About this Recording
8.223212 - STRAUSS II, J.: Edition - Vol. 12
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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.

Harmonie-Polka op. 106

Despite the continued imposition of martial law in the capital—in force since the 1848 Revolution—the 1852 Vienna Carnival took place in a generally more lively atmosphere than had been the case in the previous three years. The 26-year-old Johann Strauss was much in evidence, conducting without exception at all the splendid ‘Representation Balls’ of the various organisations. Thus, for that held in the Sofienbad-Saal on 4 February 1852 by the Protestant community in Vienna, the composer wrote his jolly Concordia-Polka—subsequently re-christened Harmonie-Polka for its publication.

Die Gemüthlichen, Walzer (The Genial Ones, Waltz) op. 70

With the death of the elder Johann Strauss in September 1849 many of Vienna’s entertainment establishments, previously closed to Johann II, now opened their doors to admit the young man, eager to sign contracts with him. Previously he had sought to woo the youthful and minority communities in Vienna with his dance music, but now he realised his compositions must appeal across the whole spectrum of Viennese life if he was to be acknowledged as his father’s worthy successor. For the opening festivity of the new season at the ‘Sperl’ dance hal, therefore, he wrote an emphatically Viennese waltz which he called Echte Sperlianer (True Sperl Devotees). The work was published later that year but with a less specific title: Die Gemüthlichen, Walzer.

Aurora-Polka op. 165

The fair Roman goddess of the dawn gave her name to the ‘Aurora’, the Viennese Artists’ Association, with its motto: “Aurora musis amica” (Dawn is a friend to the Muses). It was to this organisation—predecessor of the more ‘Sperl’ on 14 February 1855, that Johann Strauss dedicated his cheerful and aptly-entitled Aurora-Polka.

Fest-Quadrille (Festival Quadrille) op. 44

Not to be confused with Johann’s much later Festival-Quadrille nach englischen Motiven op. 341 (1867), the Fest-Quadrille is a youthful work dating from the 1840s. It was one of several new compositions the young Kapellmeister Strauss wrote in the weeks leading up to his major concert tour to the Balkans in late 1847/early 1848, and was first heard on 1 September 1847 at a scenic festival with illuminations on the Vienna Wasserglacis, the broad tract of open land encircling the inner city of Vienna at that time. The advertisements for his event also announced a performance of Wagner’s Tannhäuser Overture—an opera not mounted in Vienna until August 1857—but probably owing to insufficient rehearsal time being allocated, the testing Wagner work was not played on this occasion. Strauss later wrote that he conducted the “first rendering of the Overture in Vienna” on 2 January 1854.

Ella-Polka op. 160

The guest appearances of a lady bareback-rider drew audiences to Vienna’s Carl-Theater for a total of 51 performances in 1855. Billed as ‘Miss Ella’, this daring young trick-rider made her début on 7 February, and had the public marvelling at her amazing feats as her horse galloped around the theatre’s stage. With customary speed, Johann Strauss capitalised on this novelty act and, just four days later, on 11 February, he delighted those present at his benefit concert in the Sofienbad-Saal with his Ella-Polka. Strauss’s publisher (Carl Haslinger), however, was aware of a detail unknown to the hasty composer. ‘Miss Ella’ wa actually the stage-name of Olmar Stokes—a man! Accordingly Haslinger published the work with an amended title: Ella-Polka.

Mann lebt nur einmal! Walzer (im Ländlerstyle) (You only live once! Waltz in Ländler-style) op. 167

W. Tatzelt’s title page illustration for the first piano edition of Strauss’s waltz Man lebt nur einmall depicts his own interpretation of the motto: on the right a crowded ballroom scene, on the left four men quaffing champagne!

Johann Strauss composed this waltz for his own benefit concert at the ‘Sperl’ on Carnival Monday, 19 February 1855. But his choice of title, a quotation from Goethe, caused some eyebrows to be raised, for Vienna was only just recovering from the ravages of a cholera epidemic which had raged through the capital since the previous autumn. Fifty-four years later Strauss’s waltz was given a text by Walter Gericke, and sung in the comedy Man lebt ja nur einmall by the famous Austrian tenor Alexander Girardi.

Krönungs-Marsch (Coronation March) op. 183

This festive march, with its title page illustration of Moscow Cathedral in the Kremlin, was ‘dedicated in deepest respect to his Majesty Alexander II, Tsar of all the Russias, on the occasion of his festive coronation in Moscow on 7 September 1856 (= 26 August, Russian calendar).

