About this Recording
8.223230 - STRAUSS II, J.: Edition - Vol. 30
English  German 

The Johann Strauss Edition

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, 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.

 

Fest-Marsch (Festival March) op. 49

 

Shortly before setting off from Vienna on his challenging concert tour to the Balkans in autumn 1847, the younger Johann Strauss delighted his audiences by performing several new compositions, some of which he presented at scenic festivals organised in the Viennese suburbs. On 20 August, for example, the Wiener Zeitung carried an announcement for one such event: "Sunday 22 August 1847 there takes place at the Vienna-Gloggnitz Railway Station, close by Belvedere, in celebration of the rapid progress of Austrian industry with regard to the railways, a Festival of Splendour including a ball, for which no expense has been spared, with dazzling illuminations and skilfully designed machinery called: Festive Railway Train from Trieste via Vienna to Hamburg".

 

Regrettably, strong winds on the appointed day prevented the display of illuminations and the entire festival was repeated - this time with complete success - the following Sunday, 29 August. The new date coincided with the church festival of what was then the suburb of Wieden (nowadays the 4th District of Vienna) and the event took place at the coffee house of the festival's organiser, J. Kwiatkofsky, situated between the Schloss Belvedere (the summer residence of the Habsburgs) and the Gloggnitz railway station (today known as the Südbahnhof). At that time the old town of Gloggnitz, in Lower Austria, was the terminus of the line running south from Vienna, construction of the route via the Semmering Pass, the first of the major Alpine railways, not having yet taken place. Naturally, the "Festival of Splendour" lived up to its name and "ensured that the extraordinarily numerous public was richly compensated" (Wiener Zeitung, 25.08.1847) for its disappointment the previous week. The Prince Gustav of Wasa Infantry Regimental Band (No. 60), under Kapellmeister Joseph Resniczek, and the Hungarian Music Society (a gypsy band), under the direction of Kovácz Joszi, had been engaged to provide the concert music in the park. Johann Strauss II and his orchestra, especially augmented for the occasion, were entrusted with the dance music which they played in the ballroom located in the superbly decorated main salon of the railway station. On the long and magnificent façade of Kwiatkofsky's premises, a symbolic representation of a railway line from Trieste via Vienna to Hamburg had been erected, with painted views of each city's railway station as a background. When darkness fell, just after 10 o'clock, the spectacle was completed as an 'illuminated train' moved between the stations of the two seaports.

 

Among the pieces of music played during this festival at Kwiatkofsky's coffee house was a composition by Kapellmeister Kovácz, Bétsi Emlék (Memory of Vienna), first performed at the previous week's festivity, and two new works by Johann Strauss: the Marien-Polka (which was never published and has been lost) and the suitably impressive Fest-Marsch, the last-mentioned performed by the combined forces of the regimental band and the Strauss Orchestra. The manuscript orchestral performing material for the march has not survived and no printed edition for orchestra was issued, so Professor Ludwig Babinski has made a new arrangement for this recording from the published piano score.

 

Luisen Sympathie Klänge. Walzer (Luise's Mercy. Waltz) op. 81

 

Luisen Sympathie Klänge was the name Johann Strauss gave to the artistically-crafted waltz he played for the first time on 16 July 1850 at his "Grand Assembly in the Imperial-Royal Volksgarten for the benefit of the popular conductor". The sophisticated Viennese public who attended this entertainment, and at whom the new waltz was directed, were treated to a programme which also featured performances of Johann's "latest compositions", including the Wiener Garnison-Marsch (op. 77), the Heiligenstädter Rendez-vous-Polka (op. 78, Volume 5 of this CD series) and the waltz Maxing-Tänze (op. 79, Volume 22). During the course of the "Grand Assembly" Johann and his orchestra alternated their performances with the military band of the 2nd Austrian Field-Artillery Regiment, under its bandmaster Sebastian Reinisch, and the musical evening was complemented by a display of fireworks - an entertainment which seems to be enjoying a revival of popularity at many present-day alfresco concerts of Viennese light music.

 

Among those present at the Volksgarten concert was the critic of the Fremden-Blatt newspaper, who observed in the issue of 18 July 1850 that the festivity "was very numerously attended and, on the part of the public, enjoyed the most favourable reception. The illuminations were astonishingly beautiful. The conducting of the music proved that Strauss is making worthy efforts to emulate his much lamented father". This was no isolated commendation. It found an echo in the Wiener Allgemeine Theaterzeitung, whose reviewer wrote on 23 July of a subsequent performance of Luisen Sympathie Klänge that the waltz "has the reputation of having great musical value. Strauss is really making progress every day in his art, and one is increasingly convinced that he is blessed with the same genius as his famous father".

