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.
Warschauer Polka (Warsaw Polka) op. 84
In October 1850 Johann Strauss applied for
a passport for himself and his orchestra to tour "all the Royal-Imperial
conscripted crown lands, Prussia and Russo-Poland" until the end of the
year. They departed Vienna on 16 October. After giving concerts in Ratibor
(=Racibórz), Breslau (=Wroclaw) and Kattowitz (=Katowice), all now in
present-day Poland, they travelled to Warsaw on 23 October, allegedly at the
invitation of the Tsarina of Russia – Poland at that time being under Russian dominion.
There, on 27 October, Strauss and his musicians played at a festival soirée
given by the Russian Tsar Nicholas I, whose guests included the Austrian
Emperor Franz Joseph I. Strauss must have felt the irony of the situation that
denied him the position of Court Music Director in his own country, while he
fulfilled the role for the Tsar.
During Strauss's brief stay in Warsaw he
composed three new works, which he featured on his return to Vienna at a
festival in the Bierhalle premises, in the suburb of Fünfhaus, on 21 November
1850. Only one of the new pieces was published – the Warschauer Polka,
written for the Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna, who rewarded Johann with a
Wellen und Wogen, Walzer (Waves and
Billows, Waltz) op. 141
During a concert tour of Germany in
October and November 1852, Johann Strauss made a visit to Hamburg where he
conceived the idea of composing a waltz suited more to the concert platform
than the dance floor. This first tentative step in the further development of the
waltz was entitled Wellen und Wogen, a title admirably suited to the
mood of this musical seascape. Although it excited no particular attention at
its première on 9 October 1853 at a benefit concert in the Vienna Volksgarten,
it drew comment from many corners upon its subsequent publication. Vienna's
revered critic, the 'Music Pope' Eduard Hanslick, dismissed this and other
Strauss "waltz requiems" of the period as "no longer appropriate
to the dance". But Johann had achieved his aim, and must have been
gratified by the opinion of the Theaterzeitung: "This 'Wellen und Wogen'
does not have an electrifying effect only on dancing enthusiasts; these
enchanting sounds also exercise an irresistible power of attraction on the
colder and more demanding visitors to the soiree".
Caroussel-Marsch (Carousel March) op. 133
The splendid Caroussel-Marsch takes
its name, not from the now-ubiquitous fairground attraction, but from the
equestrian tournament in which riders compete in races and various manoeuvres
in formation. One such entertainment took place at the Vienna Hofreitschule
(Court Riding School) – today better known as the Spanish Riding School – on 21
May 1853, during that year's Court Festival. The event inspired Johann Strauss
to one of the most compelling musical creations of his early period, the Caroussel-Marsch,
which the composer conducted for the first time at a spring festival in the
Volksgarten on 14 June, 1853.
Camelien-Polka Schnell (Camellias, Quick polka) op. 248
By way of thanks for a decoration which
had recently been bestowed upon him, Carl Haslinger, Johann Strauss's regular
Viennese publisher, organised a charity event to take place in the
Dianabad-Saal on 29 January 1861. The name he chose for this entertainment, a
'Camellias Ball', was unfortunately to prove an embarrassment to him when no
camellias could be procured for that particular evening! Haslinger doubtless
found some consolation, however, in the excellent and aptly-entitled Camelien-Polka,
which Johann Strauss provided for the occasion.
Ballettomanes may recognise some of the
polka's themes, arranged as an accompaniment to a can-can, in the ballet Le
beau Danube (1924).
Myrthen-Kränze, Walzer (Myrtle Wreaths,
Waltz) op. 154
On 24 April 1854, amid all the pomp and
ceremony appropriate to such a royal occasion, Vienna jubilantly celebrated the
marriage of the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I and the Bavarian Duchess
Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie. Three days later, at the Court Ball held in the
Rittersaal of the Hofburg, Johann Strauss conducted his own wedding tribute
before the royal couple. The press reported: "During the cotillons there
resounded for the first time the 'Elisabethsklänge', respectfully dedicated to
her Majesty the Empress by Kapellmeister Strauss".
In the Introduction to the waltz there are
allusions to the National Anthems of Austria (Haydn's Kaiserlied) and
Bavaria (Franz Lachner's Bayernlied), and the work later appeared in
print with its title changed to Myrthen-Kränze.
Nordstern-Quadrille (Polar Star Quadrille)
Towards the end of July 1854 Johann
Strauss returned from a rest-cure in Bad Gastein, near Salzburg, to resume his
position at the head of the Strauss Orchestra. His first appearance in public
was at Unger's Casino in Hernals on Sunday 30 July, and among the compositions
performed was his new quadrille on themes from Meyerbeer's opera comique, Der
Nordstern. As L'Étoile du Nord, Meyerbeer's opera had received its
world première in Paris on 16 February 1854, but not until the following year
was a production mounted in Vienna.
