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ClassicsOnline Home » STRAUSS II, J.: Edition - Vol. 3
The Johann Strauss Edition
Johann Strauss II, the most famous and
enduringly successful of 19th-century light music composers, was born in Vienna
on 25 October 1825. Building upon the firm musical foundations laid by his
father, Johann Strauss I (1804-1849) and Joseph Lanner (1801-1843), the younger
Johann (along with his brothers, Josef and Eduard) achieved so high a
development of the classical Viennese waltz that it became as much a feature of
the concert hall as of the ballroom. For more than half a century Johann II
captivated not only Vienna but also the whole of Europe and America with his
abundantly tuneful waltzes, polkas, quadrilles and marches. The thrice-married
'Waltz King' later turned his attention to the composition of operetta, and
completed 16 stage works besides more than 500 orchestral compositions –
including the most famous of all waltzes, The Blue Danube (1867). Johann
Strauss II died in Vienna on 3 June 1899.
The Marco Polo Strauss Edition is a
milestone in recording history, presenting, for the first time ever, the entire
orchestral output of the 'Waltz King'. Despite their supremely high standard of
musical invention, the majority of the compositions have never before been
commercially recorded and have been painstakingly assembled from archives
around the world. All performances featured in this series are complete and,
wherever possible, the works are played in their original instrumentation as
conceived by the 'master orchestrator' himself, Johann Strauss II.
Mountain Songs, Waltz op. 18 (Berglieder)
An impressive festival for Tyrolean
residents in Vienna was held on 18 August 1845 in the Tivoli amusement park on
the heights of the Grüne Berg in Meidling. Apart from boasting a splendid
panoramic vista across Vienna, the Tivoli's greatest attraction was an early
forerunner of the 'roller-coaster' equipped to carry light carriages along a
Such was the setting in which the younger
Johann Strauss introduced his evocative waltz Berglieder, a work which already
demonstrates the composer's consummate mastery of orchestral writing. The
unaccompanied horn solo in the introduction, and the use of the instrument in
the opening waltz, at once establishes the alpine atmosphere of the piece.
Although not designated as such, Berglieder is strictly speaking a waltz
written in the style of the Austrian Ländler , an unsophisticated rustic
ancestor of the Viennese Waltz itself.
Practical Joke, Polka op. 17 (Jux-Polka)
An event of major significance for Johann
Strauss Father attaches to 24 January 1846, for it was on this day that he was
granted by decree the title of 'k.k. Hofball-Musikdirektor' (Director of Music
for the Imperial-Royal Court Balls). This purely honorary title, specifically
created for Johann I, was to remain within the Strauss family until 1901 when
Eduard, the youngest brother, relinquished it on account of his own advanced
Strauss Father's position in Vienna's
musical life was now unassailable, and with orchestral forces exceeding 200
musicians at his command, he continued to dominate proceedings in the Austrian
capital's major dance establishments. His son, Johann II, had to content
himself with playing in the smaller venues, and 24 January 1846 – the very date
of Strauss Father's appointment – found him at the Sträussel-Säle in the
Theater in der Josefstadt building, conducting the music for the Industrial
Ball. It was on this occasion that he gave the first performance of his merry Jux-Polka.
Johann never divulged the exact nature of the 'practical joke', but it may well
have been connected with premature newspaper reports of his supposed romantic
involvement with the ballerina Kathi Lanner, daughter of the late
composer/conductor, Joseph Lanner.
Vienna Punch Songs, Waltz op. 131 (Wiener
Johann Strauss II combined a seemingly inexhaustible flow of melodic ideas
with an enviable mastery of orchestration. In his family autobiography,
Erinnerungen (1906), the composer's brother Eduard noted: "He [Johann] was
the quickest at instrumentation. Thus, for his benefit concert planned for a
Carnival Monday [7 February 1853] in the 'Sperl' entertainment establishment,
he took two days to orchestrate a waltz, complete with Introduction and Coda,
entitled 'Punschlieder', dedicated to Moritz Gottlieb Saphir, the editor of the
journal 'Der Humorist'. However, the work time was only four hours on the
first, and five hours on the second day. Certainly a remarkable mental and
physical achievement since, at that time, the waltz had five numbers (each
consisting of two parts) and a long Coda".