 

The reason for Johann's choice of this particular waltz title is unclear, although one plausible explanation links it to the former queen of Prussia, the noble and heroic Auguste Wilhelmine Amalie Luise (1776-1810). The Luise Foundation for the education of girls was established in her honour, and on 3 August 1814, in memory of his late queen, King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia instituted the Order of Luise to recognise acts of patriotism and philanthropy. In April 1850 - just weeks before Strauss presented his new waltz - the lapsed Order of Luise was revived and conferred upon those women who had distinguished themselves by caring for wounded soldiers during the warfare of 1848 and 1849.

 

Alexandrine-Polka. Polka française

(Alexandrine Polka. French polka) op. 198

 

"Herr Capellmeister Johann Strauss, who, during his stay this year in St. Petersburg has in every respect achieved even more splendid success than during his first visit there, has composed a new French polka with the title 'Alexandrine-Polka', which, according to reports from there, has enjoyed even greater popularity than did the 'Annen-Polka' in its time. The 'Alexandrine-Polka' will shortly be published by Carl Haslinger".

 

This extravagant claim for the Alexandrine-Polka appeared in the Wiener Allgemeine Theaterzeitung on 22 August 1857 while the 31-year-old Strauss was fulfilling his second summer concert season at the Vauxhall Pavilion in Pavlovsk, just outside St. Petersburg. He had made his début at Pavlovsk the previous year, and such was the phenomenal reception the Russian public accorded the young Viennese maestro that he was swiftly engaged by the management of the Tsarskoye-Selo-Railway Company for a further two seasons, obliging him to give concerts every evening from 2 May until 2 October inclusive with an orchestra of at least thirty musicians.

 

It is not known when Johann first introduced the Alexandrine-Polka to his Russian audiences: F.A. Zimmermann, the viola-player and meticulous diarist of the 1856 season did not participate in the 1857 concerts, and few reports from Pavlovsk reached either the St. Petersburg or Viennese papers. Yet the Alexandrine-Polka, together with the new dances composed for that year's Vienna Carnival, plainly numbered among Johann's novelty repertoire for the first half of the Pavlovsk summer season. At the end of July 1857 he wrote to Carl Haslinger in Vienna, mentioning his satisfaction "with the pieces composed here", specifying the Olga-Polka (op. 196), the Alexandrine-Polka and the waltz Souvenir de Nizza (op. 200, Volume 27 of this CD series).

 

But if we are uncertain regarding when the Alexandrine-Polka was unveiled in Russia, we can be more definite as to the identity of the lady immortalised in its title. Strauss appears to have met the singer Alexandrine Schröder during the summer of either 1856 or 1857. She was still within his circle of acquaintances two years later as is clear from a letter Johann wrote to his Russian beloved, Olga Smirnitskaja, from Vienna on 21 November 1859. He mentions that Alexandrine had written to him from Dresden a few days earlier, and infers that she was aware of his supposedly clandestine affair with Olga in Russia.

 

Johann had apparently intended that Josef Strauss should conduct the Viennese première of the Alexandrine-Polka, and at the end of July (or in the first days of August) had despatched the score to Carl Haslinger from Pavlovsk with the request: "Please tell my brother Josef that this polka must be performed very elegantly". However, the work was not among Johann's

Russian compositions which Josef presented at his benefit concert in the Volksgarten on 18 October 1857, and it was left to Johann himself to conduct the first performance of the work at the tavern 'Zum grossen Zeisig', in the Viennese suburb of Neubau, on 18 November - nearly a month after his return from Pavlovsk.

 

The playful Alexandrine-Polka, which makes interesting use of chromatics in the countermelody for cello and bassoon in the main section and also in the melody of the second half of the Trio, was not announced by Haslinger until 12 January 1858, some five months after the Theaterzeitung of 22 August 1857 had reported its imminent publication. Whilst the decorative cover of the first piano edition gives the polka's title, as Alexandrinen, the inner page and the orchestral performing material agree on Alexandrine.

Paroxysmen. Walzer (Paroxysms. Waltz) op. 189

 

Paroxysmen was Johann's enterprising choice of title for the waltz he dedicated "to the Gentlemen Students of Medicine at Vienna University" on the occasion of their ball held in the Sofienbad-Saal on 20 January 1857. The critic for the Fremden-Blatt filed his report for the newspaper's edition on 22 January: "The day before yesterday the Medical Students' Ball opened the season in the Sofienbad-Saal, which made the ball especially interesting when one saw for the first time the new and sumptuously decorated locale. The dance hall is newly hung throughout with red and gold drapery, the ceiling very tastefully prepared. Little statues, surrounded by flowers and leaves, heighten the appeal of the decorations. - The music was personally conducted by [Johann] Strauss and his waltz 'Paroxysmen', written especially for this ball, belongs to his best compositions".

