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ClassicsOnline Home » STRAUSS II, J.: Edition - Vol. 9
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 (1804–1849) and Joseph Lanner (1801–1843), the younger Johann (along with his brothers, Joseph 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.
Carnevalsbilder, Walzer (Carnival Pictures, Waltz) op. 357
Little more than a year before the première of Die Fledermaus, the curtain of Vienna’s Theater an der Wien rose on another Johann Strauss operetta. Entitled Der Carneval in Rom (Carnival in Rome), it opened at the theatre on 1 March 1873 to considerable critical and public acclaim. Set in Italy—a location for which the composer had a special affinity—it is a romantic tale about a Swiss peasant-girl’s love for a handsome artist.
Johann based his orchestral waltz Carnevalsbilder on melodies from Der Carneval in Rom, and conducted its first performance on 9 July 1873 at a spectacular scenic festival with illuminations in the grounds of the Blumensäle der Gartenbaugesellschaft (Floral Halls of the Horticultural Association) in Vienna. The listener’s attention is drawn to Waltz No. 2 (using music from the Act 2 Quintet and the Act 1 Introduction) which Oscar Straus was to arrange for his 1935 operetta Drei Walzer (Three Waltzes) as the soprano aria “Ich liebe das Leben” (better known in its French version: “Je t’aime”).
Annen-Polka op. 117
It is ironic that a work as delicate as Johann’s Annen-Polka should have received its first performance in the garden of an establishment on the Vienna Prater called ‘Zum wilden Mann’ (The Wild Man). 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. One press reporter commented: “Johann Strauss has given a lovely present to all the Annas, Ninas, Nanys, Nettchens etc, etc, with his latest polka, which he has entitled ‘Annen Polka’ in their honour. It pleased so much because of its charming, melodious and inviting dance tunes, that again and again there were demands for it to be repeated”.
Indigo-Marsch op. 349
Johann’s swaggering Indigo-Marsch draw its themes from the score of his first operetta, Indigo und die vierzig Räuber (Indigo and the Forty Thieves), first seen at the Theater an der Wien, Vienna, on 10 February 1871. Strauss’s theatrical début had been eagerly awaited by the Viennese ever since the mid-1860s when he began making some early abortive attempts at composing for the stage. The critics, as ever, were divided in their opinions about Indigo, a re-working of a tale from The Arabian Nights, but the record takings at the box-office registered a unanimous verdict from the public.
With Indigo und die vierzig Räuber Johann adopted a practice he was to continue for the rest of his life, namely that of arranging melodies from his stage works as separate orchestral numbers. Thus, besides his new-found preoccupation with operetta composition he could, with minimum effort, still maintain a presence in ballrooms and concert halls around the world. It was, however, Johann’s brother Eduard who first introduced the Viennese to the Indigo-Marsch, when he conducted it during his concert in the Musikverein on 9 April 1871. THe work is based on melodies from the Act 1 Finale and from Act 3.
Albion-Polka op. 102
Johann Strauss dedicated his Albion-Polka to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg (1819–61), the Consort of Queen Victoria. However, the work predates by some sixteen years those dance pieces which the composer wrote for his sole London visit in 1867, and was intended instead to honour the Queen’s newly-accredited emissary and minister plenipotentiary to the Imperial Court in Vienna, John Fane, 11th Earl of Westmorland (1784–1859), recently arrived from Great Britain. The diplomat’s presence in Vienna reflected British concern over numerous Hungarian emigrants who had fled the revolution in their own country and who were now seeking asylum in London.
The Earl and his wife, Priscilla, were both accomplished musicians and composers, and they gave several balls, concerts and other entertainments during their stay in Vienna. On several occasions Johann Strauss performed with his orchestra at the Earl’s residence in the Palais Coburg, and for one of these festivities in autumn 1851 he wrote his Albion-Polka. The work takes its title from the old Roman name for Britain.
Gedanken auf den Alpen, Walzer (Thoughts in the Alps, Waltz) op. 172
Solo horn and clarinet in the opening of this waltz immediately establish the tranquil setting with its alpine echoes, inspired by the scenic mountainous surroundings of Bad Gastein.
At the beginning of August 1855 Johann Strauss, on doctor’s orders, again travelled to the spa resort of Bad Gastein, south of Salzburg. Together with his servant, Johann stayed at the newly-built Hotel Straubinger for some six weeks, returning to Vienna in late September. He brought with him a new waltz, Gedanken auf den Alpen, which he had composed in Bad Gastein, and which he presented for the first time at the ‘Sperl’ dance hall on 15 October 1855 on the occasion of a grand St Theresia Name Day festival. Strauss dedicated his ‘Gastein Waltz’ to the music-loving father of the Empress Elisabeth of Austria, Duke Maximillian in Bavaria (1808–88).
