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.
(Heiligenstadt Rendezvous, Polka) Op.78
Following the death of his father on 25
September 1849, the younger Johann Strauss strove with all his might to assume
the older man's mantle of 'Vorgeiger aller Wiener' (Principal
Violinist/Conductor of all the Viennese). During the spring and summer of 1850
he increasingly consolidated his position with regular engagements at such
venues as the Volksgarten, 'Zum grossen Zeisig', the 'Universum' in Brigittenau
and – after uniting his own with his late father's orchestra – at Dommayer's
Casino in Hietzing.
For each establishment at which he played
Johann wrote an appropriate novelty composition. Thus, for a concert on 8 July
1850 at Kugler's Badhaus, in Vienna's idyllic north-western suburb of Heiligenstadt,
Strauss composed his flirtatious polka Heiligenstädter-Rendez-Vous.
Nachtfalter, Walzer (Moths, Waltz) op. 157
In August 1854 Austria formed an alliance
with Great Britain and France, who were waging war in the Crimea against Russia
in order to protect the Turkish Empire from the Tsar. Austria's action incurred
the ire of the Tsar, who now threatened reprisals against the Danube monarchy.
Aside from the political situation, a virulent new menace threatened Vienna in
autumn 1854, as many fell victim to a cholera epidemic.
Thus, events inside and outside Vienna
during the second half of that year so distracted its peoples that the centres
of entertainment in the Austrian Capital were hard pressed to entice audiences
through their doors. Even Johann Strauss's waltz Nachtfalter, composed
for a parish festival ball at Unger's Casino in the suburb of Hernals on 28
August, failed to attract the attention it deserved, though it later proved
immensely popular with Russian audiences when the composer played it in 1856
during his first concert season in Pavlovsk. Particularly winsome are the
Introduction and opening waltz number, suggesting first the whirring wings and
then the circling flight of the moth. Franz Liszt, too was aware of the work's
charms, and was observed at some festive occasion most earnestly entreating his
daughter Cosima to play Nachtfalter with him as a piano duet.
Quadrille sur des Airs Francais (Quadrille
on French airs) op. 290
Strauss commenced his 1864 Russian concert season on 23 April, and he remained
in Pavlovsk until his final performance on 27 September. Among some twelve new
compositions he wrote for his Russian audiences that year was the Blondin-Quadrille,
first played on 19 September (= 7 September, Russian calendar) at the Vauxhall
Pavilion. The work, based on French airs, took its name from the world famous
French tightrope artiste, Charles Blondin (1824-97), whose spectacular guest
appearance in St. Petersburg at that time had been partly arranged by Strauss
himself. The quadrille, later published in Vienna as Quadrille sur des airs
francais and appropriately crediting the composer as 'Jean Strauss', begins
with the old children's song "Bon Voyage, Monsieur du Mollet" and
ends with the popular song "Monsieur le Curé", which English-speaking
children know as "Tom, Tom the Piper's Son".
Musen-Polka (Muses Polka) op. 147
The Musen-Polka was Johann
Strauss's appositely-entitled contribution to the Vienna Artists' Ball held in
the Sofienbad-Saal on St. Valentine's Day 1854.
The work's title refers to the famed
Muses of Greek mythology, those nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, each of
whom had specific duties assigned them in the disciplines of poetry, science
and music: Clio, Muse of History; Euterpe, the "Mistress of Song";
Thalia, Muse of Comedy; Melpomene, the Muse of Tragedy; Terpsichore, Muse of
the Dance; Erato, Muse of Lyric Poetry; Polyhymnia, the Muse of Rhetoric;
Calliope, Muse of Epic Poetry and Urania, the Muse of Astronomy.
Wiener Chronik, Walzer (Vienna Chronicle,
Waltz) op. 268
Johann Son's waltz Wiener Chronik
was first heard during the 1862 Vienna Carnival, and was composed for the
Strauss brothers' Benefit Ball held in the Dianabad-Saal on 3 March that year.
The work is dedicated to Friedrich Uhl
(1825-1906), the leading 19th-centurruy journalist, critic and writer on
Viennese life, whose regular column in Der Botschafter gave Strauss's waltz its
title. The cover illustration of the first piano edition of Wiener Chronik
features portraits of those two 'Fathers of the Viennese Waltz', Joseph Lanner
(1801-43) and Johann Strauss the Elder, together with the names of some of
their best-loved waltzes. Indeed, the Introduction of Wiener Chronik features a
quotation from the opening waltz section of Joseph Lanner's Die Schönbrunner,
Walzer op. 200. The title-page illustration of the work also includes other
names prominent in the history of the Viennese Waltz: the conductor/composers
Michael Pamer (1782-1827) and Josef Wilde (1778-1831), the composer Johann Nepomuk
Hummel (1778-1837) and the Viennese folk-musician Franz Gruber (1805-70).
Russische Marsch-Fantasie (Russian March
Fantasy) op. 353
Johann Strauss incurred an expensive
lawsuit when he declined an invitation to give a further season of concerts in
Pavlovsk in summer 1872, and chose instead a more lucrative conducting
engagement at the World's Peace Jubilee and International Musical Festival in
Strauss had, in fact, given his agreement
in principle to the management of the Russian Tsarskoye-Selo Railway Company,
though the exact dates had never been finalised, and had even begun preparing
new compositions for what would have been his twelfth 'Russian Summer'. Among
these works was the Russische Marsch-Fantasie, which his publisher, C.A.
Spina, advertised during August 1872 and which the composer's youngest brother,
Eduard, first played to the Viennese public at a concert in Schwender's 'Neue
Welt' establishment in Hietzing on 12 September that year.
