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ClassicsOnline Home » STRAUSS I, J.: Edition - Vol. 12
In a career that spanned a period from the 1820s until his death in 1849, the older Johann Strauss established an unrivalled position for himself among composers and performers of dance music in Vienna. His own achievements were continued by his three sons, ensuring that the name of Strauss was inextricably identified with the musical pleasures of nineteenthcentury Vienna. The Waltzes included on this recording all reflect topical events. Two sets are a tribute to the great ballerina Marie Taglioni; the Dance Prescriptions, written for the medical fraternity, were said to quicken the pulse sufficiently to cure even the worst hypochondriac, while Myrtles named by Strauss after the evergreen plant symbolic of undying love, celebrated the wedding of Queen Victoria.
By Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics
If this is your cuppa, get it here, as you won't find this music anywhere else! During my career in radio, I was constantly on the lookout for off-the-beaten-track music to serve as 'Name the Composer' fodder - and this would have been perfect then...Veteran conductor Maerzendorfer and his Czech musicians sail through this fluff effortlessly, in a super hi-fi recording. Generic Viennese fare, for sure—but oh, so enjoyable!
By David Denton
We have reached the years 1839 and 1840, and recently recovered from an illness brought about by his hectic tours, Johann Strauss was again plunged into the demand for an endless flow of waltzes.
The father of the Strauss dynasty was at the height of his fame, his status such that the much anticipated opening of converted rooms at the famous Vienna dance hall, the Sperl, was delayed until he could direct his orchestra there. Among the works played for the first time that evening was the joyful, Taglioni Waltzes, and it was also at the Sperl that a few months later he gave the first performance of Londoner-Saison-Walzer (London Season Waltzes), marking the visit he had made to England. Strauss’s illness allowed rivals to make inroads into his music empire, but he was to fight back, and the account of the 1839 ball he arranged at Donmayer’s Casino wrote of the lavish spectacle, Strauss offering a delightful new waltz, Rosenblatter (Rose Petals), for the event. The vivacious Wiener Gemuths Walzer (Waltzes after the Viennese Temperament) came at the end of the season and before thoughts returned to England for the wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. In their honour Myrthen Walzer waspremiered the following day, its name taken from the evergreen plant that is a symbol of undying love. Strauss had been so successfully in introducing Vienna to the French Quadrille, that he was soon unable to meet the demand for new works, Mode Quadrille (Fashionable Quadrille), being one of his effervescent pieces. The performances are in the safe hands of the veteran conductor, Ernst Marzendorfer, whose first major appointment as first conductor of the Graz Opera was way back in 1945. He instinctively feels the tempo and flow of each work and draws idiomatic playing from the Slovak Sinfonietta Zilina. Very good sound quality.
Johann Strauss Snr • Edition • Vol. 12
 Taglioni-Walzer (Taglioni Waltzes), Op. 110
In April 1839 Marie Taglioni the Elder, one of the greatest ballerinas of the nineteenth century, favoured Viennese ballet-lovers with her guest performances. She caused a great stir while appearing in her father’s ballets at the Kärntnertor Theatre especially with her performance of the Spanish dance La Gitana (The Gypsy) at the end of the ballet La Sylphide. Viennese dance conductors knew very well how to exploit the public’s enthusiasm: Joseph Lanner alone composed three works in the dancer’s honour that would almost have caused Johann Strauss the Elder to fall behind by comparison. Hardly had he recovered from the serious illness that had afflicted him as a result of the strain of the previous fourteen-month tour of Western Europe than he was obliged once again to relinquish his professional activities towards the end of the carnival season due to ulcerated kidneys. Consequently, the opening of the converted rooms at the Sperl, announced for 14th April, was postponed until 1st May; the programme was all the more extravagant for it. Strauss played in an “extraordinary midday musical entertainment”; at six o’clock the band of the infantry regiment ‘Hoch- und Deutschmeister’ (Grandmaster of the Teutonic Order) appeared in the garden. Finally, at half past nine, a ball took place under Strauss’s musical direction in the “Fortuna Hall”. Contemporary accounts give no indication concerning which of these sessions witnessed the launch of the Taglioni-Waltzer though still under the title Hommage à Terpsichore. The new work was lavished with the customary éloges, but it is delight at its creator’s recovery that comes most to the fore.
