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ClassicsOnline Home » STRAUSS FAMILY: Favourite Dances (Johann Strauss Orchestra, Wildner)
The Strauss family was one of music’s greatest dynasties. In this glittering disc, we hear such classics as the Radetzky March of Johann Strauss I, and his son, Johann Strauss II’s overture to Der Zigeunerbaron (The Gypsy Baron), one of the enduring masterpieces of the Viennese concert repertoire. The irresistibly exciting Unter Donner und Blitz (Thunder and Lightning) offers thunderous delight, whilst An der schönen blauen Donau (On the Beautiful Blue Danube) is one of the most unforgettable melodies ever written. Strauss the Elder’s second son, Josef, was an outstanding composer in his own right, as demonstrated by the frenzy of excitement that is the Jokey-Polka (Jockey-Polka).
By Brian Reinhart
Johann Strauss I (1804−1849)
Radetzky-Marsch, Op 228
Johann Strauss II (1825−1899) Der Zigeunerbaron: Overture • Geschichten aus dem Wienerwald, Waltz, Op 325 • Annen-Polka, Op 117 • Unter Donner und Blitz, Polka, Op 324 • Maskenball-Quadrille, Op 272 • An der schönen blauen Donau, Waltz, Op 314 • Champagner-Polka, Op 211
Josef Strauss (1827−1870) Dynamiden Waltz, Op 173 • Jokey-Polka, Op 278 • Auf Ferienreisen!, Polka, Op 133
Johann Strauss was born in Vienna in 1804, and in 1816 was apprenticed to a bookbinder. He found a place as a violinist in a dance orchestra under Michael Pamer and as a viola-player in an ensemble started by Joseph Lanner. The ensemble developed from a quartet to a string orchestra, the increased popularity of which led first to Strauss leading a second Lanner orchestra and then, in 1825, to the establishment of his own dance orchestra. His eldest son, Johann Strauss II, was born in 1825 and became the most famous and enduringly successful light music composer of the nineteenth century, achieving so high a development of the classical Viennese waltz that it became as much a feature of the concert hall as of the ballroom. The second son of Johann Strauss I, Josef, was born in Vienna on 20 August 1827. After completing his formal education he studied mechanical engineering and embarked upon a career as an architectural draughtsman and foreman; a career that he soon abandoned when he joined the family music ‘business’ full time.
Johann Strauss worked on the score of Der Zigeunerbaron (The Gypsy Baron) for longer than had hitherto been his practice with stage works. During this period, the project changed from its conception as an Hungarian comic opera into an Austro-Hungarian operetta. The overture for Der Zigeunerbaron, first heard at the première on 24 October 1885 at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien, comprises music from the first two acts of the operetta. The orchestral Allegro moderato and Andantino passages are to be found in the Act 1 Finale, while the Allegretto moderato is taken from the Act 2 Trio for Saffi, Czipra and Barinkay. The Tempo di Valse that follows a melodramatic intermezzo is the principal waltz theme from the Act 2 Finale. Gypsy rhythms dominate the final Allegro sections of the piece. The overture to Der Zigeunerbaron swiftly became a staple of Viennese concert repertoire and has justifiably remained so to the present day.
The Geheime Anziehungskräfte (Dynamiden) Waltz (The Secret Powers of Attraction Waltz), which Josef Strauss wrote for the 1865 Industrialists’ Ball, ventured into realms not explored as a rule by dance music. Perhaps it was the title that extended the traditional waltz form to the boundaries of symphonic music: Geheime Anziehungskräfte, which he also called Dynamiden, following a suggestion by mechanical engineer JF Redtenbach.
The Annen-Polka (Anna Polka), Op 117 dates from 1852, the year in which Strauss first appeared as conductor at the Court Balls in Vienna. It was to prove the most popular of all his dances during his visit to London in 1867. The polka was occasioned by the Name Day celebrations for St Anna on 26 July 1852—one of the most popular red-letter days in the Viennese calendar—although Johann presented his new work two days earlier, on 24 July, at an open-air festival.
Josef Strauss was partial throughout his life to the sport of horseracing. The première of the Jokey-Polka (Jockey Polka) was promised for a benefit ball by the Strauss orchestra on 17 February 1870 in the flower halls of the Gartenbaugesellschaft (Garden Society). On this occasion, when the work was first played, one can imagine the dancers being whipped into a frenzy as they spun around in time to the driving beat of this polka. The Jokey-Polka enjoyed a further triumph at the Strauss orchestra’s carnival revue on 13 March 1870 at the Music Society: all three Strauss brothers appeared on that occasion before the public in the overflowing Golden Hall and personally performed their new works.
