BAYER: The Fairy Doll
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Josef Bayer (1852-1913):
Die Puppenfee Sonne und ErdeOpera house musicians have often found playing forballet performances something of a chore. It wascertainly so for Austrian symphonic composer FranzSchmidt (1874-1939), when in 1896 he became a cellistwith the Vienna Court Opera orchestra. He delighted inplaying in orchestral concerts of the ViennaPhilharmonic, and for operas under such conductors asWilhelm Jahn and Hans Richter. He was scathing,however, about his experience of playing under CourtBallet Director, Josef Bayer: \I liken him, in order not toinsult this rank, to an Austrian regimental musicsergeant only in so far as he possessed the arrogance andcoarseness of one in richest measure. His ability asconductor and musician, however, would not havesatisfied the needs of the post of regimental musicsergeant by a long way. He was beneath all criticism andwas further devalued by the pitifulness and vulgarity ofhis compositions."Yet, in his line, Josef Bayer was a master of his craftand for thirty years was musical head of ballet inVienna. Born there on 6th March 1852, he studied at theVienna Conservatory under Josef Hellmesberger senior(1828-93), Anton Bruckner (1824-96) and Otto Dessoff(1835-92) and was from 1870 until 1898 a violinist inthe Court Opera Orchestra. The peak of his career wasthose thirty years in charge of ballet there from 1883until his death in Vienna on 12th March 1913. Duringthat time he composed over twenty one-act ballets, manyother dance scenes and divertissements, and numerousoperettas and light music for other venues.
Perhaps by the time Franz Schmidt joined the CourtOpera orchestra, Bayer's inspiration was running a littledry. Certainly his greatest successes came in earlieryears. The first was in January 1885 with the balletWiener Walzer (Viennese Waltzes), which portrayed theevolution of the Viennese waltz over the previouscentury, with favourite melodies woven into the score.
Its considerable success was overshadowed in 1888,however, by what was to prove the Vienna CourtOpera's greatest ballet creation ever. Originally entitledIm Puppenladen (In the Doll Shop), it finally came to beknown as Die Puppenfee (The Fairy Doll) after itscentral role. It became the most overwhelminglysuccessful ballet of its time in Vienna, and in all wasperformed on over a hundred European stages. To thisday it holds a place in the schedules of the Vienna StateOpera (successor of the Court Opera), having beenperformed there over eight hundred times in total.
Bayer consolidated his reputation with further balletscores without ever quite achieving the same acclaimagain. Still in 1888, Osterreichische Marsche (AustrianMarches), a ballet after the manner of Wiener Walzer,was staged in Prague. Then, a year later, the ViennaCourt Opera staged another one-act ballet, Sonne undErde (Sun and Earth). Among later ballet scores wasRund um Wien (Around Vienna), produced at the CourtOpera in October 1894 to celebrate the golden jubilee ofthe Waltz King Johann Strauss (1825-99) as conductorand composer. Bayer also paid further homage to JohannStrauss later, by arranging for performance the WaltzKing's unfinished ballet score Aschenbrodel(Cinderella).
First produced on 4th October 1888, Die Puppenfeewas choreographed by the Court Ballet Master, JosephHassreiter (1845-1940), to a scenario by himself anddesigner Franz Gaul (1837-1906). Camilla Paglierodanced the role of the Fairy Doll. Whatever FranzSchmidt may have said, its music is utterly charming,full of delightful tunes and fetching orchestral effects.
The scenario obviously owes much to E. T. A.
Hoffmann's 1815 story Der Sandmann (The Sandman),in which a doll comes to life, and which was used inOffenbach's Les contes d'Hoffmann. In purely balletterms, it owes something to Coppelia and was in turn aninspiration for La boutique fantasque.
The ballet is preceded by  a short prelude,featuring a toy trumpet and introducing themes to beheard later in the ballet.  The curtain rises on atoyshop, where the proprietor is working on a doll'shead, while assistants dust the other dolls. They areinterrupted by the arrival of a postman with a package.
 Other visitors then follow, including a salesman withmerchandise, and a girl bringing a broken doll for repair.
 Then potential customers begin to arrive, headed by apeasant with his wife and daughter. Clumsily the peasantdisturbs a toy, which falls to the floor. 5 Then comes awell-to-do English family, anxious to buy a doll.
 They are first shown one that fails to work, and theystart to leave, but the proprietor urges them to stay.
 He shows them a doll dressed in Upper-Austriannational costume, which proceeds to dance a TyroleanLandler.  Then they are shown a baby doll that crawlsaround, the music clearly evoking its cries of 'Papa' and'Mama'.  Next the visitors are shown a Chinese doll,which dances a polka, after which  a Spanish doll doesa fiery Spanish dance complete with castanetaccompaniment.  Then a Japanese doll dances a slowmazurka, and  a Harlequin performs a rousingtarantella. Other toys join in as the music rises to aclimax, stirring all the dolls into motion.  Then comesthe piece de resistance in a fairy doll, which dances agraceful waltz.  The English family are enraptured.
They give an order to buy her and arrange for her to besent to them. Then they and the peasants leave, and theshop closes for the night.  Later, as midnight strikes,the shop magically comes alive.  At the centre of theactivity is the fairy doll.  The other dolls join her in adivertissement, which also features Punchinellos withtiny cymbals. In turn, all the dolls seen earlier take partin a grand waltz, laughing and dancing.  After a briefpause,  the toys embark on a triumphal march,followed  by a lively galop.  Then they all return totheir boxes, gathered around their fairy queen. Disturbedby the noise, the shopkeeper now rushes in, but findseverything in order. As he stands puzzled by thedisturbance, the ballet ends with a tableau of dollsaround their fairy queen.
Sonne und Erde, again with a scenario by Hassreiterand Gaul, was first staged at the Vienna Court Opera on19th November 1889. Its subject is the seasons and theelements, and it is divided into a prelude and fourscenes, Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. The nature ofthe scenario is concisely summarised by quoting thetitles of the dances Bayer later extracted for theballroom, Parapluie-Marsch (Umbrella March),Sonnen-Walzer (Sun Waltz), Bade-Galopp (BathingGalop) and Christkindl-Polka (Christ-Child Polka).
In this first ever recording we hear just the prelude andmusic from two of the scenes?íXScene I (Spring) andScene IV (Winter).
© Andrew Lamb"