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ClassicsOnline Home » STRAUSS I, J.: Edition - Vol. 20
Johann Strauss the Elder’s compositions of the mid-1840s are among his very finest. As ever they are saturated with his seemingly inexhaustible vitality and invention, qualities admired by dancers and critics alike. The Austrian Celebration March was written, in dashing military fashion, for the unveiling of a monument to Emperor Franz I. In Bohemian Girl Quadrille, Strauss uses themes from the Irish composer Michael William Balfe’s then wildly popular opera The Bohemian Girl to such dizzying effect that it was encored three times. Sounds of the Vltava, written following the devastating flood in the spring of 1845, was a gift to the citizens of Prague.
By Karl Lozier
Positive Feedback Online
Johann Strauss Snr
Edition • Vol. 20
 Sofien-Tänze (Sophie Dances), Waltzes, Op. 185
The “extremely favourable reception” accorded to the “Redoute im Freyen” which Johann Strauss (the Elder) put on in the spring of 1844 in the Volksgarten prompted him to repeat the event, with the same title, the following year, naturally with a new routine and “in a different, more effective, arrangement”. By that was meant the décor and the lighting, two crucial prerequisites for the success of Strauss’s benefit concerts. Although the weather did not play ball and the wind blew out most of the little coloured lights, a huge crowd was in attendance: “Around the pavilion where Strauss was playing the music people were offering kingdoms for easy chairs and poems for a reasonable standing place” reported one chronicler. “When I pushed my way towards the master of the waltz in order to hear his Sophie Dances it would have been necessary to take out insurance against cracked ribs. And those with corns also took a hammering. But one could forgive this oppressive throng on account of the charming Sophie Dances which were orchestrated in such a tender and melodic way, were so artlessly piquant, so inventive and so effective, that one could never tire of hearing this splendid work; it was consequently inevitable that the enthusiastic response should result in its being encored three times.”
 Moldau-Klänge (Sounds of the Vltava), Waltzes, Op. 186
After the River Elbe and its tributaries, including the Vltava, had caused a devastating flood in the spring of 1845, Strauss put on a benefit concert for the flood victims in Bohemia at which he gave the première of his set of waltzes Heitere Lebensbilder, Op. 181 (Marco Polo 8.225339). True to the maxim that he who helps quickly helps twice as much, in April of that year Strauss had donated an advance of 400 guilders, a very considerable sum, to the disaster fund. So when he stopped off in Prague on 15 October while on his way to Berlin, he was sure of receiving a correspondingly friendly reception. Strauss brought with him a new set of waltzes, Sounds of the Vltava, as a gift for his hosts, the residents of the Bohemian capital, who in the meantime had doubtless pardoned the river. Strauss introduced the work to the Viennese public on 11 January 1846 in the Sperl ballroom in celebration of the opening of the carnival season. Subsequently the Sounds of the Vltava achieved: “…increasing acclaim with every performance of it so that one finds new beauties in the waltzes whenever one hears them. […] These waltzes display melody, loveliness of form, an invitation to dance, emotion and an almost matchless beauty of instrumentation.”
 Concert-Souvenir-Quadrille, Op. 187
For each of the balls held by the Society of Music Friends Strauss was in the habit of presenting a new work from his pen and this would make musical references to the highlights of the current concert season. In the Concert-Souvenir-Quadrille of which Strauss gave the première in the Großer Redoutensaal of the Hofburg on 4 February 1846 the first, third, fourth and fifth sections were based on melodies from Félicien David’s Ode-Symphony Le désert [The Desert]. The French composer had conducted his work the previous December in the Theater an der Wien and later in the Kärntnertor Theatre. On the subject of Strauss’s reworking of his melodies the wit Moritz Saphir remarked: “That is the fate of beauty in the desert.” In the second section, Eté, Strauss quotes themes from the Konzertstück L’Inquiétude, Op. 29, by the pianist Alexander Dreyschock, who had given six successful concerts. The Finale is based on Yankee Doodle which had inspired the violinist-composer Henri Vieuxtemps, who was giving concerts in Vienna at the same time, to write a set of variations, his Op. 17.
 Österreichischer Fest-Marsch (Austrian Celebration March), Op. 188
As the title-page of the first edition records proudly the Austrian Celebration March owes its genesis to the unveiling of a memorial to the Emperor Franz I, the father and predecessor of the then regent Ferdinand I. The laying of the foundation stone for the monument, which was situated in the inner Burghof, had taken place on 30 October 1843, the thirtieth anniversary of the Battle of the Nations in Leipzig. The planned completion of the memorial within a year was subject to considerable delay. The ceremonial unveiling was planned finally for 16th June 1846, commemorating the day on which Franz I returned from Paris following the defeat of Napoleon in 1814. In the inner Burghof platforms were erected for 10,000 people and the imperial court accordingly set aside many complimentary tickets for the public “…without respect to social standing” as it took pains to indicate. In addition to important and very important dignitaries various military units took part in the celebrations, including the Militia Guard. Strauss was the bandmaster of the First Viennese Civilian Militia so he presumably gave the first performance of the new work at the closing march-past.
 Die Vortänzer (The Dancing Masters), Waltzes, Op. 189
A benefit ball organized by Strauss on 16 February in his regular haunt, the Sperl ballroom, was one of the highlights of the 1846 carnival season. The motto of the event was “Life is a Dance”. The music was provided by no fewer than three bands, including of course Strauss’s own and he included on the programme a set of waltzes composed specially for the occasion. The work was called The Dancing Masters and it drove one reporter to a frenzy of enthusiasm: “Strauss’s most vaunted works seem already to have reached the peak of perfection; his earlier works are also full of pith and life, but they are not of such high quality as the works of his recent years.” In particular The Dancing Masters, in the opinion of the reporter, was: “…in every respect pre-eminent”. Incidentally in the second part of the second waltz Strauss quotes the children’s song Alles neu macht der Mai (May makes everything new)—perhaps he reveals therein his anticipation of spring?
