About this Recording
8.223234 - STRAUSS II, J.: Edition - Vol. 34
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.

 

Russischer Marsch (Russian March) op. 426

 

The Russischer Marsch, one of Johann Strauss's 'characteristic marches', belongs to that group of new compositions with which the Viennese maestro charmed audiences attending his series of charity concerts in St. Petersburg in 1886. This trip to Russia, made at the invitation of the 'Russian Society of the Red Cross' and a children's charity, was to be Johann's final visit there, and came after a lapse of seventeen years since his last concert engagement at nearby Pavlovsk (1869). There had been many changes during the intervening years, and after the assassination of Tsar Alexander II by Nihilists in 1881, the autocratic power had passed into the hands of his son, Alexander III (1845-94). The court society which surrounded the new Tsar may have known little of life in Russia thirty years earlier, but was well aware of Strauss's reputation as the darling of the public, and as a favourite of the Imperial family, through his triumphant 'Russian summers' at Pavlovsk during the years 1856-65. The appearance of the Viennese maestro in St. Petersburg in 1886 once again occasioned an outbreak of 'Strauss fever', with shops offering pictures, busts and statuettes of the conductor/composer, while one enterprising manufacturer even produced "Strauss Cigarettes" with Johann's likeness on the packet.

 

The venue for the 1886 charity concerts was the vast riding school of the Horse Guards Regiment in St. Petersburg, and the 80-strong orchestra of the Imperial Russian Opera had been provided for the concerts. While Professor K. Siecke was charged with the conducting of the symphonic portions of each programme, Johann conducted only his own compositions. The majority of the works he performed were those which had proved popular in Pavlovsk during the 1850s and 1860s, but these were supplemented by more recent works like the Brautschau-Polka (op. 417) and Schatz-Walzer (op. 418), both based on themes from his latest operetta success, Der Zigeunerbaron (The Gypsy Baron, 1885). In addition, Johann composed four new works especially for his 1886 Russian visit - 2 waltzes, a polka and a march. It was at his third concert, on 29 April 1886 (= 17 April, Russian calendar), that he unveiled his Marche des Gardes à Cheval (March of the Horse Guards), written as a tribute to the Tsar's bodyguard in whose riding school the concerts took place.

 

Although the Marche des Gardes à Cheval is without doubt "uniquely interesting", as the critic of the St. Petersburger Zeitung opined of this and the polka-mazurka Mon salut (= An der Wolga op. 425), its title does not really suit the character of the piece. Far from being a 'cavalry march', in the style of the Grossfürsten-Marsch (op.107, Volume 25 of this CD series) or the Caroussel-Marsch (op. 133, Volume 6) for example, this work is more descriptive of heavily-laden Russian foot-soldiers trudging wearily through the snow, even to the extent of the diminuendo at the end of the piece as the column of soldiers disappears into the distance. Thus, much more apposite was the name with which the march was rechristened for audiences in Vienna when Johann conducted its first performance there as an encore item during Eduard Strauss's benefit concert in the Musikverein on 7 November 1886: the Russischer Marsch. This was also the title under which August Cranz published the work, together with the composer's dedication to "his Majesty Alexander III, Emperor of Russia etc. etc".

 

Slaven-Potpourri (Slav Potpourri) op. 39

 

At a time when Johann Strauss Father and his orchestra dominated Vienna's dance music scene, the various entertainments organised by the minority Slav community living in this, the capital of the Habsburg Empire, provided a lucrative source of income for their own preferred musical director, Johann Strauss the younger. From the beginning of his career Strauss junior openly courted this national group with compositions such as the Serben-Quadrille op. 14, and the Alexander-Quadrille op. 33 (Volume 15 of this CD series). The Wiener Allgemeine Theaterzeitung of 18 March 1847 carried an announcement for one such event: "The Slav soirées are beginning to increase in scope. There will shortly take place a soirée at which all Slavic races will be represented. Strauss Son has received the honourable commission of arranging a potpourri of Slavic national melodies and preparing it for the orchestra. He will perform it with his band at the soirée, which will probably be held at the Sperl".

