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.
Herrmann-Polka op. 91
Karl Compars Herrmann (1816-87), like his
father, was a conjuror and illusionist, and one of the most entertaining
personalities of the era. From an early age he dubbed himself 'Professor' and,
together with his father and older brother, took their act throughout the
civilised world, including visits to the United States of America and central
Asia. Johann Strauss struck up an immediate friendship with 'Professor
Herrmann' when the conjuror visited Vienna in 1851, and it was for him that the
composer wrote his amusing polka, dedicated "to his friend Herrmann".
When Strauss gave the première of the work at the Sperl dance hall on 14 June
1851, Compars Herrmann was astonishing audiences at Vienna's Carl-Theater with
his feats of prestidigitation, some of which are still performed today. A
native of the kingdom of Hanover, Herrmann took Austrian citizenship in 1865.
Klänge aus der Walachei, Walzer (Echoes
from Wallachia, Waltz) op. 50
Johann Strauss Father's seemingly
unassailable position in Vienna's musical life left few opportunities for his
eldest son to secure many worthwhile engagements for himself within the city.
Accordingly, Johann II frequently looked outside the Austrian capital for his
livelihood during the years following his début in 1844 until his father's
death in September 1849. In the autumn of 1847, for example, he embarked on an
arduous six-month tour with his orchestra, which took them through the lands of
the vast Habsburg Empire and into the Balkans. At the end of December they
reached Bucharest in Wallachia (today, Romania) where Strauss gave several
balls and concerts. The folk music of these other nations left their
impressions on him, and is clearly discernible in the waltz Klänge aus der
Walachei, which he conducted for the first time in Bucharest on 6 January
1848. At this public concert Strauss wore his uniform as Kapellmeister of the
2nd Vienna Citizens' Regiment, the same as that worn during his much-publicised
demonstration against the Austrian General-Consul there.
Revolutions-Marsch (Revolution March) op.
When the flames of the European revolution
flared in Vienna on 13 March 1848, the younger Johann Strauss was still in
Bucharest with his orchestra. A further violent upsurge in May coincided with
the younger Strauss's return to his native city, whereupon he swiftly made his
position clear; whereas his father sided with the established monarchy, his own
sympathies lay with the students and revolutionaries. For them he wrote a
number of aptly-named compositions, including
a stirring Revolutions-Marsch whose first piano edition shows the work's
title enfurled in the revolutionary banner. It is no 'Viennese' march, however,
but betrays instead the hallmarks of a march written in the Hungarian style.
Strauss may have performed the Revolutions-Marsch (originally called the
Siegesmarsch der Revolution) during his orchestral tour, though it was
not introduced to Viennese audiences until the end of Mayor early June 1848.
Haute-volée-Polka (High Society Polka) op. 155
The elegant Haute-volée-Polka dates
from the latter half of 1854 when the population of Vienna – not the least
those honoured in the title of the work – were more preoccupied with events in
the Crimea and, nearer home, with a raging cholera epidemic in the capital, than
with the latest dance composition from the fertile mind of Johann Strauss.
First performed at an Imperial Festival in the Volksgarten on 17 August 1854, Haute-volée
was one of a number of Johann's new dance pieces dating from this period which
passed comparatively unnoticed at the time.
Glossen, Walzer (Marginal Notes, Waltz)
was the title of the waltz Johann dedicated to the students of law at Vienna
University on the occasion of their ball held in the elegant surroundings of
the Sofienbad-Saal on 30 January 1855, and attended by some 1,200 to 1,500
guests. The work's title refers to explanatory notes appearing in the margins
of draft statutes, prior to their becoming law.
Just under a fortnight later, on 11
February, the Sofienbad-Saal also witnessed the first performance of the Glosseri
Walzer for the general public, when Johann performed it at his benefit bail
there. The work has a special place in the musical history of the Strauss
family: for this performance Johann scored the work for accompaniment by two
harps, and allowed his youngest brother, Eduard (1835-1916), to make his public
début with the Strauss Orchestra as virtuoso performer on one of the
instruments. Though an excellent harpist, it
was as conductor of the family orchestra that Eduard was to distinguish himself
in later years.
Handels-Elite-Quadrille (Mercantile Elite,
Quadrille) op. 166
Hermes, or Mercury, the winged messenger
of the gods and patron of travellers, merchants and thieves, speeds across land
and sea in the illustration which adorns the cover of the first piano edition
of Strauss's Handels-Elite-Quadrille. In his hand he holds a bulging
money-bag, while below him are pictured more earthly forms of commercial
transportation: a sailing ship and steam train. Johann wrote his quadrille for
the 'Handels-Elite-Ball' – organised for the élite of Vienna's mercantile life
– held at the 'Sperl' dance hall on 31 January 1855.