 Epionen-Tänze (Epione Dances), Waltzes, Op. 190
The Doctors’ Ball, which took place on 3 February 1846 in the Sperl, also received a splendid review. “Bandmaster Strauss the Elder enjoyed the most enormous applause for his new Epione Waltzes, dedicated to the doctors” the critic summed up, unsurprisingly. Yet again a classical goddess had to serve as a work title. Epione, the soother of pain, is the wife of Asklepios, the god of medicine, and the mother of Hygieia, goddess of health. It is worth remarking that at this celebration another new work was performed alongside the Epione Dances, namely a quadrille by a student of medicine called Hofgartner. This work was even brought out by Strauss’s own publisher, Haslinger, and the proceeds given to a benefit fund for doctors. It is highly probable that, behind the
scenes, Strauss had smoothed the path, just as he may be credited for having orchestrated the quadrille.
 Zigeunerin-Quadrille (Bohemian Girl Quadrille), Op. 191
In the mid-1840s Michael William Balfe, who is almost forgotten today, was one of the most popular opera composers in Europe. In Vienna too his compositions were all the rage, not to say sensational, and as usual Strauss was not going to miss out on the opportunity of capitalizing on this popularity. Such was the case with Balfe’s opera The Bohemian Girl which was given its Austrian première on 24 July 1846 in the Theater an der Wien in Vienna under the baton of Franz von Suppé and with the title Die Zigeunerin. As early as 7 August in a grand musical evening celebration in the Volksgarten Strauss presented to his public not only the opera’s overture but also his own Zigeunerin-Quadrille based on themes from the opera. As befitted a new work from his pen it was so well liked that it had to be repeated three times. But for Strauss there was a fly in the ointment: his son had preempted him at least a week earlier with his own Zigeunerin-Quadrille.
 Esmeralda Marsch (Esmeralda March), Op. 192
Another theatrical novelty, which prompted Strauss to base one of his own works on it, was the mimed ballet La Esmeralda by Jules Perrot with music by Cesare Pugni, which had its première on 6 May 1846 in the Kärntnertor Theatre. The title-rôle was danced by one of the most famous ballerinas of the time, Fanny Elssler, the daughter of Joseph Haydn’s favourite copyist. It seems slightly odd that Strauss was inspired by this ballet not to write a work for dancing but only a march. Be that as it may, from time to time Strauss had to come up with a new composition in his capacity as bandmaster of the First Viennese Militia Regiment. The Esmeralda March appeared on 6 August 1846 as “Viennese Civilian March No. 6 of the First Regiment”.
 Fest-Lieder (Festival Songs), Waltzes, Op. 193
The traditional festival evening celebration put on in the Volksgarten was intended originally as an early celebration of the name day of “the universally-beloved sovereign” Ferdinand I but, probably because of the weather, it had to be postponed for three days until 2 June. The quadrille mania was already past its peak, so after a number of years Strauss chose again a set of waltzes for the occasion. “Called Festival Songs, they bring together all of Strauss’s qualities and enjoyed such a warm reception that they had to be repeated twice.” The critic who found such complimentary words and for whom Strauss really was the only one: “…who knows how to make paradises from the Sahara that is the current state of soirées and gala events” found, just for once, a hair in the soup. In particular it seemed to him: “…that these beautiful waltzes were too artificial, because the orchestra, which was otherwise so precise, occasionally faltered and as a result one had to expect that, were it to appear more often, it would be more appreciated.”
 Eldorado-Quadrille, Op. 194
The enormous Odeon, the biggest dance-hall in Europe, underwent alterations in 1846 after being beset by a number of teething troubles in its first year. For the opening of the spring season on 3rd May a swanky newspaper advertisement announced nothing less than “A Night in Eldorado”. The specifically advertised “Eldorado- Souvenirs for the ladies” led one commentator to speculate that the matter in question had to be “a magnificent solitaire diamond the size of a dove’s egg”. The invitation mentioned further attractions: “…a beautifully scented labyrinth of flowers”, a “magically lit garden”, “a sparkling Eldorado gold grotto with purple lights” and, last but not least, that “…on this evening, as well as his latest most popular dance compositions…” Johann Strauss, “…with his unusually-augmented orchestra would perform a new quadrille, the Eldorado-Quadrille, which had been composed specifically to add lustre to this celebration.” In fact the ladies’ gifts turned out to be nothing more than simple bouquets of flowers, whereas the decor, skillfully arranged by a professional interior designer, stood up to the high expectations. When the reviewer who had to report on the event came to Strauss’s achievements he had run out of superlatives.
 Die Unbedeutenden (Those of No Importance), Waltzes, Op. 195
On 22 September 1845 Strauss had put on an open-air celebration for the benefit of the city’s children’s hospital in the Wieden district of Vienna, in which he also employed the choir of the Leopoldstädter Theatre. Because of the closure of the theatre for repairs the singers had been put out of work. Indeed its performances had not significantly raised the artistic value of Strauss’s work, yet this charitable action had a sequel. When a musical and declamatory concert was put on on 2 July 1846 in the renovated theatre in aid of the St Elisabeth Hospital, Strauss was represented by a new set of waltzes. He called them Those of No Importance, in reference to Johann Nestroy’s farce Der Unbedeutende (A Man of No Importance) which had been given its first performance exactly two months earlier in the same venue, but without borrowing from Wenzel Müller’s stage music. Incidentally, Nestroy put in an appearance in the colourful programme. All the participants won high praise from public and press alike for their representations.
English translation by David Stevens
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STRAUSS I, J.: Edition - Vol. 20