 

The soirée, a "Musical Evening Entertainment for the Slavs", duly took place at the Sperl dance hall in the suburb of Leopoldstadt on 27 March 1847. As reported, Strauss was on hand to present his potpourri assembled from the vast cauldron of Slavic national airs from Russia and Bohemia to the regions of the southern Slavs. More than 1,000 guests - including Bohemians, Moravians, Silesians, Poles, Serbians, Illyrians, Slovenians, Croats, Bosnians, Montenegrins and Russians - attended the event, which consisted of two parts: after a concert alternating vocal and choral items with instrumental solos, Strauss appeared with his still relatively small orchestra and presented a programme exclusively comprising pieces featuring Slavic melodies. The reporter for the Wiener Allgemeine Theaterzeitung (31.03.1847) observed that "it was a noteworthy spectacle how, despite all the general applause, the acclaim grew to acrescendo, first from one part of the room, then from another, as one Slavic race then another heard the melodies of its homeland". Naturally, Johann's cleverly contrived potpourri - which was subsequently published by H.F. Müller as the Slaven-Potpourri - drew considerable applause. The work presents no less than twenty-four national melodies, amongst those identified by Professor Arnold McMillin of London's School of Slavonic and East European Studies:

 

No. 2   -

a Moravian song: "Water flows from the stream to the River"

No. 4   -

a Bohemian song about drunkenness

No. 6   -

a Russian folk song: "Do not sew me a sarafan, mother", also used by Strauss in the Été section of his Nikolai-Quadrille op. 65

No. 8   -

a quotation from a melody in Frantisek Jan Skroup's opera Fidlovacka (1834), which became the national anthem of Czechoslovakia

No. 16 -

a Bohemian or Moravian Christmas carol

No. 17 -

a Czech furiant

No. 19 -

a Serbian or Macedonian air

No. 20 -

a Serbian kola or round dance

No. 23 -

a melody adapted from the Polish (and Slovenian?) national anthem: "Poland has not yet rotted".

 

A month after the première of Strauss's Slaven-Potpourri, the Wiener Allgemeine Theaterzeitung (28.04.1847) wrote: "The potpourri of Slav melodies which is now enjoying extraordinary applause at all the soirées given by Strauss Son, is assembled from themes of all the Slav nations, and is worth hearing on account of its varied character. Every national air is beautiful; how much more pleasant is the Slav one, eternally sweet melancholy!".

 

Yet the winds of political change were starting to blow. Johann Strauss continued to reap great success with his Slaven-Potpourri during his tour of the Balkans in the late autumn of 1847, but by December 1848 the mood in Vienna had altered completely towards this work. The outbreak of Revolution in the Austrian capital had once more highlighted the tensions which persisted between the various nationalities making up the Habsburg Empire. When Strauss played his potpourri at a musical "Reunion" in the 'Grünen Thor' tavern on 8 December 1848, there arose vehement opposition in the audience which, as the Wiener Allgemeine Theaterzeitung (10.12.1848) reported, "tempestuously demanded the playing of the 'German Fatherland tune"'. Order was only restored to the scene by the timely intervention of a city official, but the forces which were to tear apart the multi-racial state of Austria had manifested themselves.

 

The performance featured on this Marco Polo CD is of the original version of the work preserved at the Wiener Stadt- und Landesbibliothek in Vienna. This full score lacks only two sections - No. 22 March and No. 23 Trio - and these have been orchestrated for this recording by Professor Gustav Fischer.

 

Nearly half a century after Johann Strauss first played his Slaven-Potpourri he was approached by the writer Gustav Davis who suggested that the composer might care to collaborate on an operetta set in Serbian south-Hungary .In his reply, extant only in a first draft dating from around April 1893, Strauss stated: "My preference for Serbian national music, which is demonstrated by my published compositions like Serben-Quadrille [and] Serbenpotpourri (both assembled from Serbian themes) brings me very keenly to accept your proposition". (The planned stage work, Jabuka, eventually received its première during Johann Strauss's Golden Jubilee year of 1894.)