Some seven years before, Johann had been
prevented from performing music from an earlier version of this Meyerbeer opera
when Carl Haslinger, his father's publisher, had sought a legal injunction
ensuring that only the elder Strauss had access to the work. Meyerbeer himself
had disapproved of this ban and made his music available to both father and
Bluette-Polka Française (Artistic trifle,
French polka) op. 271
Johann Strauss honoured each of his three
wives with the dedication of a dance music composition. Thus, Angelika's name
lives on in the dedication of the Kuss-Walzer (op. 400) and Adele's in the
Adelen-Walzer (op. 424).
Strauss's first wife was the mezzo-soprano
Jetty Treffz (1818-78), whom he married in August 1862. She at once proved
herself an indispensable partner for the often disorganised and financially
naive 'Waltz King', and aside from her wifely duties also fulfilled those of
advisor in artistic and monetary matters, translator, private secretary and
even music copyist. It was for Jetty that Johann wrote his charming Bluette, Polka
francaise, which he himself conducted on 23 November 1862 at a St.
Katherine's Day masked ball in the Redoutensall, the proceeds from which were
"for the benefit of the Pension Institute for those involved in the Fine
Arts in Vienna".
Concurrenzen, Walzer (Rivalry, Waltz) op.
The ball of the Industrial Societies'
Association, held in the Sofienbad-Saal on 29 January 1862, opened the series
of imposing grand Corporation balls that took place during that year's Vienna
Carnival. Johann Strauss and his orchestra were engaged to provide the dance
music at this festivity, for which the composer was also expected to write the
obligatory dedication piece. He obliged with the irresistible waltz Concurrenzen,
for which the Association's ball-organising committee presented him with 25
golden ducats. Cognizant of the background to Johann's choice of title, the
Wiener Zeitung observed: "When Strauss let his waltz 'Concurrenzen' ring
out... here the competitive squabble between the railway companies was
forgotten, and there reigned only one competition, the competition of the
Chansonetten-Quadrille, Nach Themen
(Comic Songs, Quadrille on themes from
French ballads) op. 259
Several of the works which Johann Strauss
and his brothers wrote for their Russian concert seasons were published both
there and in Vienna, but often under different titles. An example is the Rigolboche-Quadrille,
which Johann's Russian publisher announced as being based on Parisian comic
songs. The composer's choice of French material for a new quadrille reflected
the success which a group of Parisian girl singers were enjoying at that time
in St. Petersburg. Strauss's new composition not only drew upon the girls'
repertoire, but also took its title from the stage name of their most popular
dancer and singer, the blonde 'Rigolboche' (real name: Marguerite Badel).
Russian audiences heard Johann's Rigolboche-Quadrille – initially called
the Französische Quadrille – for the first time at the composer's own
benefit concert at Pavlovskon 5 October 1861 (= 23 September, Russian
calender). Strauss's regular Viennese publisher, however, preferred to retitle
the work Chansonetten-Quadrille.
Ballsträusschen, Schnell-Polka (Ball
Bouquets, Quick polka) op. 380
was the title Johann Strauss gave to the quick polka he dedicated to the Vienna
Journalists' and Writers' Association, "Concordia", on the occasion
of their ball held in the Sofienbad-Saal on 19 February 1878. It was written at
a time when Johann was busy composing his operetta Blindekuh [Première:
Theater an der Wien, Vienna, 18 December 1878], and it was the only dance
composition which he produced for the 1878 Vienna Carnival. After a period of
fraternal disharmony Johann had again resumed contact with his youngest brother
Eduard, and indeed he it was who conducted the Strauss Orchestra in the first
performance of Ballsträusschen at the Concordia Ball.
The first theme in the Trio section of Ballsträusschen
may strike a chord with some listeners through its inclusion in Acts 1 and 2 of
the posthumous Johann Strauss operetta, Wiener Blut (1899).
Kuss-Waltzer (Kiss Waltz) op. 400
the death of his first wife, Jetty Treffz, in April 1878, Johann waited just
seven weeks before remarrying. His new bride was Angelika Dittrich (1850-1919),
a blue-eyed 28 year-old Prussian actress, but the marriage was ill-starred and
the couple were granted a divorce by consent in late 1882.
Among the operettas Johann created during
their brief time together was Der Iustige Krieg (‘The Merry War’) of
1881, whose popularity in Strauss's lifetime was surpassed only by Die
Fledermaus (1874) and Der Zigeunerbaron (1885). Of the ten separate orchestral
numbers which Johann concocted from its melodies the Kuss-Walzer retains a
special significance, for it bears a poignant dedication "to his beloved
wife Angelika". It was Eduard Strauss who first conducted this waltz, as
the opening dance piece at the Court Ball held on 10 January 1882. The
Kuss-Walzer is, in fact, an orchestral treatment of the operetta's 'hit'
number, the Marchese Sebastiani's Act 2 aria, "Nur für Natur", with
an added section taken from the Act 2 Finale ("Herr Herzog").
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.