 

Waltz and title complement each other perfectly, and in the Paroxysmen Walzer Strauss once again displayed his genius for introducing variety into the formal confines of three-quarter time. The opening bars of the waltz are somewhat fretful, whilst the remainder of the Introduction takes the form of a calmer section, and this idea of sudden changes of mood - representing an intensification of paroxysmal symptoms - continues throughout the piece, with melodic major passages interspersed with bursts in minor keys. The surging first waltz theme (1A) is accompanied by a tense grumbling figure in the lower strings, and the work finally builds to its powerful climax with the aid of tremolo strings, timpani and gong.

 

Wilhelm Tatzelt's delightful cover illustration for the first piano edition of the Paroxysmen Walzer presents two vignettes contrasting the implements of primitive natural medicine with the apparatus of new contemporary science - a human skull, bone and ancient tomes are juxtaposed with a glass retort, thermometer and an electrostatic machine.

 

Kammerball-Polka (Chamber Ball Polka) op. 230

 

On 20 January 1850 the 24-year-old Johann Strauss made an application to the Oberhofmeisteramt (the Office of the Senior Master of the Imperial-Royal Household) for permission to conduct the music at Court- and Chamber Balls in the Hofburg Palace, the winter residence of the Habsburgs. This request was declined on 31 January, and musical duties for Court- and Chamber Balls remained firmly in the hands of Philipp Fahrbach senior (1815-85), a former flautist in Father Strauss's orchestra. For some reason, however, during the course of the 1850 Vienna Carnival several newspapers chose to report, erroneously, that Johann Strauss had been engaged to perform at Court - for example, on 23 January Die Geissel stated that he would that day conduct at the Archduchess Sofie's "Grand Chamber Ball". The papers' actions provoked a written rebuttal (Theaterzeitung, 9.02.1850) from Fahrbach which, in turn, angered Strauss, and the harmless artistic rivalry between the two men gave way to a lasting personal enmity.

 

Undaunted, and with his mind firmly set on becoming his late father's successor at Court, Johann planned a campaign to attain this goal. He was clearly guided by an adviser well versed in courtly affairs. Works such as the Viribus unitis Marsch (op. 96, Volume 24 of this CD series) and the Vivat!-Quadrille op. 103, as well as his public acts of charity, bear testimony to his desire to woo favour in Imperial circles. In the summer of 1851 he became acquainted with the 15-year-old "Wonder Child", Constanze Geiger (1835-90), whose waltzes and other compositions he took into his repertoire and performed frequently. The girl's father was also a proficient musician and, more importantly for Strauss, the music teacher of the Emperor Franz Josef and his brothers. Constanze's mother, too, was well connected at Court, for as Vienna's most imaginative milliner, she frequented the apartments of the Hofburg and the palaces of the nobility. The influence which the youngster's parents exercised at Court had earlier been recognised by Johann Strauss Father, who had dedicated his Flora-Quadrille (op. 177, 1845) to the 9-year-old Constanze.

 

The younger Johann's acts of allegiance eventually reaped their reward and, without his having to make further formal application, he was entrusted with the conducting of ball music at the Imperial Court during the carnival of 1852, at first sharing these duties with the elder Philipp Fahrbach.

 

Having achieved his goal, Johann Strauss was to become a familiar figure at dance entertainments within the Hofburg, and for a Chamber Ball there - the first of the year - on 11 January 1860, he wrote his frolicsome Kammerball-Polka. The work was heard publicly at the Strauss benefit balls in the Sofienbad-Saal (13 February) and the Sperl (20 February), and was among thirteen new works by Johann and Josef to feature in the annual "Carnival Revue" (Volksgarten, 26 February) of their new dances composed for the Fasching celebrations just passed. The polka was published by Carl Haslinger on 18 March 1860. Inexplicably the piece has failed to hold its place in concert repertoire, but was rescued from obscurity by Antal Dorati who appropriated its first and second themes (1A & 1B) for his Strauss pastiche ballet of 1940, Graduation Ball, where they may be heard at the start of the 'Grand Gallop' (No. 12).

 

Attaque Quadrille (Attack Quadrille) op. 76

 

On 15 September 1850 the Wiener Zeitung announced that five new compositions by Johann Strauss had just been issued by his publisher Pietro Mechetti: Lava-Ströme Walzer (op. 74), Sophien-Quadrille (op. 75), Attaque Quadrille (op. 76), Wiener Garnison Marsch (op. 77) and Heiligenstädter Rendez-vous Polka (op. 78). Although each was advertised as being available in editions for piano, violin and piano and full orchestra, orchestral parts for the march and both quadrilles never appeared. The Marco Polo 'J. Strauss Junior Edition' therefore presents these works in especially prepared authentic arrangements.

