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ClassicsOnline Home » WALDTEUFEL: The Best of Emile Waldteufel, Vol. 7
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 Leon (1832 -
their Germanic surname, the family were French. This is explained by their German ancestry
and 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 9th 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 his brother Leon 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 Ill's Second Empire. In 1865 Emile was appointed court pianist to the Empress
Eugenie in succession to Joseph
Ascher (composer of' Alice, where art thou?'), performing at Court functions not only in Paris but in Biarritz and Compiegne. From 1867 the Waldteufel orchestra played at Napoleon Ill's magnificent Court
balls at the
After the Franco-Prussian War the orchestra again presided at the
balls at the
Elysee. 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 October 1874 he
happened to be playing at a soiree 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 London.
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 ever since.
Waldteufel appeared in London in 1885 and Berlin in 1889, and in 1890 and 1891 he conducted at the Paris Opera Balls.
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 his style was by then outdated. He died in Paris on 12th February 1915 at the age of 77. His
wife, a former singer Celestine Dufau, whom he married in 1873 and who bore him 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
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
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
copyright collecting agency
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.
Prestissimo, Galop, Op. 152 (1877)
The various types of dance performed in the nineteenth-century ballroom
all had their individual
purpose. Whereas waltzes provided the evening's glamour and romance, galops served not only
to provide relief from the prevailing ¾ tempo but also to bring an evening's
enjoyment to a rousing conclusion. For such a purpose there could scarcely have
been a better example than the exhilarating Prestissimo,
in which the momentum never flags, with the brass instruments making a prominent
contribution. It was one of the earliest products of Emile Waldteufel's exclusive
publishing contract with Hopwood & Crew, whose edition portrays a circus
rider bursting through a hoop from the back of a horse. The publication carries a
dedication to Madame Isaac pereire.
Reverie, Valse, Op. 202 (1885)
By the mid-1880s Emile Waldteufel's music was well enough established
for each new piece to be
accepted readily for the programmes of society balls and as material for theatre orchestras and
military band. The novelties may not have created quite the same deep effect
as the great waltzes of the late-1870s, but each newcomer could be relied upon for
the qualities of melodic grace, charm and refinement that typify a Waldteufel
waltz. Such was the case with the waltz Reverie, in which an appropriately dreamy
air may be detected especially in its lovely main theme and in the first part of the fourth
section - both marked espressivo. Other sections bear the
usual contrasted markings of a Waldteufel waltz - grazioso, con fuoco, espressivo and energico,
before a fanfare heralds the coda's reprise of the main themes. The work provides an example of
how, in London, some of the pieces were not launched
in the ballroom but used as diversions in theatrical entertainments. Reverie,
for instance, was used in the pantomime The Forty Thieves, produced at the Drury Lane Theatre, London during the winter of 1886 - 1887. The published edition
carries a dedication to the Marchioness du Bourg.
Bella bocca (Bonne bouche), Polka I Gourmand-Polka, Op. 163 (1879)
Probably the most widely successful of all Emile Waldteufel's polkas is
the jaunty little Bella bocca, which takes its name
from the expression for a 'titbit' – most particularly something with which to end a meal. Curiously, whereas in
English the French words 'bonne bouche'
are used, the French use the equivalent Italian words 'bella bocca'. Hence the
alternative titles of this polka. When later published in Germany, the piece was given the
German title of 'Gourmand-Polka', reflecting the original Hopwood & Crew title page which shows a
neck, relishing what looks like an oyster. The piece was dedicated to M. Jules Tardiveau.
