, Op. 125, to the sparkling Echtes Wienerblut, Op. 189, of his maturity, and the triumphal Kaiser-Marsch,Op. 260, with which he won a competition held in connection with Emperor Franz Joseph's jubilee in 1898.
In his o