 

Fünf Paragraphe aus dem Walzer-Codex. Walzer

(Five Paragraphs from the Waltz Code. Waltz) op. 105

 

The waltz Fünf Paragraphe aus dem Walzer-Codex was the first of fourteen dance compositions - 11 waltzes and 3 polkas - which Johann Strauss II dedicated to the "Gentlemen Students of Law at Vienna University". Indeed, with the exception of Johann III (1866-1939), Eduard's eldest son, all the composers in the Strauss family wrote dedications for this particular faculty, commencing with the elder Johann's Egerien-Tänze (op. 134) in 1842 and concluding with Eduard's waltz Heimische Klänge (op. 252) in 1887. Fünf Paragraphe aus dem Walzer-Codex, itself, came into being during the winter of 1851/52 and was composed for the law students' ball held on 3 February 1852 in the Sofienbad-Saal. Despite the fact that Vienna was still under martial law following the revolutionary events of 1848 and their suppression by the army, the 1852 Carnival saw a partial return to the gaiety of former years. The structures of Viennese society, which had existed prior to the March 1848 revolution, were restored, and with this came a resumption of the traditional ball festivities of the various Vienna University faculties, and also those of the Imperial city's middle classes. Die Presse (5.02.1852) named the aforementioned 1852' Juristenball' (Lawyers' Ball) as "one of the most splendid of the season", noting that its large attendance included all the ministers, several ambassadors - amongst them the British Ambassador, the Earl of Westmorland (1784-1859) - and Prince Alois of Liechtenstein. Another visitor was Duke Ernst II of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1818-93), and it was at this ball, at the very latest, that the Duke first became acquainted with Johann Strauss. Thirty-five years later, in the summer of 1887, this same regent from Coburg would play a crucial rôle in making possible Strauss's marriage to his third wife, Adèle.

 

Strauss's penchant for thought-provoking titles for his musical creations is well demonstrated in Fünf Paragraphe aus dem Walzer-Codex. On the most elementary level the 'Paragraphs' are the five separate waltz sections comprising the composition - yet in German, 'Paragraphe' means not only 'paragraphs' but also 'articles of law'. Likewise, 'Codex' has a dual-meaning, signifying both 'code' and a term used in legal circles for 'technical expressions of jurisprudence'. The critic of Die Presse (5.02.1852) observed that Johann's tuneful waltz "had an electric effect upon the dance-loving crowd" attending the law students' ball, while the Wiener Allgemeine Theaterzeitung of 12 February 1852 carried a report of a subsequent performance on 10 February: "At Capellmeister Johann Strauss's benefit ball, which was held two nights ago in the Sofienbad-Saal, more than 2,000 people attended. The majority of those present occupied the room's large floor, which, however, on this occasion appeared inadequate, for in the contredanses the columns stretched as far as the buffet. Strauss performed five new dances at this ball festival, of which the two waltzes 'Windsor-Klänge' [Volume 17 of this CD series] and 'Fünf Paragraphe des Walzer-Codex' [sic!] had to be repeated four times amid tempestuous applause on account of their charming, melodious and piquant themes. Not until around five o'clock in the morning did the ball guests depart from the room".

 

La Favorite. Polka française (The Favourite. French polka) op. 217

 

The rich cornucopia of new compositions which Johann Strauss offered to Russian audiences attending his performances at the Vauxhall Pavilion in Pavlovsk during 1858 included two novelties which were to become 'standards' of Viennese concert repertoire - the Champagner-Polka (op. 211, Volume 14 of this CD series) and the Tritsch-Tratsch-Polka (op. 214, Volume 32).

 

No less delightful were the other new works which Vienna's young 'Musikdirektor' composed for this 1858 Pavlovsk season, the Reussen-Polka (Russians Polka) proving a particularly engaging example of the genre. According to a programme leaflet preserved at the Russian National Public Library in St. Petersburg, the polka was played for the first time at Strauss's fifteenth "Musical Evening" at the Vauxhall Pavilion on 30 September 1858 (= 18 September, Russian calendar). It also appeared on the programme of Johann's concert on 6 October 1858 (= 24 September, Russian calendar) for the benefit of the widow of Josef Szokoll, the leader of Strauss's orchestra at Pavlovsk, who had recently died.

 