The decorative first piano edition of Johann Strauss’s evocative waltz Geschichten aus dem Wienerwald (Tales from the Vienna Woods) Op 325 carries the composer’s respectful dedication to his Highness Prince Constantin zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst, and the work was almost certainly given its world première at a private soirée in the prince’s sixteenth-century palace in the Augarten, Vienna, during summer 1868. A particularly strong impression was made by the waltz’s expansive introduction of 122 bars, a rustic tone-poem evocative of the countryside of the Wienerwald, the wooded eastern foothills of the Alps, situated just north-west of Vienna. It is curious to reflect, therefore, that at no time in his life did the composer himself undertake walks in the Vienna Woods—indeed, he expressed a lifelong fear of climbing even the most gentle of hills! Through the use of a zither (replaced on this recording by an optional string ensemble) and Ländler-style rhythms in the introduction and coda, Strauss emphasizes the close ties between the Viennese Waltz and the peasant music of Lower Austria.
Unter Donner und Blitz (Thunder and Lightning) was written in 1868 for the annual Hesperus Ball and invokes the Thunder and Lightning of the title with the help of the percussion section. Thunderous timpani rolls and lightning cymbals give flashes of sound and fury above a humorous and light-hearted work.
The Maskenball-Quadrille (Quadrille on themes from Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera), Op 272, is an example of the important social function that the Strauss Orchestra fulfilled by introducing into its programmes selections from operatic works that many of its audiences might not otherwise have troubled to hear. The Strauss family’s composers were also adept at arranging melodies from operatic works of the day into the form of quadrilles, one of the most popular dance styles in nineteenth-century ballrooms. Such was the case with Giuseppe Verdi’s opera, Un ballo in maschera. Although it was first staged at the Teatro Apollo, Rome on 17 February 1859, a complete production was not mounted in Vienna until nearly eight years later. Johann Strauss preempted this, however, when, on 21 December 1862 in the Volksgarten, he presented the first performance of his quadrille on themes from Verdi’s opera.
Auf Ferienreisen! (On a Holiday Trip!) had a particularly personal history for Josef Strauss. During the carnival season of 1863, doctors had forbidden his brother Johann any mental exertion—including composing—in view of his deep depression. Josef stepped in and provided all the dedication compositions for the magnificent Student’s Ball, held on 11 February 1863 in the ballrooms at the Imperial Palace. Vienna’s university students had organised an Association for the Sick as a way to provide needy students with opportunities for recovery and convalescence. The goals set by the Association and the use intended for the considerable proceeds to be obtained from the Ball explain the title and the form of the composition which Josef Strauss dedicated to the students. A merry trumpet call signals the start, and Strauss adapted student songs (Edite, bibite) and melodies of his own vim and vigour, as befits a true Strauss work.
In the summer or autumn of 1866 Johann Strauss—commissioned by the highly prestigious Wiener Männergesang-Verein (Vienna Men’s Choral Association)—began sketching themes for a choral waltz, his first, which would eventually bear the title An der schönen blauen Donau (On the Beautiful Blue Danube) Op 314. Initially the Association received from Strauss a four-part unaccompanied chorus of four waltzes without introduction and with a brief coda. The Association’s ‘house poet’, Josef Weyl, now added a text—at times witty, sometimes satirical, sometimes ironical—to the four waltzes and coda, exhorting peasants, financiers, builders, landlords, artists and politicians to dance away their cares in the carnival celebrations. Weyl had already completed his task when Strauss submitted a fifth waltz section, requiring the poet to make hurried adjustments. It should be noted that in Weyl’s text there is no reference whatsoever to the River Danube. Only shortly before the first performance on 15 February 1867 was it decided to furnish the new waltz with an orchestral accompaniment: Strauss duly obliged, adding the beautiful, shimmering introduction by which the work is now instantly recognised throughout the world.
In 1828, prompted by Strauss’s increasing popularity, Anton Diabelli published some early compositions by Johann Strauss II, which had been in his archives. He followed Strauss’s Champagner-Galopp, Op 8 with the Champagner-Polka. The orchestration is simple, only for one flute, two clarinets, two horns, one trumpet, three violins and bass. The melodies are pleasing but have the lilt that continued to mark his compositions and that helped to bring him worldwide fame.
Johann Strauss the Elder’s Radetzky March Op 228 was written in 1848, the year before his death. The composer conducted its first performance in Vienna on 31 August 1848 at a major open-air festivity celebrating the victory of the Austrian Imperial army under Field-Marshal Johann Josef Wenzel, Count Radetzky von Radetz, against Italian forces at Custozza, and the march was allegedly written in the space of just two hours. Adapted from notes by
Keith Anderson (Introduction, track 6),
Peter Kemp (tracks 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11)
and Franz Mailer (tracks 2, 4, 8, 10)
The New Complete Edition of Johann Strauss by the Vienna Strauss Edition
The music written by the Strauss family has its roots deep in the Viennese light and folk music traditions: it is difficult, therefore, to verify the original sources of these folk tunes.
According to the tastes of the time, the pieces were more or less modified: often shortened and changed beyond recognition. Sometimes this took the original musical meaning away completely and altered the emotional substance.
The Viennese musicologist, conductor and composer Michael Rot has been working for many years on the critical edition of the complete works by Johann Strauss, edited by the Vienna Strauss Edition, a division of the Publishing Group Hermann. The works by Johann Strauss II on this recording production are from the Vienna Strauss Edition.
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