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ClassicsOnline Home » STRAUSS II, J.: Jabuka (Das Apfelfest)
An operetta with musical elements of true opera, Jabuka (Das Apfelfest), is Johann Strauss the Younger’s fourteenth stage work. An annual Apple Festival in the Serbian town of Ravica is an opportunity for local young people to choose a partner. The girl bites an apple, gives it to her chosen boy, and if he also takes a bite, the match is made. It is against this backdrop that the impoverished noblemen, Mirko and Vasil, find a way out of their difficulties by finding rich brides at the Apple Festival of the title. With its strikingly fresh and original melodies, great ensembles and some of the finest choruses Strauss ever wrote, Jabuka was a huge success at its première in Vienna in October 1894.
By David Denton
Johann Strauss II (1825-1899)
Jabuka (Das Apfelfest / The Apple Festival)
Operetta in Three Acts
Libretto by Max Kalbeck and Gustav Davis
Mirko von Gradinaz – Thomas Tischler (tenor)
Vasil von Gradinaz – Wolfgang Veith (tenor)
Mischa, a rich peasant – Michael Schober (bass)
Jelka, his daughter – Veronika Groiss (soprano)
Petrija, her aunt – Elisabeth Wolfbauer (mezzo-soprano)
Bambora, a factory owner – Helmut Josef Ettl (baritone)
Annita, his daughter – Elisabeth Wolfbauer (mezzo-soprano)
Joschko, a court servant – Franz Födinger (tenor)
Franjo, a policeman – Alexander Eschig (baritone)
Staklo / Sava – Max Sahliger (bass)
Gaudeamus Choir Brno (Chorus-master: Štěpán Policer)
European Johann Strauss Orchestra (Concert-master: Jiří Preisinger)
Christian Pollack (Conductor and music director)
Jabuka is Johann Strauss's fourteenth stage work. Its première took place on 12 October 1894, during a very special week when Vienna was celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Strauss's artistic début. The première, starring the great Alexander Girardi, was a crowning jewel of the celebration and a triumph for Strauss. Despite the initial success and enthusiasm, however, the weaknesses of the libretto were obvious. It is believed that Strauss became interested in the Slavic theme of Jabuka after hearing the successful staging of Smetana's The Bartered Bride in Vienna in 1892 during the International Exposition of Music. Jabuka had two librettists, Max Kalbeck who wrote the plot, while Gustav Davis wrote lyrics to songs. Max Kalbeck was a respected journalist and was the translator of The Bartered Bride into German for its Viennese première. Jabuka, however, represented his début in writing for the stage. Gustav Davis, on the other hand, was an experienced librettist. The two librettists soon came into conflict. Max Kalbeck tried to steer Johann Strauss towards an opera, while Gustav Davis was attempting to keep Strauss to a classical operetta. Eventually, the librettists stopped cooperating and Strauss was caught between them. The result is on the one hand a weak libretto, but on the musical side, a very interesting work, part opera, part operetta. Professor Christian Pollack considers Jabuka an excellent work. In his words, if one takes the couplets away, it is a full-scale opera with great ensembles and the finest choruses Strauss ever wrote, and as far as the couplets are concerned, Girardi must have had a feast as they are simply irresistible. Thus Max Kalbeck missed out on his one and only opportunity to write for the theatre. Characteristically for Strauss, the problems with the libretto made absolutely no impact on his excellent relationship with Kalbeck, and the two remained good friends even after Jabuka. In 2003 the Czech Johann Strauss Society decided to stage a rare Strauss operetta as part of the European Johann Strauss Stage Works Festival. This formed part of an idea by Dr Eduard Strauss of Vienna to stage all Strauss's works for the musical theatre. Very soon Jabuka became an obvious choice for its irresistible musicality and Slavic flavour. Professor Christian Pollack used the original Strauss score for this recording, which was provided by Professor Norbert Nischkauer of Vienna. Concert Master and violin soloist Jiří Preisinger organized and led the orchestra. The Czech Johann Strauss Society wishes to thank all three for their great support. The soloists are all from Austria, the chorus and orchestra from Brno.