Patrioten-Polka (Patriots Polka) op. 274
Johann's state of mental and physical
exhaustion in January 1863 led his doctors to impose a total ban on his
composing for the duration of the forthcoming Vienna Carnival, although he
continued to appear as conductor. However, when he was at last awarded the
honorary title of 'k. k. Hofball-Musikdirektor' (Director of Music for the
Imperial-Royal Court Balls) that February, Strauss chose to break the ban.
Together with his publisher, Carl Haslinger, he organised a charitable 'Grand
Patriotic Festival' in the Sofienbad-Saal on 19 March 1863 'for the benefit of
the Private Assistance Fund of the local Military Hospital'. For this
festivity, which acknowledged not only the 50th anniversary of the Battle of
Nations at Leipzig but also the current tide of nationalism sweeping through
the Habsburg Empire, Johann wrote his Patrioten-Polka.
Aus den Bergen, Walzer (From the
Mountains, Waltz) op. 292
"After a long time a new waltz from
Johann Strauss has appeared which is distinguished by noble and graceful
character, and further distinguished by extraordinarily masterful
instrumentation". Such was the critical acclaim accorded the waltz Aus
den Bergen, following its first Viennese performance on 4 December 1864 at
a benefit concert in the Volksgarten, belatedly celebrating the twentieth
anniversary of Johann's début at Dommayer's Casino. The composer had, in fact,
written this ambitious work for his 1864 concert season in Pavlovsk, and
shortly before his return had conducted its première there (entitled In den
Bergen) on 2 October (= 20 September, Russian calendar).
Aus den Bergen appeared in print the same
year, bearing a dedication to the music critic Dr Eduard Hanslick (1825-1904)
who, a decade earlier, had vociferously condemned Strauss for writing
"waltz requiems" in which he emulated Wagnerian-style instrumentation.
Die Afrikanerin, Quadrille (The African
Woman, Quadrille) op. 299
the last of three quadrilles which Johann Strauss based on the music of
Meyerbeer's operas, was first heard in the Vienna Volksgarten on 7 July 1865
during a musical novelty festival with fireworks. The performance, conducted by
Josef Strauss, the composer's younger brother, featured the Strauss Orchestra,
possibly augmented by the band of the Freiherr von Rossbach Infantry Regiment
which was also involved in the festivities. Meyerbeer's opera, L'Africaine, had
received its world première ten weeks earlier, on 28 April, at the Paris Opéra,
and as early as 26 June the Strauss Orchestra had presented concert
performances of excerpts from the work in the Volksgarten. Not until 27
February 1866, in the Wiener Hoftheater (near the Kärntnerthor), was a full
production of the opera (under its German title: Die Afrikanerin)
mounted in Vienna.
Waldine, Polka-Mazurka op. 385
Strauss's Waldine, Polka-Mazurka
takes its name from one of the female characters in the composer's operetta, Blindekuh
(‘Blind Man's Buff’), first seen at the Theater an der Wien, Vienna, on 18
December 1878. The stage work proved the least successful of Johann's fifteen
original operettas, and was withdrawn after just 16 performances.
The polka-mazurka Waldine was the
last, and least successful, of the five orchestral dance numbers Johann
arranged on melodies from Blindekuh, and it was not given its first
performance until 7 December 1879 – almost a year after the operetta's première
– when Eduard Strauss conducted it during his Sunday concert in the
Donauweibchen, Walzer (Nymph of the
Danube, Waltz) op. 427
On 17 December 1887 Vienna's Theater an
der Wien opened its doors to the première of Johann Strauss's three-act stage
work, Simplicius. Based on Der abenteuerliche Simplicissimus (1669), a
famous Grimmelshausen novel set at the time of the Thirty Years War, Johann's
'serious operetta' met with little success despite being brimful with
attractive melodies. The opening night was disrupted when one of the cast's
feather plumes caught fire on a stage gaslight, and an audience stampede was
only averted when the quick-witted Strauss signalled for a repeat of the show's
hit number, the Hermit's last Act waltz romance: "Ich denke gern
zurück". Not surprisingly, Johann's spirited orchestral waltz Donauweibchen,
based on themes from the operetta, features music form this number for its
opening waltz tune. The title stems from the refrain of the Act 3 quartet, and
refers to the legendary maiden who brings fortune to the Danube's fishermen.
Johann's Donauweibchen Walzer was first played on 8 January 1888 at one
of Eduard Strauss's Sunday concerts in the Musikverein.
Frisch Heran! Schnell-Polka (Come on in!
Quick polka) op. 386
Despite being immersed in the composition
of his operetta, Das Spitzentuch der Königin [Première: Theater an der
Wien, Vienna. 1 October 1880], Johann Strauss still found time during the 1880
Vienna Carnival to compose a dedication work for the ball of the Vienna
Journalists' and Authors' Association, 'Concordia'. The work, an exhilarating
quick polka entitled Frisch heran!, was conducted at the 'Concordia'
ball in the Sofienbad-Saal on 2 February 1880, not by the composer but by his
Programme notes ©1989 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.
CSSR State Philharmonic Orchestra (Košice)
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 Böhm.
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
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.