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ClassicsOnline Home » WALDTEUFEL: The Best of Emile Waldteufel, Vol. 4
Emile Waldteufel (1837-1915)
Like Johann Strauss, Emile Waldteufel came from a family of
dance musicians, being preceded in the business by his father Louis (1801-84)
and brother Léon (1832-84). Despite their Germanic surname, the family were French.
This is explained by the fact that they hailed from Alsace, which despite
strong German traditions had been fully integrated into France since 1793.
Emile Waldteufel was born in Strasbourg on 9 December 1837,
just seven weeks after the elder Johann Strauss gave his first concert on
French soil in that very city .When he was seven the family moved to Paris for Léon
to take up a place as a violin student at the Paris Conservatoire. Emile Waldteufel
was to live in Paris for the rest of his life, and he in turn studied piano at
the Conservatoire from 1853 to 1857, his classmates there including Jules Massenet.
Meanwhile the family dance orchestra was becoming one of the
best-known in Paris, increasingly in demand for Society balls during Napoleon III's
Second Empire. In 1865 Emile was appointed court pianist to the Empress Eugénie
in succession to Joseph Ascher (composer of 'Alice, where art thou?'),
performing at Court functions not only in Paris but in Biarritz and Compiègne.
From 1867 the Waldteufel orchestra played at Napoleon III's magnificent Court
balls at the Tuileries.
After the Franco-Prussian War the orchestra again presided
at the Presidential balls at the Élysée. Yet so far Emile Waldteufel's dances
had been known only to a relatively limited Society audience. By the time
international fame came he was almost forty. In 1874 he happened to be playing
at a soirée attended by the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII. The Prince
complimented him on his waltz Manolo and agreed to help launch his music in
The result was a long-term publishing contract with the
London firm of Hopwood & Crew. Since the firm was half-owned by Charles Coote,
director of Coote & Tinney's Band, the premier London dance orchestra, this
also gave access to the musical programmes of Queen Victoria's State Balls at
Buckingham Palace. For several years Emile Waldteufel's music dominated the programmes
there, generating him world-wide fame as he turned out a string of works that
enjoyed huge popularity - including his best-known work Les Patineurs ('The
Skaters') in 1882.
His French publisher Durand, Schoenewerk was now forced to
buy the French rights to these works from Hopwood & Crew. So later did the
German firm of Litolff, in whose editions the works sometimes appeared under
slightly different German names. In addition, to suit Germanic custom, in 1883 Litolff
retrospectively began an opus numbering system. This began at 101 to make
arbitrary allowance for early works, and for various reasons many works were numbered
out of chronological sequence, thereby providing a source of much confusion
In 1890 and 1891 Waldteufel conducted at the Paris Opéra
Balls, and his orchestra continued to provide dance music for Presidential
Balls, as well as for other Society functions, until 1899, when he retired. He
continued to compose, but in a style that was already outdated. He died in
Paris on 12 February 1915 at the age of 77. His wife, a former singer Célestine
Dufau, whom he married in 1871 and by whom he had two sons and a daughter, had
died the previous year.
Waldteufel was recognised as a good-natured person, with a
ready sense of humour-characteristics that are readily perceivable in his
music. Unlike the music of Johann Strauss, Waldteufel's perhaps scales no great
architectural heights, but rather seeks to enchant by the grace and charm of
his melodies and their gentle harmonies. By comparison with Strauss's very
masculine creations, there is undoubtedly more of a feminine feel about Waldteufel's
waltzes. Unlike Strauss, he conducted with a baton rather than a violin bow,
and he composed at the piano, his works being orchestrated later. The standard Waldteufel
orchestration was for strings, double woodwind, two cornets, four horns, three
trombones and ophicleide (or tuba), plus timpani and percussion.
After Waldteufel's death his music continued to hold a place
in the affections of ordinary music-lovers alongside that of Johann Strauss.
The conductor of these recordings, Alfred Walter, recalls having a lot of Waldteufel¡¦s
music at his childhood home in Southern Bohemia - not only for piano but also
in arrangements for piano trio which were played in his musical family. If in
recent decades Emile Waldteufel's music has been overshadowed by that of the Strausses,
it is with correspondingly greater freshness that we are able to rediscover its
grace and charm today.