The operetta takes places in 19th century Serbia.
[CD 1 / Track 1] Local men and women are meeting at Staklo's country inn between the towns of Gradinaz (Gradinac) and Raviza (Ravica), on their way to Jabuka, the annual apple festival. It is time for future grooms and brides to meet. When a boy is interested in a girl, he bites an apple and gives it to her. If the girl likes him, she also takes a bite. If she returns the apple without a bite, it is a no.
[1/2] Impoverished noblemen Mirko and Vasil from Gradinaz arrive in their carriage. They are hoping to solve their financial problems by selling their dilapidated castle to Bambora, a rich starch factory owner. In case the deal does not materialise, the brothers are ready to find themselves rich brides. They are the target of public ridicule for their poverty. To be served, they have to convince the innkeeper Staklo that they are able to pay. Staklo tells the two brothers about Jelka, the beautiful rich farmer's daughter who will surely appear at the festival.
[1/3] Joschko, a court bailiff, enters accompanied by his helper Franjo. Joschko complains about the hard life of a court bailiff. People would rather pay off their debts than have anything seized. He complains to Staklo about his bad day: he has seized nothing, except for a few old costumes which Franjo is carrying in a bag. Joschko's only hope are the two brothers from Gradinaz.
[1/4] Joschko meets Vasil and Mirko, who are worried that he may take their property before they can sell it to Bambora. Mirko distracts Joschko, while Vasil welcomes Bambora who has just arrived with his daughter Annita. Bambora is bragging about his starch business, Vasil about his castle and the long line of distinguished ancestors. The men begin to play cards and all of them are trying to cheat. Annita talks about her wish to add a castle and a coat of arms to the starch factory.
[1/5] Mischa, the rich farmer, enters noisily with his beautiful daughter Jelka and her aunt Petrija. He is upset as their carriage has broken down and they cannot get to the festivities. Jelka sings about being the beauty queen at the apple festival.
[1/6] Mirko admits he likes Jelka, but she refuses him. He offers to lend her his carriage in return for a kiss. Jelka refuses. To punish Jelka, Mirko asks Joschko to put on one of the costumes he has seized, pretend he is a rich magnate, and take Jelka in his carriage to Gradinaz instead of Raviza.
[1/7] Mirko once again asks Jelka for a kiss. She agrees but only to a formal kiss. Mirko demands more and Jelka laughs at him.
[1/8] While Jelka is talking about Mirko's demand, Joschko arrives with the carriage and, in an irresistible couplet, offers Jelka a ride to Raviza. She agrees readily and climbs up. There is room only for her and Aunt Petrija; her father Mischa has to walk behind. Women warn Jelka not to be too proud. Mirko is happy his trick is working out, and Joschko is looking forward to his promised reward and the seizure of the castle. Everybody is leaving for the festivity.
[1/9] At Mirko's and Vasil's castle in Gradinaz, the servants and others are demanding payment. They all would like to join the Jabuka, but have no money. They threaten to stay until they get paid. Mirko arrives and invites all to join the festivity at his castle for free. For the moment, all forget their resolve and join in. Meanwhile Bambora and his daughter Annita also arrive at the castle. Mirko's plan is to pretend to Jelka that she is at an inn in Raviza.
[1/10] Vasil admits that he loves Annita, and they sing together that happiness only exists where two hearts come together.
[1/11] Bambora admires portraits of ancestors and Vasil, in love with Annita, claims that even a painting of a fish represents his ancestors. Mirko makes final arrangements for Jelka's arrival, so that the castle looks like an inn. Joschko enters, dressed as a magnate, together with Jelka, Petrija, and the innkeeper Staklo. Jelka is surprised by the unusual look of the inn and by seeing Mirko again. Jelka and Mirko have another argument. Finally Jelka is upset and demands a room for herself. Mirko takes advantage of this and has her taken to his bedroom. Then he thanks Joschko for a job well done, but Joschko is mainly looking forward to seizing the property. Mirko does not stop him, he is only worried that somebody may see him placing a seal on his goods. At the end of the scene, Bambora returns, Vasil introduces to him Joschko as his uncle, the Count of Gradinaz, who is an antiques expert and is putting his seal of approval on various family items.