Alexander II (1818–81) had succeeded to the throne of his late father Nicholas I in March 1855, during the Crimean War. An admirer of Strauss and his music, Alexander attended several of Johann’s concerts at Pavlovsk, and invited the Viennese maestro to accompany him to Moscow for his coronation festivities. In celebration Strauss wrote his Krönungs-Marsch, which audiences at the Vauxhal Pavilion, Pavlovsk, first heard on 25 September (= 13 September, Russian calendar) conducted by the composer.

Neues Leben, Polka française (New Life, French polka) op. 278

Neues Leben was to prove a remarkably prophetic title for the French polka Johann Strauss was the DUke who was later (1887) to make possible Strauss’s marriage to Adèle by granting him a divorce from his second wife. Neues Leben, however, began life under the title Addio and, as such, was first heard during the final concert of Johann’s 1863 Pavlovsk season on 27 September (= 15 September, Russian calendar). The polka was duly published in Russia with the title Prochanie (Adieu), but when Strauss sent the work to his Viennese publisher, Carl Haslinger, it seems the latter preferred to re-title the piece Neues Leben. Indeed, Haslinger was also to make the piano arrangement of the work himself. But changes were taking place, and Neues Leben was the last of Johann Strauss’s compositions to bear the Haslinger imprint. It was first performed in Vienna at a St Katherine’s Day masked ball in the Redoutensaal on 20 November 1863, and the dedication of the polka to the Strauss-admirer Duke Ernst II earned its composer a decoration.

Hofballtänze, Walzer (Court Ball Dances, Waltz) op. 298

Johann Strauss had to wait almost fourteen years, until February 1863, before being awarded by decree the prestigious honorary title of ‘k.k. Hofball-Musikdirector’ (Director of Music for the Imperial-Royal Court Balls), in succession to his late father. His previous petitions had been rejected because of official concern for his “civic and moral behaviour”, but by 1863 the Court could no longer overlook either Strauss’s artistic accomplishments or his numerous patriotic and charitable actions. Johann was justifiably proud of his numerous patriotic and charitable actions. Johann was justifiably proud of his title, and of the uniform of high-necked red dress coat and white trousers he and his orchestra were required to wear for balls at Court. Such would have been their attire for the Court Ball held in the Imperial Hofburg Place on 22 February 1865, for which Johann wrote his waltz Hofballtänze.

Stürmisch in Lieb’ und Tanz, Schnell-Polka (Tempestuous in Love and dance, Quick polka) op. 393

The quick polka Stürmisch in Lieb’ und Tanz was Johann’s contribution to the ball of the Vienna Authors’ and Journalists’ Association, ‘Concordia’, which took place in the Sofienbad-Saal on 22 February 1881. The work, which was conducted by the composer’s brother Eduard, draws upon melodies in Strauss’s seventh operetta, Das Spitzentuch der Königin [Première: Theater an der Wien, Vienna, 1 October 1880], the thematic material deriving from Act 3 and from the Act 1 Finale.

Wiener Frauen, Walzer (Viennese Ladies, Waltz) op. 423

At the beginning of 1886 the 60-year-old Johann Strauss was invited to conduct in St Petersburg (now Leningrad) by ‘The Russian Red Cross Society’ and a children’s foundation there—both institutions under the patronage of the Tsarina. Strauss and his wife-to-be, Adèle, left Vienna in March bound for Russia and, via stops in Hamburg and Berlin where Johann conducted performances of his new operetta Der Zigeunerbaron (The Gypsy Baron), they reached St Petersburg in mid-April. Strauss had brought with him a number of compositions specially prepared for his St Petersburg concerts, including a homage in three-quarter time to the ladies of that city. The waltz, entitled Les dames de St Petersbourgh, was heard for the first time in the riding school of the Horse Guards Regiment on 27 April 1886 (= 15 April, Russian calendar), and was published in Russia under this title. For Viennese audiences, however, the work underwent a subtle change of identity, emerging as Wiener Frauen (Viennese ladies).

Souvenir-Polka op. 162

In December 1854 more than 6,500 people lay dead or suffering from a cholera epidemic which had hit Vienna that autumn. Not until the beginning of 1855 was the outbreak quelled, and that year’s Carnival was understandably a less carefree and joyous festivity than was usual with this annual event. Among the many new compositions with which Johann Strauss sought to enliven the carnival proceedings was his Souvenir-Polka, written for a charity ball held in aid of the poor. With the composer conducting the Strauss Orchestra, the performance took place on 23 January 1855 in Karl Schwender’s recently-opened entertainment establishment which lay beyond the ancient outer city defences in the suburb of Rudolfsheim.

© 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.


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