Coquetterie (Princess May), Valse, Op. 218 (1887)
During the 1880s Emile Waldteufel's exclusive contract with Hopwood
& Crew provided for him to
supply eight pieces a year. This supply, however, soon seems to have exceeded demand. Thus
Hopwood & Crew ceded initial publication rights to the Parisian firm of Durand, Schoenewerk,
who duly brought out new pieces more or less as they became available. By contrast Hopwood & Crew,
having prepared printing plates,
published some of the pieces but allowed others to remain unpublished in Britain for years. Such was the
case with the waltz Coquetterie, which Durand, schoenewerk
published in mid-1887. By 1893 it was still on Hopwood & Crew's shelves unpublished; but then
the firm of Chappell found
itself in need of a waltz to commemorate the marriage of Prince Albert (the future King George V) to Princess
May of Teck. The records of Hopwood & Crew show that on 18th May 1893 they sold
Chappell the British publication rights of Coquetterie for the sum of £20, plus
17s 4d (87p) for the publishing plates and £1 4s (£1.20) for the engraving, with a
further £20 payable if over 10,000 copies were sold. Renamed Princess May, the
waltz was published by Chappell and introduced to London Society at a State Ball at Buckingham Palace on 30th June 1893. It contains some majestic themes that make it a
particularly apt choice for Chappell's purposes, though there are also more coquettish themes to
justify its original title.
Un premier bouquet (A First Bouquet / Der erste Blumenstrauss), Valse, Op. 201 (1885)
Another waltz from the mid-1880s, Un premier bouquet opens with a
charmingly scored and deferential
introduction that aptly creates the impression of a young man presenting his beloved with her
first bouquet. There then follow the usual string of Waldteufel waltz melodies
with contrasted markings – successively grandioso,
energico, risoluto, espressivo, appassionato, espressivo again, risoluto and
con fuoco. The espressivo rising
theme of the second part of the second waltz section and the con fuoco passage of the
fourth waltz section are especially effective. The piece was dedicated to Mlle Leontine Trefeu.
Could she, one wonders, have been related to Etienne Trefeu (1821-1903), who
later wrote the text for Waldteufel's vocal waltz Desesperance, as well as many song
texts and libretti for Offenbach?
Jeunesse doree (Gilded Youth I Jugendtraume), Valse, Op.175 (1881)
Coming from the time when Emile Waldteufel's music had finally been
accepted internationally, the
waltz Jeunesse doree deliciously captures the carefree atmosphere of youth. The scherzando
second part of the second waltz section and the con amabile first part of
the fourth section are among its most endearing features. The waltz was dedicated to
Monsieur N. Vega Llombard.
Nuee d'oiseaux (Cloud of Birds / Zugvogel), Polka, Op. 243 (1890)
In view of the way in which Hopwood & Crew allowed stocks of Waldteufel compositions to build up unpublished
during the 18805, it is scarcely surprising that the firm chose not to enter
into a new contract when the existing one expired at the end of 1888. Instead Emile Waldteufel
signed a new contract with the firm of Cranz, which had just lost the services of its biggest name
Strauss. The jaunty polka Nuee d'oiseaux, offering fine
opportunities for individual instruments, was one of the earlier products of the contract, appearing
during the first of the two years
when Emile Waldteufel directed the music at the Opera Balls.
Tresor d' amour (Love- Treasure / Schatzliebchen), Valse, Op. 199 (1885)
Yet another product of the mid-1880s, the waltz Tresor d'amour
charm of the typical Waldteufel creation. It offers some particularly effective interplay between the
instruments of the orchestra and was dedicated to Mlle Marie Durrieu.
Au revoir (Farewell), Valse, Op.149 (1876)
Au revoir was among the waltzes with which Emile Waldteufel began his London conquest in the mid-1870s.
Especially noteworthy is the introduction, which is far more elaborate than was
later to become the composer's norm, with the opening andante maestoso
bars leading into a little tone poem that has the atmosphere of a barcarolle. The
waltz was dedicated to Princess Achille Murat, a member of the Bonaparte family. As with Coquetterie much later,
the British publication rights to Chappell & Co.
Author of Skaters' Waltz: the Story of the Waldteufels
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WALDTEUFEL: The Best of Emile Waldteufel, Vol. 7