[1/12] Joschko in his great couplet 'All Our Ancestors' acts his rôle of a magnate and claims the portraits of farmers are those of famous members of the family.
[1/13] Bambora is possessed with the idea that through his daughter's wedding he could gain the castle and a nobleman's title, and does not object to the relationship between his daughter and Vasil. To top it all, Mirko welcomes local farmers as his noble guests. Country people rejoice that food and drinks are free and entice others to come and celebrate Jabuka. Jelka comes out of her room and causes general displeasure, which she does not understand. Joschko declares Jabuka, the Apple Festival has begun, and hands out apples to the boys, who give them to their chosen girls. Only Mirko gives an apple to Jelka, all the others turn away from her. The girls are dancing and return bitten apples to their boys. Vasil and Annita have already said yes to each other, but Jelka, after a slight hesitation, throws her apple at Mirko's feet. Mirko takes offence but he still is interested in her. The others are laughing at her.
[2/2] The rich farmer Mischa, Jelka's father, enters. The truth comes out that Jelka was in Mirko's bedroom and that she is in Gradinaz, instead of Raviza. Bambora is trying to settle things down by singing, 'That happens in the best of families'.
[2/3] Joschko gets drunk on alcohol he has seized and tells the truth about who he is. Bambora gets upset and begins looking for his daughter, to get her away from Vasil. Joschko is happy as he can finally seize as much as he wants. And on top of that, he has drunk well and has had a good tip. In his last couplet he sings that gone are the bad times and his country prospers. Jelka's father, Mischa, accuses Joschko of fraud, but then asks him to help to make up between Jelka and Mirko. Joschko will do anything for money.
[2/4] The girls are laughing at Jelka, telling her that she has to settle for a broom and engage in a mock dance with a broom. Mirko comes to her rescue and now both fall in love with each other.
[2/5] Annita, Vasil, Jelka, and Mirko sing a song of love.
[2/6] All join in and another festivity starts; everybody is happy, and Johann Strauss delivers what is always expected of him, a great closing waltz.
Dr Vojen Drlik and Thomas Jelinowicz
Historical information provided by Dr Thomas Aigner
[CD 2 / Tracks 7-12] Dance Arrangements from the Operetta Jabuka
[2/7] "Ich bin dir gut!" Walzer (I'm fond of you! Waltz), Op. 455
In contrast to his usual procedure, Strauss personally undertook the orchestration of only one dance piece from the score of Jabuka, the Jabuka-Walzer, which he dedicated to Julie Kalbeck, wife of the Jabuka librettist and Brahms biographer, Max Kalbeck. The waltz was given its first public performance by the Strauss Orchestra, under Eduard Strauss's direction, on 14 October 1894 at a Festival Concert honouring Johann Strauss in the Golden Hall of the Vienna Musikverein, On this recording we hear a later version of the work, which bore a new name: "Ich bin dir gut!", after the title and melody of the Quartet for Jelka, Mirko, Annita and Vasil in Act III of Jabuka.
[2/8] Zivio! Marsch (Your health! March), Op. 456
The conductor and composer Louis Roth (1843-1929) was entrusted with making the arrangements of several Jabuka pieces, which were checked and corrected by Strauss himself before being published in piano solo edition only. From Johann's original suggestion of two quick polkas, a French polka and a quadrille, in addition to the waltz, there in fact emerged a polka schnell (Das Comitat geht in die Hohe!, Op. 457), a polka française (Tanze mit dem Besenstiel!,Op. 458), a polka-mazurka (Sonnenblume, Op. 459), the Jabuka-Quadrille (Op. 460) and, surely one of the composer's most exhilarating creations in march tempo, the splendid Zivio! Marsch. The work takes its title from the Act I (No. 4) sextet "Wir trinken Zivio" – a Serbo-Croat toast. This recording features an arrangement of the Zivio! Marsch made from the piano score by Gustav Fischer, founder and conductor of Vienna's celebrated ensemble, Stadtmusik Wien.
