Marble Surface

Karel Komzak II

Wien bei Nacht, Potpourri, Op. 297

00:00 / 18:02

My transcription of the manuscript held in the Wien Bibliothek.

Probably the best snapshot of Viennese light music from the beginning of the 20th century. It’s his last potpourri (I think – you can never be sure with Komzak opus numbers). There are a couple of butchered recordings for salon orchestra on youtube and I have heard a live recording based on published parts that don’t quite correspond to the autograph, but I think this is the only recording of Komzak’s original orchestration.

It caused me a lot of grief, mainly my own fault, and has been in bits on my desk for more than two years. I made a copy of the autograph in Vienna in February 2020. It wasn’t a good copy and this coupled with some problems I was having with my sight and Komzak’s awful writing made it very difficult to transcribe. I put it to one side and then had to wait for two years to make a better copy thanks to Covid. I got my eyesight sorted and then was just stuck with Komzak’s writing. I can only assume he had a good relationship with his copyist because a fair proportion of the notes are only in approximately the right places and some divination is required. There is very little difference in his signs for p, f and ff. It gets easier with practice, but there will certainly be errors in this.

I would normally add a list of titles for the quotations he uses but a combination of my bad German, his bad writing and my ignorance of music of this period makes a lot of them unintelligable. Lots of familiar tunes here though.

Talking of familiar tunes, I was happily transcribing a bit of a march from the Merry Widow when I thought – Hold on a minute. Komzak died in April 1905 and the Merry Widow was first performed in December 1905. I’m not an expert on Lehar so I was beginning to doubt what I was writing was genuine. A bit of hasty research showed Lehar had reused the tune from an earlier piece – Der Göttergatte.

Komzak’s potpourris rarely have excerpts from music by the Strausses, although he sometimes sneaks in disguised quotations. I can only assume he had trouble getting the rights. However, Johann III seems to have been less of a worry and there’s a fair bit of Josef Strauss in here courtesy of the 1903 pastiche operetta Frülingsluft to which Komzak must have got the rights. The Josef Strauss “Cake Walk” is just a bit of an anachronism.

There is even some Johann Strauss II – sort of. There are quotations from Ziehrer’s waltz In lauschiger Nacht, Op 488 based on themes from the operetta Die Landstreicher of 1899 one of which is very similar to Strauss’s waltz Spiralen, Op. 209. Whether Ziehrer or Komzak were aware of this fairly obscure waltz is conjectural. Strauss was dead by the time the operetta was first performed.