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Josef Bayer (1852 - 1913)

Opera house musicians have often found playing for ballet performances something of a chore. Austrian symphonic composer Franz Schmidt (1874-1939) was scathing when he related experience of playing cello under Court Ballet Director, Josef Bayer: I liken him, in order not to insult this rank, to an Austrian regimental music sergeant only in so far as he possessed the arrogance and coarseness of one in richest measure. His ability as conductor and musician, however, would not have satisfied the needs of the post of regimental music sergeant by a long way. He was beneath all criticism and was further devalued by the pitifulness and vulgarity of his compositions.

Yet, in his line, Josef Bayer was a master of his craft and for thirty years was musical head of ballet in Vienna. Born there on 6th March 1852, he studied at the Vienna Conservatory under Josef Hellmesberger senior (1828-93), Anton Bruckner (1824-96) and Otto Dessoff (1835-92) and was from 1870 until 1898 a violinist in the Court Opera Orchestra. The peak of his career was those thirty years in charge of ballet there from 1883 until his death in Vienna on 12th March 1913. During that time he composed over twenty one-act ballets, many other dance scenes and divertissements, and numerous operettas and light music for other venues.

Perhaps by the time Franz Schmidt joined the Court Opera orchestra, Bayers inspiration was running a little dry. Certainly his greatest successes came in earlier years. The first was in January 1885 with the ballet



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