Emblazoned on the title-page of Strauss's
waltz is Saphir's motto: "To season the raw dough of life, let us love,
sing, drink, waltz!" The verse is a parody of lines in the poem Punschlied
by the German author Schiller, who recommends four ingredients for making
punch: "Lemon, sugar, water and – spirit". The popularity in Vienna
at that time of the English humorous-satirical weekly magazine, Punch,
apparently prompted Strauss's music publisher to incorporate the 'Punch' character
on the title-page of the first piano edition of Johann's waltz, and to adopt
the English spelling.
Demons Quadrille op. 19
Johann II was not immediately able to
capitalise fully on the success of his October 1844 début, since Vienna's major
centres of entertainment had existing contracts with the elder Johann Strauss.
Not until the summer of 1845 was there a noticeable improvement in the younger
Johann Strauss's circumstances, when he became Bandmaster of the 2nd Vienna
Citizens' Regiment and was also engaged to conduct his orchestra at soireés at
the Casino Zögernitz in Oberdöbling. Yet if he believed these events to be a
harbinger of better fortune, he was soon to be sorely diappointed. That autumn
he was ousted from the Casino Zögernitz by a rival conductor, the 'Sperl'
ballroom chose to replace him by his own father, and his benefit concert
planned for that September was twice postponed owing to inclement weather
before the elements finally disrupted it altogether.
Small wonder that, for a festival at
Dommayer's Casino on 15 October 1845 celebrating the first anniversary of his
début there, Johann chose to entitle his latest composition: Dämonen-Quadrille.
Cheerful Greeting, Polka op. 127
On 17 January 1853, the day after his
eagerly-awaited return to Vienna's musical life following a breakdown in his
health, Johann II conducted the Strauss Orchestra at his own benefit concert in
the Sofienbad-Saal. He brought his audience two new compositions. One was the
waltz Phönix-Schwingen (op.125). The other was a polka, to which Johann
had given the doubtlessly heartfelt title Freuden-Gruss.
Love Songs, Wallz op. 114 (Liebeslieder)
It took the younger Johann Slrauss around
three years to establish hirnself on Vienna's musical scene as a worthy
successor to his father, following the latter's death in September 1849. During
the 1852 Carnival he was summoned for the first time to conducl at the Court-
and Chamber-Balls, and an article in the Theaterzeitung, praising his talents,
affirmed: "lt now turns out for certain that Strauss Father has been fully
replaced by Strauss Son".
Johann's Liebeslieder may be considered
the first of the composer's 'master waltzes', demonstrating the young Waltz
King's individuality through sometimes daring developments in melody, harmony
and rhythm. Originally announced under the title Liebesgedichte (‘Love
Poems), and given its first performance by Johann in the Vienna Volksgarten on
18 June 1852 under the title Liebesständchen (‘Love Serenade’), the
enchanting Liebeslieder Walzer even won over the usually austere music critic,
Eduard Hanslick. Writing in the Wiener Zeitung he observed: "Those
bad-tempered, old-fashioned people, whose narrow-mindedness goes so far as to
call today's dance music contemptible, should be serenaded with ashaming
generosity by the 'Liebeslieder' of the young Strauss."
Pleasure Train, Quick Polka op. 281
On 14 November 1837 Austria's first steam
railway opened between the Viennese suburbs of Floridsdorf and Deutsch Wagram.
Though public opinion was divided as to the benefits of this technological
innovation, the elder Johann Strauss swiftly foresaw its advantages in reducing
journey times on his concert tours and, in eager anticipation, composed and performed
an Eisenbahn-Lust-Walzer op. 89 (Railway Joy, Waltz) in summer 1837.
As public confidence in the new trains
increased so the railway network expanded, opening up the Austrian countryside.
During the 1860s the Southern Railway, for example, operated highly popular
'pleasure trains', offering surprise journeys with mystery destinations. This
attraction provided the younger Johann Strauss with the title for the lively
and descriptive quick polka he composed for the Association of Industrial
Societies' Ball, held in the Redoutensaal on 19 January 1864 – Vergnügungszug
Satanella-Quadrille op. 123 (Satanella-Quadrille)
Like the Satanella-Polka, Johann's Satanella-Quadrille
is based on music from Satanella oder Metamorphosen, a 'fantasy ballet'
composed by Cesare Pugni and Peter Ludwig Hertel and staged in Vienna in
January 1853. Strauss's polka and quadrille were both played for the first time
at a 'Satanella-Ball' held in Vienna's Sofienbad-Saal on 26 January 1853. Since
Strauss had organised this festivity in honour of the ballerina Marie Taglioni,
who danced the title rôle of the she-devil Satanella in the Vienna production
of the ballet, one can understand his disappointment when the Satanella
celebrity herself chose not to attend the event!
