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ClassicsOnline Home » Orchestral Music - GUNG'L, Josef and Johann (Summer Concert at Hazel Hill, 1871) (Stockholm Strauss Orchestra, Eichenholz)
From one of the most famous 19th-century families of musicians and known as “The Strauss of Berlin”, Hungarian-born Josef Gung’l toured widely with his orchestras, and the series of 61 concerts they gave at Hasselbacken, Stockholm in 1871 became one of the greatest events in the history of music in Sweden. This programme recreates such an evening at Hazel Hill, with waltzes such as Gung’l’s memorial to Johann Strauss I, Die Immortellen, dances by celebrated contemporaries, and nephew Johann’s famous march En Avant!
By Michael Mark
American Record Guide
Summer Concert at Hazel Hill, Stockholm, 1871
Gung’l • Lumbye • Lanner • Labitzky • Kéler • Strauss
The Gung’l family was one of the most famous families of musicians in Europe during the nineteenth century, with several successful tours in Germany, Austria, Hungary, Russia, England and in the United States. Their music certainly deserves to be remembered.
Josef Gung’l (1810–89) was born on 1 December 1810 (some sources say 1809) in the village of Zsámbék, situated some miles west of the Hungarian city of Budapest. At that time Buda and Pest were still two cities and Hungary was part of the Austrian Empire, with Vienna as its capital. Josef’s father was a hose-weaver, and Josef, at the age of fifteen, became a teacher’s assistant at Franzen, a suburb of Pest. In his free time he studied music, and three years later he became a gunner in the artillery. In 1835 he moved to Graz and became an oboist in the Fourth Austrian Artillery Regiment. He was very soon promoted to drum major and started to put on civilian concerts, even including strings. In 1836 he had some success with his Op 1, a Hungarian March. Four years later he married Cajetana Barbara Reichl, to whom he later dedicated the Cajetana-Tänze, Op 116. In 1843 Gung’l formed an ensemble of sixteen Styrian musicians and toured throughout Austria and Germany ending in Berlin. There, his publisher, Bote & Bock, helped him to engage twenty more musicians and to secure a five-year contract with the famous Sommer Establishment in the middle of Berlin. Josef Gung’l had earlier been known as “The Strauss of Graz”; he now became known as “The Strauss of Berlin”.
In 1848 Gung’l made a famous tour to the United States, culminating in the installation of President Taylor in Washington on 5 March 1849. At that time the crossing of the Atlantic Sea was an adventurous passage, but in his Op 80, the waltz Dreams on the Ocean, the voyage was painted in mostly pleasant tones. Back in Berlin Josef Gung’l was appointed a Royal Director of Music by King Friedrich Wilhelm IV and soon after invited to Pavlovsk in Russia, near St Petersburg. The very first Russian railway had its terminus at Pavlovsk, only one station from the Czar’s summer castle. For five months every summer from 1851 to 1855 Gung’l played in the Vauxhall at Pavlovsk, but in 1856 Johann Strauss II was engaged for the summer concerts there, so Gung’l decided to take the place of Strauss in Vienna. That plan, however, was a failure, as Johann Strauss’s younger brother, Josef, was playing there with the famous Strauss Orchestra. Josef Gung’l decided, therefore, to resume duty with the Austrian army as a bandmaster for the 23rd Infantry Regiment.
In 1864 Josef Gung’l, together with the horn-player Franz Strauss, father of Richard, formed in Munich a civilian orchestra called Wilde Gung’l that still exists today. Gung’l himself settled down at the German health resort of Bad Reichenhall where, in 1868, he formed a new spa orchestra consisting of 32 musicians. With that orchestra he made a tour of Stockholm in 1871. On the way he performed, among other places, in Copenhagen at the famous Tivoli, completing his tour in Denmark with three concerts together with Hans Christian Lumbye (1810–74) and his orchestra. The Danish newspapers reported that Lumbye’s musicians were better than Gungl’s but Lumbye as a conductor was not as good as his Hungarian colleague.
On Tuesday 1 August Gung’l and his orchestra “from Vienna”, as he described it, performed at Hasselbacken (Hazel Hill), Stockholm, for the first time. A new march by Gung’l was played that day, Greetings to Stockholm, Op 260. Other pieces included were polkas by Strauss, overtures by Meyerbeer, and excerpts from Wagner’s Tannhäuser. The concerts became very successful and ran during August and September. The 61st concert was played at the Stockholm Exchange Building. Gungl’s concerts in just 62 days were the greatest event in the history of classical music in Sweden.