Unfortunately Paris newspapers did not report the titles of
dances played at Society balls. Thus the best available dating of Emile Waldteufel's
works comes from publication records and dates of registration with the French
performing right society S.A.C.E.M. In the following notes, the original French
titles are given, together with English translations and the titles under which
the works were published in Germany.
Zig-zag ('Zick-Zack'), Polka, Op. 248 (1891)
In the form of a miniature concerto for cornet and
orchestra, this sparkling piece is indeed true to its title in the impression
it gives of sharp changes of direction as one theme follows another, with
contrasted rhythms and orchestration. The dance was registered with S.A.C.E.M.
in January 1891, and it may well have been played during that year's Carnival
season, during which Emile Waldteufel was also conducting at the Opéra Balls.
Les Fleurs ('The Flowers'), Valse, Op. 190 (1883)
A charming story about the origins of this waltz has been
handed down through generations of Emile Waldteufel's descendants. According to
his great-granddaughter, the composer was one evening on the balcony of his
apartment with his young son Henri, when they heard the old and frail voice of
a street-seller selling his product - a pastry called 'plaisirs'. This he did
by repeating a simple sung phrase:- 'voilà plaisirs, Madame. Régalez-vous!' As
the street-seller turned the corner, the voice drifted away; but one could just
faintly heart he same few notes. The next day, when Henri came home from
school, his father was just putting the finishing touches to the waltz Les Fleurs,
inspired by the street-seller's chant. The phrase in question is quoted at the
very beginning of the introduction, developed in the second of the four waltz
sections, and reprised as the climax of the coda. The waltz was dedicated to
Madame Madeleine Lemare.
Par-ci, par-là ('Hither and Thither'), Polka, Op. 239 (1883)
Again true to its title, this lively polka does indeed give
the impression of darting all over the place as it progresses exhilaratingly
from start to finish. Waldteufel delivered it to his publisher in January 1883.
However, by then enthusiasm for Waldteufel's music in Britain and the British
Empire was past its peak of the late 1870s, and Hopwood & Crew were
therefore negotiating a new arrangement with Durand, Schoenewerk in Paris,
whereby the latter would assume the prime publishing rights. As a result of
this arrangement, Durand, Schoenewerk thereafter published newly delivered
works, while a few works from 1882/83 remained on the London firm's shelves.
Among them was Par-ci, par-là, which as a result remained unpublished until the
supply of new works ran out. It finally appeared in 1892 and received the final
opus number of the Hopwood & Crew sequence.
Solitude, Valse, Op.174 (1881)
This is a most delightful waltz, offering a lovely broad
opening melody and some wonderfully varied and delicately shaded themes to
follow. It was dedicated to Henry Blount, younger son of Sir Edward Blount
(1809-1905), a British banker who became President of the Société Générale in
Paris. In later years Henry Blount was to be a leading figure in a Parisian
tragedy .In May 1897 he was chief organiser of a Grand Charity Bazaar that was
held annually in the Rue Jean-Goujon. Usually Emile Waldteufel and his
orchestra performed at the bazaar, but on this occasion the organising
committee introduced a new attraction - the kinematograph. At 4 p.m. on the
first day of the bazaar a fire broke out, started by lamps used in connection
with the kinematograph and fuelled by the tarpaulin above the apparatus. The
flames spread rapidly, and there was panic in the crowded arena as everyone
pressed for the exit. Some 120 people died in the disaster, with many others
burned - among them Henry Blount.
Fleurs et baisers ('Flowers and Kisses' / 'Blumen und Küsse'),
Though Emile Waldteufel continued to compose after his
retirement, few of the resultant works were published. One of the few
exceptions was this waltz, published by Auguste Bosc in 1904. It suggests that
the composer's invention was little diminished by the years. It carries a
dedication to Madame Jules Denfer.
Toujours fidèle ('Ever Faithful' / 'Treuliebchen'), Valse,
Op. 169 (1879)
The cornet is again prominently featured in the introduction
to this waltz which, despite the particularly lovely arioso third section,
never managed to achieve the popular acclaim of other works from the time of
Emile Waldteufel's great successes. Delivered to Hopwood & Crewin 1879, it
was published the following year and introduced to London by Coote & Tinney's
Band at a State Ball at Buckingham Palace in June 1880. The waltz carries a
dedication to Madame le Normand de Grandcour.
