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Rudolf Sieczynski

February 23, 1879 - May 5, 1952
born in Vienna, Austria, composed during the Romantic period
Widely ignored for a century by most reference books, even those in German, Rudolf Sieczynski is saved from oblivion by the popularity of a single song, the haunting Wien, du Stadt meiner Träume (Vienna, City of My Dreams). By day a government clerk, Sieczynski moonlighted most of his life as a composer, specializing in Wienerlieder, songs usually very sentimental and nostalgic about Vienna.

Born there at the height of Austria's Golden Age, Sieczynski learned the piano from his mother, but his formal studies were more practical, culminating in a doctorate in law from Vienna University. Johann Strauss II was still alive and a prominent Viennese musical figure through Sieczynski's youth, but with his death and the coming of the twentieth century, Austrian culture fell into what traditionalists regarded as decay, with a macabre expressionism developing in both music and visual art and the imperial political world falling apart in the years leading up to and including World War I. The period's new Viennese intellectuals and artists were seen as progressive trailblazers by the rest of the world, but at home they seemed more a threat to the comfortable old ways and nostalgia became a hot commodity among the bourgeoisie.

Sieczynski was very much a traditionalist by inclination and career. He was a government functionary all his adult life, toiling as a junior clerk in a provincial office when he wrote Wien, du Stadt meiner Träume in 1913. This he labeled as his Op. 1, and there followed through the war years a modest stream of similar pieces: such Wienerlieder as Das sind die Frauen und Mädchen von Wien and Ja, so ein Wiener Mäd'l, and such "conventional" but only subtly differentiated lieder as Du altes Österreich and the serenade Komm', mein Blondes, Kleines Mädchen. Almost incongruously, while he was writing this innocent-sounding material, he served through the war years as a director of the internment station of the Wöllersdorf prison camp.

After the war, firmly settled into a fairly high administrative post with Lower Austria's Regional Agricultural Authority, Sieczynski continued writing the occasional song, almost always setting his own text, into the early years of World War II. He also dabbled in literary areas, writing melodramas inspired by the works of minor Austrian poets and creating the libretto for a 1918 children's musical, Die selige Kinderzeit. His prose works include the studies Alt-Wien im Liede (1921) and Altwiener Volkskomiker (1947), and the largely autobiographical Wienerlied, Wiener Wein, Wiener Sprache (1947).

Sieczynski achieved positions of some authority in Viennese music circles, as president of the Österreichischer Komponistenbund (the Austrian composers' association) and, for 25 years, as vice president of AKM, the Austrian society of authors, composers, and music publishers. His greatest prize was probably Vienna's Ring of Honor, awarded him in 1948, but his music was so closely tied to its time and place that Sieczynski never achieved comparable recognition outside his native land. ~ James Reel, Rovi
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