 

The Attaque Quadrille poses a problem for the Strauss researcher. The composition appears to date from the winter of 1849-50 and was presumably written for the 1850 Vienna Carnival. In the absence of definitive press reports, however, opinion is divided as to the exact date and venue of the quadrille's first performance. According to the much respected musicologist, the late Professor Dr Max Schönherr, the work was Johann's dedication piece for the "Grand National Ball for the Opening of the Carnival", held in the Sofienbad-Saal on 13 January 1850. If this was indeed the case then it follows that Strauss conducted the premières of two new quadrilles on that evening: the Sophien-Quadrille (op. 75, Volume 26 of this CD series) and the Attaque Quadrille. It would have been highly improbable for Johann to give the première of two new quadrilles at one event. Furthermore, the première of the Sophien-Quadrille was highlighted by the press both before and after the ball, while no reference was made to the Attaque Quadrille. Thereafter, it is in vain that one searches the columns of daily newsprint for mention of the Attaque Quadrille - until reaching an advertisement in the Fremden-Blatt on 15 March 1850. The programme of an "Extraordinary Musical Festival Soirée in the Sperl (for the benefit of an ailing citizen of Leopoldstadt)", to be conducted by Johann Strauss "in person" on 16 March, lists the Attaque Quadrille as the tenth of eighteen items. The work is described neither as receiving its première nor even as "new" and it must therefore have been given its first performance considerably earlier.

 

Perhaps a solution to 1he problem lies in the martial title of the Attaque Quadrille. On 12 January 1850 the Wiener Allgemeine Theaterzeitung published the carnival calendar of events to be held in the Sofienbad-Saal. Amidst the entries one reads: "From 23 January, each Wednesday 'Mars Balls' (Homage to the army. Proceeds to the wounded Radetzky-, Jellačić-, Welden- Invalids' Foundation.)". The suitability of an Attack Quadrille to a ball glorifying the Roman god of war is self-evident, and it seems probable that it was for one of these "Mars Balls" (thus, 23 January 1850 at the earliest) that Strauss wrote the new work.

 

The Vienna Institute for Strauss Research observes (1991) of the Attaque Quadrille: "The first theme of the third section (Poule) bears similarities to the second part of the song 'Der gute Kamerad' (melody by Friedrich Silcher, 1825)... In the second theme of Section 3 (Poule), Strauss quotes the horn signal of the Imperial-Royal Austrian army for their 'General March'... In the printed piano edition [of the quadrille], the Finale section is preceded by the 'General March' of the Imperial-Royal Austrian army". This brief prelude, however, is absent from the earliest known manuscript orchestral parts of the quadrille, dating from circa 1853 and transcribed by copyists.

 

In the absence of Strauss's original, the orchestration for this present recording was made by Professor Ludwig Babinski.

 

Reiseabenteuer. Walzer (Travel Adventures. Waltz) op. 227

 

The first piano edition of Johann Strauss's delightful waltz Reiseabenteuer, issued by Carl Haslinger's publishing house in early 1860, features on its cover two vignettes: in one, a passenger is hurled from an overturned horse-drawn carriage, while in the other a paddle-steamer is tossed in a violent storm at sea. A third, smaller, vignette depicts a violin and bow. The seascape illustration, at least, is no mere figment of the artist's imagination, but is a genuine biographical reminiscence from the composer's second journey to Russia, undertaken in the spring of 1857.

 

Strauss took his leave of the Viennese with a concert at Unger's Casino on 3 May 1857, and travelled to Russia via Berlin in order to organise an orchestra "abroad" - as required by his contract with the management at St. Petersburg. The engagement of musicians from Berlin, moreover, assisted in minimising travelling costs. The passage from Germany to Russia was made by sea from Stet tin (today, Polish Szczecin), via the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland, to the port of Kronshtadt near St. Petersburg. On 5 June the Fremden-Blatt newspaper informed its readers in Vienna of Strauss's hugely successful first concert at Pavlovsk, adding that the composer "had to endure a terrible storm on the crossing from Stettin to Kronshtadt". Johann himself referred to the events of the voyage in a letter written to Haslinger in May 1857 from Pavlovsk: "Now I can breathe again a little, for my exertions of the journey and the most necessary rehearsals have been enormous up until this very day... As far as my health is concerned I am very content, since even on the ship I was not ill for a moment, and when I arrived at Pavlovsk I found good beer which, as you know, always makes me feel healthy. Thus, regarding my state of health, nothing was left to be desired and this is still the case".

 

The waltz Reiseabenteuer came into being two years after the events described above and numbered among the new compositions which Johann Strauss wrote for audiences attending his fourth concert season at the Vauxhall Pavilion in Pavlovsk during summer 1859. Particularly noteworthy is the Coda section of the work, recalling the crossing from Stettin to Kronshtadt: in a brief, but vivid and dramatic, piece of descriptive musical writing, Strauss imagines the storm-lashed vessel pitching and rolling under the onslaught of the waves, while the wind rages and the lightning flashes. With remarkable economy, the 'Waltz King' creates a fine storm sequence rivalling any in the classical musical repertoire.