L'Esprit français ('The French Spirit' "Geistesfunken'),
Polka, Op.182 (1882)
This joyful polka, starting with a gradual crescendo, is
noteworthy also for its exquisitely piquant scoring, especially in the trio
section, where double basses and flutes indulge in conversation to delightful
effect. Its playfulness may derive something from its dedication to the Marquis
Philippe de Massa (1825-1910), a popular figure in Parisian Society. During the
Second Empire the Marquis helped arrange the entertainments at Napoleon III's
annual series of autumn house parties at the castle of Compiègn, 80 kilometres
north of Paris, where the Emperor entertained his guests in less formal
surroundings. Besides dancing, the entertainments included billiards,
table-quoits, parlour games such as 'charades', 'forfeits' and 'consequences',
private theatricals (including many amusing sketches written by the Marquis),
charades, and tableaux vivants. To accompany these last, as well as for the
dancing, Emile Waldteufel often presided at the piano. Invitations to the Compiègne
house-parties were much prized, and a popular story concerned the lady who
allegedly had to sell a mill in order to pay for her wardrobe for Compiègne.
'At least she has kept enough flour to make up her face!' came the swift
Toujours ou jamais ('Ever or Never' / 'Immer oder Nimmer'),
Valse, Op. 156 (1877)
This is another of the waltzes that contributed a great deal
to the spread of Emile Waldteufel's fame in the late 1870s. Its tender,
unusually long introduction features a beautiful clarinet solo, after which it
develops into one of Waldteufel's finest sequences of waltz melodies. The
piquant rhythmic shifts, dynamic contrasts and effective use of countermelody
are especially telling, not least in the con grazia part of the third waltz
section. The whole piece has a magnificent melodic sweep and was dedicated by
the composer to his friend Louis Soumis.
Hébé ('Hebe'), Valse, Op. 228 (1888)
Named after the goddess of youth and cupbearer of Mount
Olympus, this was one of the very last waltzes composed by Emile Waldteufel
under his contract with Hopwood & Crew, which expired at the end of 1888.
On 18 March of that year he had written to Charles Coote of Hopwood & Crew,
informing him that Durand, Schoenewerk had made him a proposition to enter into
a new contract and inviting a corresponding offer from Hopwood & Crew. In
the event he signed a new contract with the firm of Cranz, which was just then
looking for a big-name replacement for Johann Strauss, who had himself moved to
Czecho-Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra
The East Slovakian town of Košice boasts a
long and distinguished musical tradition, as part of a province that once
provided Vienna with musicians. The State Philharmonic Orchestra is of
relatively recent origin and was established in 1968 under the conductor Bystrik
Rezucha. Subsequent principal conductors have included Stanislav Macura and Ladislav
Slovák, the latter succeeded in 1985 by his pupil Richard Zimmer. The orchestra
has toured widely in Eastern and Western Europe and plays an important part in
the Košice Musical Spring and the Košice International Organ Festival.
For Marco Polo the orchestra has made the
first compact disc recordings of rare works by Granville Bantock and Joachim
Raff. Writing on the last of these, one critic praised the orchestra for its
competence comparable to that of the major orchestras of Vienna and Prague. The
orchestra has contributed many successful volumes to the complete compact disc Johann
Strauss II and for Naxos has recorded a varied repertoire.
Alfred Waller was born in Southern Bohemia
in 1929 of Austrian parents. He studied at the University of Graz and in 1948
was appointed assistant conductor to the Opera of Ravensburg. At the age of 22
he became conductor of the Graz Opera, where he continued until 1965, while
serving at Bayreuth as assistant to Hans Knappertsbusch and Karl Böhm. From
1966 until 1969 he was Principal Conductor of the Durban Symphony Orchestra in
South Africa, followed by a period of 15 years as General Director of Music in Münster.
In Vienna he has worked as guest conductor at the State Opera and in 1986 was
given the title of Professor by the Austrian Government. In 1980 he was awarded
the Golden Medal of the International Gustav Mahler Society. For Marco Polo, Alfred Walter has recorded more than 15 volumes of
the label's Johann Strauss II Edition, works by von Schillings, von Einem, de Bériot,
Reinecke and all symphonic works of Furtwängler. He is currently engaged in
recording the complete symphonies of Spohr.
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WALDTEUFEL: The Best of Emile Waldteufel, Vol. 4