 Londoner-Saison-Walzer (London Season Waltzes), Op. 112
On 27 September 1838 Strauss reported from Southampton to his publisher, Tobias Haslinger, in Vienna: “I shall write to you again from [Edinburgh] as my point of furthest remove from Vienna, accompanied by new waltzes as I have the opportunity to compose … during a stay of about eight days …” The promised consignment probably never arrived, however, as Strauss performed no further new works on British soil after his arrival in Edinburgh on 1st November. Originally performed on 12 June 1839 during a flower festival at the Sperl, the Londoner-Saison- Waltzer, however, could have been composed in England, at least in part, if their title is at all indicative of their origin, in which case they would be identical to the series of waltzes offered prospectively by letter. Haslinger bestowed especial care on the design and layout of the piano reduction. It was in fact by his use of “English lettering in a watered pattern” that the engraver of the front cover gave rise to the notion that the title might be backed with silk. The encomiums with which the critics extolled the composer’s efforts were also elaborate: “His new waltzes are scintillating sparks set ablaze by enthusiastic dances [“the enthused dancer” is probably intended], which it then propels into a great swirl, just as a steam locomotive would.”
 Die Berggeister (The Spirits of the Mountains), Walzer, Op. 113
The Brigitta Fair was celebrated every year at the Augarten in Vienna, which, in times gone by, was one of the imperial city’s most popular public festivals to which writings, such as Franz Grillparzer’s Der arme Spielmann (The Poor Musician), make corresponding references. In stark contrast to the title-figure of the novella, Strauss displayed a quite outstanding grasp of how to capitalize on the festive mood of the populace, although in 1839 he did suffer a little bad luck in this regard for a while: having been set for the second day of the Brigitta Fair on 29th June, the music gala entitled “Rübezahl’s Enchanted Realm Festively Decked” at the Sperl was postponed until 5th August because of inclement weather. Neither the cancellation of the original event nor the recurrence of wind and rain that interfered with the lighting effects and prevented not a few ticket-holders from attending the event, was able to dampen the enthusiasm of those who did. Elaborate scenery with artificial rocks and a model of Rübezahl’s ghostly castle hovering high in the clouds overhead gave the illusion of a ruggedly picturesque terrain. The new waltz sequence, entitled Die Berggeister, with its dark introduction, was entirely suited to the theme. It received “enthusiastic applause which was quite singular of its sort. It will suffice to give a dry, indeed arid, report of the roar of acclaim with which the new waltzes … were received, amidst which they were repeated five times of necessity, a fact that, even in our waltzing mad century, is unheard of.” Strauss seized the day and, summoning up additional attractions, he gave the gala again the following week.
 Rosenblätter (Rose Petals), Walzer, Op. 115
Strauss’s fourteen-month absence and the prolonged period during which he was indisposed for half of the following year were turned to good account by rival Viennese conductors with Joseph Lanner leading the way. Now it was for Strauss to regain lost ground, and one can imagine that this did not occur without a certain amount of friction. In such a delicate situation, Strauss and Lanner came to a reciprocal agreement announced in two Viennese newspapers of 22 and 24 June 1839. It was intended that both darlings of the public were to perform at the four foremost inns of the city in alternation; Strauss and Lanner had already taken turns at Dommayer’s Casino situated not far from the imperial summer residence of Schönbrunn Palace. On 25th June it was Strauss’s turn: he issued his invitation to a gala ball entitled “The Country Surprise or: Scenes of Fond Memories”: “The front of a large pavilion presented an imposing spectacle by shimmering lamplight. Inside at the front stood two pictures magically illuminated by the faint glow from experimental lighting. In the first scene, Dlle. Taglioni as Sylphide floated before our eyes through the pure aether of pictorial delight, and dissipated pleasures arose within our feelings; in the second, we beheld Dlle. Fanny Elsser dancing the cachucha.” This was the context in which the Rosenblätter waltzes received their première, though they were dedicated to a third stage actress of note, the contralto Caroline Unger, who, at the beginning of her career, had appeared as a soloist in the first performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
 Wiener Gemüths-Waltzer (Waltzes after the Viennese Temperament), Op. 116
The cooperative agreement between Strauss and Lanner mentioned above was implemented only in part, and even this lasted only a short time. Meanwhile, a new project appears to have taken shape for Strauss. The first railway line in Russia had commenced operations in 1837 along a thirty-kilometre stretch linking St Petersburg, the capital city at the time, with the imperial summer residences at Tsarskoye Selo and Pavlovsk. In the following year a large pleasure pavilion was erected at the terminus in order to ensure the profitability of a privately funded enterprise; its attractions were intended to encourage the “social betters” of St Petersburg to avail themselves of the new means of transport. Music played an important role in all this and none other than Johann Strauss and his orchestra had been earmarked for the task. The first invitation went out at the same time as the musicians’ grand tour of Western Europe. The offer was made again on 9 July 1839 and now it aroused Strauss’s interest. In the undated draft of a reply, he made certain stipulations with which the organiser had to comply before tackling several major difficulties. It is, however, uncertain whether the letter was actually sent in this form. Negotiations could in any case have been protracted for some time, particularly if we assume that the dedication of the Wiener Gemüths-Waltzer, first performed during the St Catherine’s Day ball at the Sperl on 25 November 1839, to Nikolaus Esterházy de Galantha, the Austrian envoy in St Petersburg, has some bearing on the matter. In the end the engagement fell through and it was to be Johann Strauss the Younger who would eventually perform in Pavlovsk.