The first piano edition of the Satanella
Quadrille bears a dedication "to the celebrated artiste Maria [sic]
Taglioni", and depicts Taglioni in a scene from the ballet.
The Austrians, Waltz op. 22 (Die
Johann Strauss II’s career had been progressing weIl since the summer of
1845: he had been appointed Bandmaster of the 2nd Vienna Citizens' Regiment,
and had also been engaged with his orchestra to play at soirées at the Casino
Zögernitz. That autumn, however, his fortunes changed abruptly when, among
several drawbacks, the new lessee of the 'Sperl' ballroom ousted him in favour
of his father, Johann Strauss I. Certainly the younger Johann's employment at
the 'Sperl' had not been without its problems, and when, at the traditional St.
Katherine's Day Ball on 23 November that year, he took his leave of the
establishment with his waltz in Ländler-style, Die Oesterreicher, the work met
with a less than favourable response.
Aesculapius, Polka op. 130
Johann II’s Aesculap-Polka was
dedicated "to the Students of Medicine at Vienna University", and was
composed for their Carnival ball held in the 'Sperl' on 25 January 1853.
Strauss's choice of title was an apposite one, for Aesculapius was the
Greek god of medicine possessed of remarkable, even miraculous, powers of
healing. His life on earth was brought to an end when Zeus, fearing that the
physician might render all men immortal, ordered him to be slain by a
Lind Songs, Waltz op. 21 (Lind-Gesaenge)
The 'Swedish Nightingale', Jen ny Lind
(1820-1887), made her sensational Viennese début on 22
April 1846 in the title rôle of Bellini's Norma, and during the course
of her two-month guest appearance at the Theater an der Wien her bright and
thrilling soprano voice captivated her audiences in performances of La
Somnambula, Die Hugenotten, Der Freischütz and Norma.
On 28 May, Dommayer's Casino in Hietzing was the venue for a festival
soirée given in honour of the Swedish soprano. For the occasion Johann Strauss
the Younger wrote his gentle Lind-Gesänge Walzer, dedicating it to Jenny Lind
whose portrait adorns the first piano edition of the work.
Amazons Polka op. 9 (Amazonen-Polka)
Johann's jolly Amazonen-Polka again
takes its title from Greek mythology , this time recailing the race of women
warriors. In the German language female equestrians were also referred to as
The Viennese public were first introduced
to Strauss junior's Amazonen-Polka during a carnival event at Dommayer's
Casino, Hietzing, in January 1845. The work passed relatively unnoticed, since
it was Johann Strauss Father and his orchestra who again dominated that year's
carnival festivities in the Austrian capital.
CSSR State Philharmonic Orchestra
The East Slovakian town of Košice boasts
a long and distinguished musical tradition, as part of a province that once
provided Vienna with musicians. The State Philharmonic Orchestra is of
relatively recent origin and was established in 1968 under the conductor
Bystrik Rezucha. Subsequent principal conductors have included Stanislav Macura
and Ladislav Slovák, the latter succeeded in 1985 by his pupil Richard Zimmer.
The orchestra has toured widely in Eastern and Western Europe and plays an
important part in the Košice Musical Spring and the Košice International Organ
Alfred Walter was born in Southern
Bohemia in 1929 of Austrian parents. He studied at the University of Graz and
in 1948 was appointed assistant conductor to the Opera of Ravensburg. At the
age of 22 he became conductor of the Graz Opera, where he continued until 1965,
while serving at Bayreuth as assistant to Hans Knappertsbusch and Karl Boehm.
From 1966 until 1969 he was Principal Conductor of the Durban Symphony
Orchestra in South Africa, followed by a period of 15 years as General Director
of Music in Muenster.
Alfred Walter has appeared as a guest
conductor in various parts of the world. In Vienna he has worked as guest
conductor at the State Opera and in 1986 was given the title of Professor by
the Austrian Government. In 1980 he was awarded the Golden Medal of the
International Gustav Mahler Society.
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