 

It is unfortunately not possible to establish the precise date on which Strauss gave the Russian première of the waltz since the orchestra's diarist, the viola-player F.A. Zimmermann, remained in Vienna on this occasion. The composer conducted the first Viennese performance of the work at an afternoon concert in the Volksgarten on 20 November 1859, marking his first public appearance after returning from Russia. The programme of music played on this occasion featured the first Viennese performance of five dances (opp. 224-227 and op. 229) which Johann had written for his Pavlovsk audiences. The day after the Volksgarten concert, 21 November, Johann wrote in a letter to Olga Smirnitskaja, his loved one in Pavlovsk: "Yesterday I played for the first time in public, in the Volksgarten, where two thousand people had gathered. I was received extremely cordially as a child of Vienna with applause which lasted for minutes; the 'Reise-Abenteuer-Walzer' went down the best and had to be repeated three times...".

 

Georg Kraus, a viola-player and copyist in the Strauss Orchestra, was assigned the task of preparing the fair copy full score of the Reiseabenteuer Walzer from the composer's own manuscript; from this the publisher had the separate orchestral parts engraved. Kraus completed his work on 25 November and Haslinger was able to offer the waltz for sale on 2 January 1860. Announcing the issue of this waltz the same day, Der Zwischenakt commented that it "needs no further recommendation since, through its melodic freshness, it has already secured the greatest popularity".

 

Par force! Schnell-Polka (By force! Quick polka) op. 308

 

The Strauss Orchestra's "Carnival Revue" of 1866 presented a record number of new dance compositions written for that year's Fasching celebrations by the Strauss brothers. Of the twenty-two works played on the programme in the Volksgarten on 18 February - announced as "a benefit concert for Josef and Eduard Strauss with the participation of Court Ball Music Director Johann Strauss" - 7 were contributed by Johann, 10 by Josef and 5 by Eduard. Throughout, the works - especially those by Johann and Josef - are of an exceptionally high standard and bear testimony to the artistic rivalry that existed between the two brothers. Specifically, Johann's tally of dances comprised three waltzes: Flugschriften (op. 300, written for the 'Concordia' Ball on 21 January), Bürgerweisen (op. 306, Citizens' Ball, 24 January) and Wiener Bonbons (op. 307, Industrial Societies' Ball, 28 January), and four polkas: Kinderspiele (op. 304, Court Concert, 5 December 1865), Damenspende (op. 305, Students' Ball, 6 February), Sylphen (op. 309, 'Hesperus' Ball, 4 February) and finally, Par force!.

 

The last-mentioned work, the quick polka Par force!, was composed for a masked ball held in the sumptuous surroundings of the Redoutensaal ballroom of the Imperial Hofburg Palace in Vienna on 8 February 1866. Quite why Johann should have chosen this title for an event organised in aid of the Institute for the Care of the Blind is unclear, but the title and character of this ebullient piece are well matched. ('Par force' had, incidentally, been the name of a new ballroom dance, introduced sixteen years earlier during the 1850 Vienna Carnival.) The day following the Redoutensaal ball, Der Zwischenakt (9.02.1866) commented: "The carnival nears its end. As the oil flame once again flares up into bright light just before it is extinguished, so does this carnival. - As usual, the 'Blind Ball' brought together the elegant public in its rooms. The music directed by Court Conductor Johann Strauss left nothing to be desired".

 

Although the Par force! Schnell-Polka was played for the first time at the 'Blind Ball' in the Redoutensaal on 8 February 1866, it seems that its composer may have intended to unveil the work ten days earlier, on 29 January, at the "Strauss Benefit Masked Ball" in the Sofienbad-Saal. The press announced that Johann, Josef and Eduard would each contribute a new composition to the festivity, Johann's offering being a quick polka simply entitled Durch!. Subsequent reports make it clear, however, that only two of the three new works were actually performed - Josef's For ever! Polka schnell (op. 193) and Eduard's Pirouette-Polka française (op. 22). For whatever reason, Johann's advertised quick polka Durch! was not played. A solution to the mystery of the missing work may reside in the titles of the two polkas, Durch! and Par force!, the German word 'durch' having virtually the same meaning as the French word 'par': 'through', 'by' or 'by means of'. Since Par force! was Johann's only quick polka of the 1866 Vienna Carnival, and as no quick polka by the name of Durch! appears in his catalogue of published works, one may justifiably draw the conclusion that the two titles apply to one and the same composition.