Elisen-Polka Française (Elise, French polka) op. 151
During the 1850s the 'Polka française', a
graceful and specifically Viennese variant of the Bohemian polka, became
popular in the ballrooms of Vienna. Johann Strauss wrote around fifty such
dances, and chose an open-air concert on 7 May 1854 in the picturesque setting
of the Volksgarten to introduce his Viennese public to the very first of these.
Entitled the Elisen-Polka française, the piece was probably inspired by
Elise, a lady of Viennese society who lived in the neighbourhood of the Strauss
family and whom mother Anna Strauss, at least, once regarded as a possible wife
for her eldest son. Whatever Johann himself thought at the time, by 1859 he had
changed his mind! Writing that year to Olga Smirnitzky, the new object of his
desire, he remarked: "When my mother has arrived at the conviction that
Elise cannot make my happy, she will then strive to get rid of the family in a
very covert and gentle way. My Mama will do anything for me..."
Judging from Johann's polka, Elise must
have been a lady of great dignity and charm.
Kennst Du Mich? Walzer (Do you know me?
Waltz) op. 381
On 18 December 1878 the curtain of
Vienna's Theater an der Wien rose on the opening night of Johann Strauss's
operetta Blindekuh (‘Blind Man's Buff’). Rudolf Kneisel's libretto,
based on his own German comedy of that name, was principally the cause of the
stage work's unequivocal failure, and Blindekuh was withdrawn after just
sixteen performances. Strauss nevertheless salvaged much of value from the
score, hurriedly arranging five separate orchestral numbers from its melodies.
One of these, the waltz Kennst du mich?, was first heard on 12 January 1879 in
the Musikverein building, Vienna, when the composer himself conducted the
Strauss Orchestra during one of his brother Eduard's Sunday concerts.
Of particular interest to the listener is
the opening waltz tune, taken from the Act 2 Finale ("Blindekuh,
Blindekuh, wir alle führen Dich"), which has found lasting acclaim in
Ralph Benatzky's working of it in The Nuns' Chrous from his 1928 operetta
Hesperus-Polka op. 249
Johann Strauss composed his dainty
Hesperus-Polka for the first ball of the Vienna Artists' Association,
'Hesperus', which took place at the Sperl on 6 February 1861. The Association,
to whom the polka was dedicated, had held its first meeting two years earlier,
in 1859, yet within only a short while it was to become one of the most
significant groups within Vienna. Its annual carnival ball festivities were
among the grandest, and all three Strauss brothers and many of their
contemporaries eagerly wrote new dance pieces for these events.
Hesperus was the Evening Star of Greek
mythology, described as "the most splendid star which shines in the
firmament". He, together with his brother Phosphorus (the Morning Star),
represented the double aspect of the planet Venus. Hesperus was also said to be
the father of the Hesperides – the three maidens who were the guardians of the
tree bearing golden apples which fruit Heracles was required to obtain as one
of his twelve labours.
Italienischer Walzer (Italian Waltz) op.
Johann Struass's eighth operetta, Der
lustige Krieg (‘The Merry War’), opened at Vienna's Theater an der Wien on
25 November 1881. Set in Italy at the beginning of the 18th century, it
concerned a bloodless 'war' between two armies, one of them consisting entirely
of women. (The Viennese were quick to draw comparisons between this war and the
domestic battle being waged at that time between Strauss and his second wife,
The operetta's triumph was due in large
part to an even more than usually tuneful score, from which Strauss fashioned
no less than ten separate orchestral dances and marches. Amongst these is the
Italienischer Walzer, whose principal waltz features music from the Act 2
Finale. The waltz was heard for the first time under the composer's direction
at a charity festival in Vienna's Musikverein building on 22 March 1882. The
event was very much a family affair, for while Johann conducted the music, Angelika
helped to raise money by managing a bazaar stall!
Pariser Polka (Parisian Polka) op. 382
Following his success at the masked balls
in the Paris Opera in 1877, Johann Strauss – accompanied by his new bride,
Angelika Dittrich – returned to the French capital in January 1879 to conduct
further ball and concert engagements. Included on his schedule was a concert in
the 'Cercle France International' on 20 February, and it was here that Johann
gave the first performance of his aptly-entitled Pariser Polka, based on
themes from his operetta Blindekuh [Première: Theater an der Wien,
Vienna, 18 December 1878.
Considering his lifelong dread of travel,
Johann may have been simply amusing himself by choosing material from the
operetta's Act 1 couplet, "Die Eisenbahnen weit und breit die bieten dort
viel Sicherheit" ('The railways far and wide offer much safety') as the
opening theme for his Pariser Polka. The work's other melodies are also
drawn from this couplet and from couplets elsewhere in Acts 1 and 2.
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
Oliver Dohnányi was born in 1955 and
studied the violin, composition and conducting at the Bratislava Conservatory,
in the Slovakian capital, pursuing further studies in Prague under Václav
Neumann and others, and in Vienna under Otmar Suitner. He graduated in 1980 but
had already established himself as artistic director of the Charles University
Art Ensemble and the Canticorum lubilo chamber ensemble in Prague. He has won
distinction in various competitions, including the Respighi Competition in
Italy and international competitions in Budapest and Prague. From 1979 to 1986
Oliver Dohnányi was conductor of the Czech Radio Symphony Orchestra in
Bratislava and has appeared with major orchestras there, in Prague and in
Hungary, as well as with the West Berlin Symphony Orchestra, and since 1986 has
been principal conductor of the opera of the Slovak National Theatre. In
addition to work with the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra, he has appeared as a
guest conductor in the concert hall and in opera in France, Italy, Austria, the
USSR, Cuba, East Germany, Bulgaria, Switzerland and elsewhere.