Festival-Quadrille nach englischen Motiven (Festival Quadrille on English themes) op. 341
The ‘Waltz King’ paid only one visit to Great Britain—in 1867—when he conducted the dance music at all 63 Promenade Concerts at London’s Royal Italian Opera House, Covent Garden, from 15 August to 26 October. Among a number of new works specifically written, or arranged, for his London audiences was the Promenade Quadrille, on Popular Airs, first played on 7 October and encored. Some of the tunes are from American minstrel songs, popularised by the London visits of the Christy Minstrels, while others were taken from the music-hall repertoires of George Leybourne and ‘The Great Vance’. The quadrille quotes from “Pull, pull together boys”, “I’ll go no more on the Ohio” (known as “Pretty Jemima”), “Costermonger Joe”, “Come along boys, let’s make a noise”, “The Dancing Swell”, “Cool Burgundy Ben”, “Going to the Derby in a four-in-hand” and “Just before the battle, mother” (perhaps now more familiar in the guise of “Jesus wants me for a sunbeam” or “Kiss me goodnight, Sergeant Major!”). The original version of the quadrille comprised just five sections, in accordance with English practice, but for its Viennese publication (misleadingly entitled Festival-Quadrille nach englischen Motiven) Strauss added newly-composed material for the missing ‘Trénis’ section.
Habsburg Hoch! Marsch (Hall Habsburg!) op. 408
In 1273 Count Rudolph of Habsburg acceded to the throne of Germany. Through force of arms he acquired certain territories including Austria and Styria and, seeking to strengthen his own ‘Hausmacht’ (dynastic power), as Emperor he bestowed these territories upon his two sons, Albert and Rudolph, on 27 December 1281. Thus began the association between the House of Habsburg and Austria, which was to exist until 1918.
27 December 1882—‘Habsburg Day’—was marked by celebrations throughout Austria, including a festive evening in Vienna’s Carl-Theater. Between a prologue by Josef Weyl and the première of Ludwig Anzengruber’s comedy, Die umkehrte Freit, Johann Strauss conducted the first performance of his march Habsburg Hoch! The work, written to mark ‘the 600 years Commemoration of the most illustrious House of Habsburg’, features snatches from Haydn’s Austrian Hymn, the Prinz Eugen-Lied and Strauss Father’s Radetzky-Marsch.
Nachtveilchen, Polka-Mazur (Dame’s Violet, Polka-mazurka) op. 170
The world of nature was a ready and constant source of inspiration to the Strauss family when seeking to name their innumerable pieces of dance music. Thus, on 1 July 1855 at Unger’s Casino in Hernals, Johann presented his polka-mazurka Nachtveilchen—a plant known to English-speaking countries as dame’s violet or dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis) with attractive white, mauve or lilac flowers which give off a scent in the evening.
Lucifer-Polka op. 266
The first piano edition title-page of Strauss’s polka depicts a peaceful wooded park-landscape. In the sky is Lucifer, the ‘light-bringer’—as the planet Venus is sometimes known when, as the Morning Star, it rises above the eastern horizon before sunrise. Yet there is a double-meaning in the title of Strauss’s quick polka: the piano edition’s illustrator opted for the astronomical interpretation, while the composer himself clearly had in mind Satan himself! This exciting work was especially composer for the ball of the Vienna Artists’ Association, “Hesperus”, held in the Dianabad-Saal on 22 February 1862, and is the companion piece to Johann’s Hesperus-Polka (‘Evening Star’, which appears in Volume 5), written for the 1861 Hesperus-Ball.
Kaiser-Walzer (Emperor Waltz) op. 437
In the autumn of 1889 Johann Strauss conducted five concerts in Berlin at the newly-opened Königsbau concert hall. Prior to the composer’s departure for Germany the Viennese press reported that he had sent his Berlin publisher a new waltz, entitled Hand in Hand. This title referred to a toast made in August 1889 by the Austrian Emperor, Franz Josep I, on the occasion of his visit to the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II, in which Austria had extended ‘the hand of friendship’ to Germany. The astute publisher, Fritz Simrock, suggested to Johann that Kaiser-Walzer might prove a more suitable title since, by not dedicating the work to either monarch, title that the Waltz King’s magnificent composition was first performed in Berlin on 21 October 1889—though it should be noted that the illustrated title page of the original piano edition is emblazoned with the Austrian Imperial crown!
© Peter Kemp
The Johann Strauss Society of Great Britain
The author is indebted to Professor Franz Mailer for his assistance in the preparation of these notes.
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STRAUSS II, J.: Edition - Vol. 9