 

Writing with the benefit of hindsight, the musicologist Dr Eric Schenk observed in his book, Unsterbliche Tonkunst: Johann Strauss (1940), that Par force! was the prototype of the famous 'Kriegsabenteuer Couplet' (No. 16) in Act 3 of Strauss's operetta Der Zigeunerbaron (The Gypsy Baron, 1885), where the similarity can be heard in the second section sung by Zsupán to the text "Gib Acht, es kracht".

 

Erinnerung an Covent-Garden. Walzer nach englischen Volksmelodien

(Memory of Covent Garden. Waltz on English Popular Melodies) op. 329

 

On 8 August 1867 the attention of music-loving readers of London newspapers, such as The Times and The Morning Post, was attracted to a lengthy announcement by John Russell, the late Alfred Mellon's successor as Director of the Promenade Concerts at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden. The notice read in part: "The Director cannot refrain from expressing his satisfaction (which will doubtless be shared by the musical public in general) on being able to announce that he has succeeded in making an engagement with that most celebrated conductor and composer of dance music Herr JOHANN STRAUSS, Kaiserlich, Königlicher, Hofball Musik Director to his Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Austria. Herr Strauss will not only bring with him many of his newest pieces, but will compose during his sojourn in England several others, expressly for the Covent-garden Concerts. Herr Johann Strauss will undertake the entire superintendence of the musique de danse, and conduct the orchestra on all occasions during its performance". For Strauss himself a deciding factor in accepting the invitation to conduct at all 63 promenade concerts between 15 August and 26 October may have been Russell's proud boast that the orchestra "will be the most complete ever assembled in England. It will be chiefly selected from that of the Royal Italian Opera, but increased in strength, and, in respect to individual executants, improved where it has been thought possible to do so".

 

The announcement of Strauss's engagement must have seemed heaven-sent by the London publishing firm of Charles Sheard & Co. and their music editor, Alfred Lee (? 1839-1906). The previous month they had organised a massive publicity drive for their catalogue of songs from music hall and American minstrel shows and, since two of the potpourri numbers (published in Vienna as opp. 329 and 341) which Strauss composed for his London audiences consisted exclusively of material from Sheard's catalogue, it would seem that the publisher had lost no time in exploiting the appearance in London of the world's foremost composer of dance music.

 

The programme of music announced for the promenade concert given on the evening of 27 September 1867 included the first performance of a "new festival valse comique on popular melodies, composed by Johann Strauss". Such was the enthusiastic reception for this charming tribute to the Waltz King's London audience, that it had to be repeated. The Morning Herald (30.09.1867) deemed the novelty "spiritual, and amusing as such a thing could be", and classed it as one of the "popular successes of the season" alongside Strauss's waltz An der schönen blauen Donau (By the beautiful blue Danube), remarking that both works "can hardly fail to aid him in achieving that special pre-eminence here which he indisputably enjoys abroad". Charles Sheard announced the publication of The Festival Valse Comique just two days after the work's première, and its piano score gave additional publicity to Sheard's catalogue by identifying the individual melodies:

 

Waltz 1   -

"Champagne Charlie" (1866, composed by George Leybourne and Alfred Lee)

Waltz 2   -

"The Flying Trapeze" (1866, Leybourne & Lee)

Waltz 3   -

"The Mousetrap Man!" (1865, H. J. Whymark & R. Hughes, adapted from The Mouse-Trap Man Waltz by W.H. Montgomery)

Waltz 4   -

"Beautiful Nell" (1867, Stacey Lee & R. Coote)

"Sweet Isabella" (1867, Leybourne & Lee)

 

All the above numbers were originally sung and made famous by 'The Lion Comique', George Leybourne (1842-1884), with the exception of "Beautiful Nell", which was first performed by his music hall rival 'The Great Vance', the stage name of Alfred Peck Stevens (1839-1888).

 

The Introduction and Coda of The Festival Valse Comique also quote from "Champagne Charlie" as well as from Henry R. Bishop's popular ballad "Home, Sweet Home", from his opera Clari, or the Maid of Milan (1823). The interpolation of the latter in Strauss's waltz had a dual relevance: not only was Bishop's opera first performed at Covent Garden, but the ballad was one with which Johann's wife, the mezzo-soprano Jetty Treffz, had enjoyed tremendous success during her 1849 concert visit to London, and which she sang again during the 1867 Covent Garden Promenade Concerts where she was engaged as a soloist.