 Myrthen (Myrtles), Walzer, Op. 118
On 10 February 1840 at twelve o’clock midday the wedding ceremony of the British Queen, Victoria, and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg took place in the Chapel of St James’s Palace. Strauss had been in charge of the music for the opening state ball on the occasion of Victoria’s accession to the throne and the continued fostering of relations here mattered a great deal to him; he bided his time with a composition in honour of the great celebration, ready for the first opportunity to present itself. This came the very next day during a ball at the Sperl, given for the benefit of the association for the aid of impoverished blind adults, patronage of which had been assumed by Archduke Franz Carl, father of the future Emperor Franz Joseph. Strauss called his new set of waltzes Myrthen, after the evergreen plant symbolic of undying love. The reviewer of the Theaterzeitung (Theatre Journal) mentions “excellent” new waltzes: “No one knows how to perform these with such precision as our hero of the waltz, standing there unshakeable, as if made of iron and his nerves of unbreakable wire.” Almost a century later, the score of the work was even published as part of the prestigious series “Denkmäler der Tonkunst in Österreich”.
 Tanz-Recepte (Dance Prescriptions), Walzer, Op. 119
Owing to a late Easter, the carnival of 1840 was particularly long, much to the delight of Viennese dance halls and their leaseholders: in Lanner’s stronghold at The Golden Pear alone, 41 balls took place. It was, however, Strauss once again who set the record, playing at the Sperl where, on no fewer than 43 evenings, a terpsichorean leg was shaken. Public balls took place there traditionally on Sundays, with the so-called “Fortuna Balls” taking place on Thursdays. Scheduled for Saturdays, the new “Hyacinth Balls” represented something of a novelty and were aimed at the upper echelons of society; in addition, there were numerous private and corporate balls. Amongst the latter, those for the medical fraternity enjoyed a higher standing than most, demonstrated not least by the annual expense of a dedicatory composition from Strauss. In 1840 he arrived with a series of waltzes entitled Tanz-Recepte. Critics alluded to a necessary quickening of pulses occasioned by such prescriptions as these, indeed that they would be capable of increasing every vital activity enough to cure even the worst hypochondriac.
 Mode-Quadrille (Fashionable Quadrille), Op. 138
In 1840, a writer for the Theatre Journal predicted that: “A tremendous response is to be elicited this year in the world of the dance, to wit: A Decisive Contest between the Galop and the French Quadrille! However, it is the latter that shall doubtless emerge triumphant, as it can look to a strong army of supporters and devotees.” The writer praised the quadrille for the “graceful gliding of the dance, the fine co-ordination of the pas, the figures’ compelling charms so graciously intertwined, which the form, figures and movement of the dancers reveal to far greater advantage, and in a more pleasing manner, than does the monotonous turning of the waltz.” In 1838 Strauss became familiar with the authentic interpretation of the quadrille at first hand in Paris through Philippe Musard, who may well have been its most able exponent. On his return, he became a decisive influence in popularising the dance in Vienna as well, and apparently succeeded so conclusively that he was quite unable to keep up with the demand for new quadrilles. This resulted in Strauss’s having to rely on others’ work to play at balls as, for instance, he is known to have done with a quadrille de mode by an unnamed composer during the carnival of 1840. He gave the first performance of his own Mode-Quadrille two years later on 17 January 1842 at the Ball for the Blind, which had already become an established tradition. Seven different arrangements of the work were published—this was by no means unusual for the time—and the version for piano two-hands was also issued in an edition de luxe.
English version by Neil Coleman
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STRAUSS I, J.: Edition - Vol. 12