In years to come Gung’l and his orchestra made several tours from Reichenhall including Covent Garden, London, in 1873, 1874, 1875 and 1880. Gung’l then handed the orchestra over to his son-in-law, Gustav Paepke (1853–1933). Josef Gung’l himself withdrew to Weimar and lived there together with his daughter Virginia, a singer at the Munich Opera.
Josef Gung’l published in all 436 pieces of music: 118 waltzes, 56 marches, 19 gallops, polkas, quadrilles, and other pieces. Josef Gungl’s nephew, Johann Gung’l (1818–83) was a respected composer and conductor. He was engaged at Pavlovsk from 1845 to 1848, and then served as a violinist in the Court Orchestra in St Petersburg, an orchestra, which he also later conducted. He returned to Hungary conducting the orchestra at Pécs from 1874 to 1878 and teaching. He left behind 126 published compositions.
Another nephew, Franz Gung’l (1835–1905), became a conductor in Riga, Berlin, Königsberg and St Petersburg.
Since 1870 Hasselbacken (Hazel Hill) has been known as one of the most famous restaurants in Scandinavia. As a restaurant the building was opened in 1852, situated on a hill at the former Royal hunting ground close to the city of Stockholm. The original building was burnt down in 1923 but was replaced by a new one also including a hotel and conference room.
In September 1849 Johann Strauss I suddenly died of scarlet fever. Josef Gung’l and many of the European bandmasters and composers of the time modelled themselves upon Strauss. In his memory Gung’l composed the waltz Die Immortellen (The Immortals), opening with the Strauss waltz Loreley Rhein-Klänge transformed into a funeral march and ending with passages from the waltzes Alexandra and Donaulieder. The humorous polka Die Plaudermäulchen (The Little Chatterbox) can withstand comparison with the well-known polka Plappermäulchen by Josef Strauss. The march Gruss an Stockholm (Greetings to Stockholm) was first performed at Hasselbacken on 1 August 1871. Lacking the original score, Valter Bornemark has provided here a new orchestration from the piano version. The waltz Visionen (Visions) was probably played at Hasselbacken. It is a most poetic piece of music, well worthy of performance everywhere. Before Gung’l’s adventurous journey to the United States in 1848, he composed a little Indian Polka using the American folk-melodies Oh! Susanna and Rosa Lee. Back in Berlin Gung’l summed up his American memories in his famous waltz Träume auf dem Ozean (Dreams on the Ocean), a Yankee Galopp, and a polka under the title Souvenir de Philadelphia. An American publisher even presented a General Grant’s March, which had previously been known in Europe as Friedrichs Marsch, in honour of the German (Prussian) king. Josef Gung’l’s five summer seasons in Russia, 1851–55, left several traces of his music, but in 1856 Johann Strauss II replaced Gung’l at Pavlovsk. Gung’l’s plan to replace Strauss in Vienna failed, but led to the composition of the Schönbrunner Quadrille, named after the famous summer castle close to Vienna.
Another bandmaster and composer, Albert von Kéler (1820–82), also tried his fortune in Vienna at the same time. He was known by the pseudonym Kéler Béla and achieved fame, not because of his Aufmunterungs Polka (Cheer up Polka), but for the Hungarian Dance No. 5, arranged for the piano by Johannes Brahms (1833–97). Kéler served on occasions as leader of Gung’l’s and Lanner’s orchestras.
Joseph Lanner (1801–43) is the oldest of the composers included here, and his waltz Hexen-Tanz (Witches’ Dance) was composed in his very last year.
In 1846 Johann Strauss I refused an invitation to perform at Pavlovsk, but ten years later his son, Johann Strauss II, accepted and wrote several of his very best compositions in St Petersburg. Niko Polka is one of those pieces. It was dedicated to the eleven-year-old Prince Nikolaus Dadjani. One piece of music by Strauss was also dedicated to the Prince’s mother, a romance for cello, harp and orchestra.
Two composers and bandmasters who continued in the footprints of Lanner and Strauss were the Czech, Joseph Labitzky (1802–81) and the Dane, Hans Christian Lumbye (1810–74). Labitzky’s polka Gruss an London (Greetings to London) comprises three polkas, of which we have selected the third. Labitzky toured in several European cities, not least to London. His popular orchestra from Karlsbad was eventually entrusted to his son August.
Silver weddings seem to have been popular among Lumbye’s friends. He in fact composed a Sølvbryllups Waltz, a Sølvbryllups March, a Sølvbryllups Quadrille and, included here, a Sølvbryllups Polka. The polka was dedicated to Prince Ferdinand and Princess Caroline.
Mulatte March by Josef Gung’l is based upon melodies from an opera by the Irish singer and composer Michael William Balfe (1808–70). The march En Avant! by Johann Gung’l is probably the composer’s most frequently performed piece of music.
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