 

Viennese audiences had to wait almost a year before having their chance to hear Johann's Festival Valse Comique. The occasion was a "Grand Festival with Fireworks" held in the Volksgarten on 29 September 1868, and the Strauss Orchestra was conducted in the performance by the composer himself. Probably at the suggestion of Strauss's Viennese publisher, C.A. Spina, the waltz bore a new title: Londoner-Lieder, Walzer nach englischen Volks-Melodien (London Songs, Waltz on English Popular Melodies). It was, however, with still another name that Spina eventually published the composition on 10 November 1868 - Erinnerung an Covent-Garden, Walzer nach englischen Volksmelodien - complete with a title page illustration depicting the Waltz King conducting the orchestra on the stage of London's Theatre Royal, while the promenaders throng the auditorium. Either to capitalise on excellent sales of the sheet music, or perhaps to boost disappointing sales, Strauss's artful publisher was doubtless behind the publicity for a charity promenade concert conducted by Johann, Josef and Eduard Strauss in the Blumensäle on Easter Monday, 29 March 1869, the programme of which promised, among other novelties: "Erinnerung an Covent-Garden (new, for the first time)"...

 

Kriegsabenteuer. Schnell-Polka

(War's Adventure. Quick polka) op. 419

 

Also designated a galop by its composer, the exuberant quick polka Kriegsabenteuer was one of six works which Johann Strauss arranged as separate orchestral numbers from the score of his tenth operetta, Der Zigeunerbaron (The Gypsy Baron), first staged at Vienna's Theater an der Wien on 24 October 1885.

 

At the close of Act 2 the comic figure of the wealthy pig farmer, Kálman Zsupán, declares he will join the Hussars and march alongside enlisted Hungarian soldiers in the war against Spain. Act 3 takes place two years later: the war now over, Zsupán and his victorious fellow troops are given a heroes' welcome as they enter Vienna, and the erstwhile swineherd sings proudly of his (none too precarious!) exploits in the 'March couplet and chorus' (No. 16), "Von der Tajos Strand". It is this number which provides most of the thematic material for the quick polka Kriegsabenteuer, contributing themes 1A, 1B and 2A. The second part of the Trio section (2B) presents music from the Act 2 (No. 121/2) 'Recruiting Song' ("Her die Hand") for Count Homonay and chorus. The first piano edition of Kriegsabenteuer bears the composer's dedication "to his friend Victor Tilgner" (1844-1896), the sculptor of many masterly works of art, amongst them busts of Johann Strauss and his brothers. Tilgner expressed his gratitude in a letter written to Strauss on Christmas Day 1885: "How shall I thank you; your honourable present has moved me to tears, and no one could have given me greater pleasure than you have with this prodigal gift...".

 

As with all but two of the orchestral pieces based on Der Zigeunerbaron, the Strauss Orchestra gave the first performance of Kriegsabenteuer under the direction of the composer's brother, Eduard, the occasion being a Sunday afternoon concert in the 'Golden Hall' of the Vienna Musikverein on 13 December 1885.

 

Perpetuum mobile. Ein musikalischer Scherz

(Perpetual motion. A musical jest) op. 257

 

Perhaps the highlights of the 1859 and 1860 Vienna Carnivals were the Strauss benefits organised by Johann and Josef Strauss, each advertised as a 'Monster Ball' under the title "Carnevals Perpetuum mobile, oder: Tanz ohne Ende" (Carnival's Perpetual Motion, or Non-Stop Dancing). On both occasions, the two Strauss brothers each appeared at the head of a separate orchestra and jointly played their way uninterruptedly through no less than fifty dances.

 

Following the success of this venture Johann planned an even more spectacular entertainment for the following year's carnival. Accordingly, on 19 January 1861 the dance-mad Viennese were able to read in the Fremden-Blatt newspaper: "For the first time in Vienna. THREE BALLS IN ONE EVENING. Sofienbadsaal, Tuesday, 5 February. Strauss Benefit Monster Ball. Three large orchestras, one under the direction of Johann Strauss, the second under the direction of Josef Strauss, and the third for the first time under the direction of Eduard Strauss". Indeed, the event marked the 25-year-old Eduard Strauss's début as a ballroom conductor.

 

Like its predecessors, the 1861 festivity promised 50 dances during the course of the evening which was likewise subtitled "Carnival's Perpetual Motion, or Non-Stop Dancing". Although the Strauss brothers contributed no original new dance pieces on this occasion, the event itself seems to have inspired Johann to write one of his most lastingly popular and effective novelties. Announced as "Perpetuum mobile, characteristic fantasy piece for orchestra", the work was heard for the first time on 4 April 1861 at Schwender's establishment in the Viennese suburb of Rudolfsheim, and marked Johann's farewell concert prior to departing for his fifth 'Russian summer' at the Vauxhall Pavilion in Pavlovsk near St. Petersburg. The novelty piece, which created little interest in Vienna at the time, was intended by Strauss as "a musical jest" ridiculing a commonplace practice of the day, whereby the musical virtuosity of individual orchestral players was sometimes emphasised to such an extent that the music itself suffered. Strauss skilfully makes his point, for Perpetuum mobile consists of variations on a theme only eight bars long.

 

Johann recognised the problem of ending a musical piece symbolising perpetual motion, and the printed parts simply indicate "Fine ad lib". On this present recording the conductor Alfred Walter has taken his own decision, with the words "Und so weiter!" (And so on!) ...