[2/9] Das Comitat geht in die Höh'! Polka schnell (The Comitat goes up in the world! Quick polka), Op. 457
At the première of Jabuka at the Theater an der Wien, Alexander Girardi was cast in the tenor buffo character of the bailiff, Joschko, "whose only passion is seizing goods" (Neue Freie Presse, 13 October 1894). His humorous refrain: "Das Comitat geht in die Höh'!", for which Strauss had written an uncommonly fresh and original melody, was the high point of the evening, receiving thunderous applause. With such an enthusiastic reception accorded to Girardi's Act III number, it is hardly surprising that "Das Comitat geht in die Höh'!" gave its name, as well as some of its music, to the quick polka which Louis Roth arranged from the score of Jabuka. On this recording, Das Comitat geht in die Höh'! has been arranged from the printed piano score by Christian Pollack.
[2/10] Tanze mit dem Besenstiel! Polka française (Dance with the Broomstick! French polka), Op. 458
The thematic content of the French polka Tanze mit dem Besenstiel! draws upon the following sources in the operetta Jabuka: Act III Spott-Chor (Mocking-Chorus) (Jelka and ladies' chorus), the Act I Entrée-Couplet (Joschko: "Im ganzen Land bin ich bekannt") and the Act I Terzett mit Chor (Trio with Chorus) (Mirko: "Mag an der Scholle", then taken up by Vasil to different words). For this recording the orchestral arrangement of Tanze mit dem Besenstiel! has been made by Christian Pollack from the published piano score.
[2/11] Sonnenblume, Polka-Mazur (Sunflower. Polka-Mazurka), Op. 459
The setting for Jabuka was near the Serbian border in one of the nineteenth-century 'Comitate' (districts) almost exclusively inhabited by Serbs in what was then the kingdom of Hungary. "The atmosphere and music of the operetta are strongly reminiscent of Der Zigeunerbaron. The people in the area do not talk a lot of sense, but they sing and dance all the more frequently and have the good sense to have the music for this provided by Strauss… Remarkably, an instrumental piece in the Strauss operetta made an absolutely thrilling impression: the orchestral prelude to the third Act, starting off in waltz-time, exhibits uncommonly tender feeling and overflows with melodic sweetness. The audience could not hear enough of this entr'acte music and it had to be repeated: everyone thought instinctively of the dazzling success which Mascagni's Intermezzo enjoyed at the first performance of Cavalleria rusticana in our Opera Theatre". Thus wrote the critic for the Vienna Neue Freie Presse in his review of the opening night of Jabuka. The choice of title, Sonnenblume, for the polka-mazurka fashioned by Louis Roth, is derived from a reference to the flower in the text to the Act II duet (No. 10) for Annita and Vasil: "Da sah er, wie im Thale die Sonnenblume stand / Zu ihr mit einem Male war er in Lieb' entbrannt" ("Then he saw how the sunflower was standing in the valley / At once he was enflamed with love for it"), although the accompanying melody does not feature in the polka-mazurka itself.
[2/12] Jabuka-Quadrille (Jabuka Quadrille), Op. 460
For this recording Christian Pollack has arranged the Jabuka-Quadrille from the piano score, taking into account the orchestrations in Johann Strauss's operetta score. The themes presented are to be found exclusively in Acts I and II.
[2/13] Jabuka (Das Apfelfest), Potpourri No. 1 for Piano (arranger unknown)
After its fiftieth performance on 18 December 1894, Jabuka was taken out of the schedule of the Theater an der Wien to make way for the new Carl Millöcker operetta, Der Probekuss. It seems highly likely that it was Louis Roth who prepared the two piano arrangements of potpourris from Jabuka, which Gustav Lewy published on 14 October 1894, just two days after the operetta's première. The orchestration of the first of Lewy's printed potpourris for piano is by Christian Pollack, following Strauss's instrumentation as shown in a copyist's manuscript full score of the operetta.
Peter Kemp (Edited by Naxos)
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STRAUSS II, J.: Jabuka (Das Apfelfest)