 

"Klug Gretelein". Walzer

("Clever little Gretchen". Waltz) op. 462

 

In January 1895 Vienna's influential Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde (Society of the Friends of Music) celebrated the 25th anniversary of the opening of its new building on the picturesque bank of the River Wien. The splendid red and yellow edifice, the Musikverein, today stands on the Karlsplatz (the river has been covered over and can no longer be seen) and was designed by the Danish architect Theophil Hansen (1813-91), who was responsible also for the Vienna Parliament and Stock Exchange buildings.

 

The silver jubilee celebrations for the house included, albeit belatedly, a festive evening on 18 April 1895 in the 'Golden Hall' of the Musikverein building (since 1939 the venue of the annual New Year's Day Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic). The Strauss Orchestra, under Eduard Strauss, performed the varied programme with several soloists and also provided the music for the 'Jubilee Ball' which followed. The concert itself closed with the première of a vocal waltz which Johann Strauss had composed for the occasion, and for which the librettist A.M. Willner (with whom Strauss later wrote the rather unsuccessful operetta Die Göttin der Vernunft, 1897) had provided a text in the nature of a (somewhat risqué!) fairy tale. At the very last moment the soprano Paula Mark, a soloist at the Vienna Court Opera, was taken ill and her place was taken by the concert singer Olga Türk-Rohn. The richly tuneful and haunting work was conducted by Johann Strauss himself, and attracted the highest praise for the maturity of its glowing orchestration. Surprisingly, therefore, it failed to establish itself in the soprano repertoire in the way that the composer's earlier vocal concert-waltz, Frühlingsstimmen (Voices of Spring), had done. Even the orchestral version of "Klug Gretelein" enjoyed little more than a transient place in the Strauss Orchestra's repertoire, and for a long time after its first performance it lay virtually forgotten.

 

The publishing house of Emil Berté & Cie later brought out editions of the waltz for full orchestra, salon orchestra, wind band, solo piano and voice and piano. The title page illustration accompanying the first printings for both piano editions shows a scene from Willner's fairy tale text, and is by the artist and designer Franz von Bayros (actually Wilhelm Franz Josef, Marquis de Bayros), perhaps better known as the master of the erotic book illustration. He was also the artist of the famous oil painting Ein Abend bei Johann Strauss (An Evening with Johann Strauss) which Johann's wife Adèle had commissioned as a gift for her husband's jubilee in 1894, and in which Bayros included his own self-portrait. In summer 1895 Bayros (1866-1924) became engaged to Strauss's stepdaughter, Alice. The couple married the following February, but the union was unhappy and short-lived. So incensed was Adèle Strauss, Alice's mother, that she issued instructions for Bayros's face to be overpainted with a different likeness.

 

Although the printed editions of "Klug Gretelein" were published without dedication, the composer's manuscript score and text carries an inscription in his own hand: "Dedicated to the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, April 1895. Johann Strauss". Moreover, the manuscript, now housed in the archives of that Society, also reveals a fascinating departure from the published editions. Strauss himself evidently chose to christen his composition "Klug Gretelchen", rather than "Klug Gretelein" - both titles may be translated as "Clever Little Gretel" - and this original title appears in his hand on the autograph full score. Clearly the work's published title did not appeal to the composer, for he amended his own copy of the edition for voice and piano by crossing out "ein" and substituting "chen". Furthermore, it is interesting to note that when Eduard Strauss introduced the orchestral version of the waltz to his London audiences at the Imperial Institute on 11 July 1895, the programme announcement in The Times (11.07.1895) entitled the work "Clever Gretchen (Klug Gretchen)", further promoting it as the first performance of the waltz in a "Special arrangement for Orchestra alone". Since the orchestral arrangement was not heard in Vienna until 20 October 1895, when Eduard conducted it under the same title ("Klug Gretchen") at his Sunday concert in the Musikverein, it seems that the British performance was indeed the world première.

 

Programme notes © 1992 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.

 

Czecho-Slovak 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 Festival.

 

For Marco Polo the orchestra has made the first compact disc recordings of rare works by Granville Bantock and Joachim Raff. Writing on the last of these, one critic praised the orchestra for its competence comparable to that of the major orchestras of Vienna and Prague. The orchestra has contributed many successful volumes to the complete compact disc Johann Strauss II and for Naxos has recorded a varied repertoire.

 

Alfred Walter

 

Alfred Waller 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 in Münster. 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. For Marco Polo, Alfred Walter has recorded more than 15 volumes of the label's Johann Strauss II Edition, works by von Schillings, von Einem, de Bériot, Reinecke and all symphonic works of Furtwängler. He is currently engaged in recording the complete symphonies of Spohr.

 


Close the window