Despite the pronounced Russian flavour of the Reussen-Polka, Johann's publisher in Vienna, Carl Haslinger, evidently found the title insufficiently appealing, preferring to issue the piece during late February 1859 with the title changed to La Favorite. (The Russian edition of the work, published by A. Büttner of St. Petersburg, utilised both titles: Reussen-Polka. La Favorite.) Johann Strauss took the opportunity to unveil the novelty before his native Viennese during the 1859 Carnival - possibly at the elegant 'House Ball' in Schwender's entertainment establishment on 19 January. This conjecture arises from ambiguous announcements in the Viennese press for the "Splendid Ball Festivity" at Schwender's. Whereas the Wiener Zeitung of 18 January 1859 states that "the music [is] under the personal direction of Johann & Josef Strauss, who will perform a polka especially composed for this festivity", the Fremden-Blatt of five days earlier (13.01.1859) unhelpfully declares that "J. Strauss will conduct the music in person, and will perform a polka composed especially for this evening". The press did not review the ball, although it is known that Josef Strauss's quick polka Saus und Braus (op. 69) was first performed on that occasion, and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that Johann also contributed a new dance piece. At all events, La Favorite was swift to gain popularity, as evidenced by a remark in the Wiener Allgemeine Theaterzeitung on 2 March 1859: "With his 'La Favorite-Polka française', which during this carnival has become the favourite piece and thus fully lives up to its name, Johann Strauss has demonstrated most brilliantly that his spring of melody has not yet dried up; on the contrary, it flows even more freely than before". Naturally La Favorite was among the thirteen new pieces which Johann and Josef Strauss played at their "Benefit Concert and Carnival Revue of all the dance compositions appearing in this year's Carnival", held in the Imperial-Royal Volksgarten on Sunday 13 March 1859.

 

Nikolai-Quadrille nach russischen Themen

(Nikolai Quadrille on Russian themes) op. 65

 

The 1848 Vienna Revolution led to the abdication of the Emperor Ferdinand in favour of his 18-year-old nephew Franz Josef, who was proclaimed Emperor of Austria on 2 December 1848. Just five days later, on 7 December, the Diet in Hungary refused to acknowledge the young monarch, "as without the knowledge and consent of the Diet no one could sit on the Hungarian throne", and called the nation to arms. In retaliation, the Imperial General Windischgrätz invaded Pest, and the Hungarian government and Diet retired to Debreczen. From here, on 14 April 1849, the Hungarian parliament announced it had deposed the Habsburg Emperor Franz Josef and elected the statesman Lajos Kossuth governor of an independent Hungary. Austria turned to the Russian Tsar, Nicholas I (1796-1855), for help in overthrowing the rebels: the Austro-Russian armies of two hundred and seventy thousand men soon proved victorious against the smaller Hungarian forces, and at Vilagos (today, Arad) on 13 August 1849 the Hungarians capitulated to Rüdiger, the Russian General. The Revolution crushed, Hungary was governed by martial law from October 1849 to July 1850.

 

During this period of co-operation between Russia and the House of Habsburg, Tsar Nicholas despatched to Vienna his eldest son and heir to the throne, Alexander Nikolaievich (1818-81). As guest of the Austrian Emperor he lived at Franz Josef's summer residence, Schloss Schönbrunn, for the duration of his visit from 19-22 August 1849. For his part the younger Johann Strauss was anxious to demonstrate that he now fully supported the 'official line' of the Imperial Court, having long since recognised how his open support for the revolutionaries during the events of 1848 had damaged his musical career. During the military and political struggles with Hungary in the spring and summer of 1849, therefore, he composed his Nikolai-Quadrille in honour of Austria's ally, the Russian Tsar Nicholas (= Nikolai), and almost certainly conducted its first performance with the Strauss Orchestra at one of his many soirées at Dommayer's Casino in the suburb of Hietzing. We may also be sure that Johann performed the quadrille there during Alexander Nikolaievich's visit to Vienna, for Dommayer's Casino was in the immediate neighbourhood of Schloss Schönbrunn.

 

As its piano edition (published on 21 August 1849) proclaims, the Nikolai-Quadrille is based on Russian melodies. Principal amongst these are the folk-song "Red Sarafan" ("Do not sew me a sarafan, Mother"), quoted as the second theme in the Été (i.e. 2nd) section and already utilised in his earlier Slaven-Potpourri op. 39, and the Russian national anthem, heard as the second theme in the Finale (i.e. 6th) section. Since Pietro Mechetti, Johann's publisher, did not issue printed orchestral parts for the quadrille and the original manuscript performing material has been lost, Professor Ludwig Babinski has made the present arrangement for this Marco Polo recording.

 

Abschied von St. Petersburg. Walzer

(Farewell to St. Petersburg. Waltz) op. 210

 

Such an air of sadness pervades the waltz with which Johann Strauss bade farewell to St. Petersburg in 1858, that one is persuaded that genuine regret filled the heart of the 32-year-old Viennese Kapellmeister as he prepared for his departure from the Russian capital. Indeed, an examination of events in his life affords ample evidence to support this belief.

 

In May 1856 Johann Strauss had appeared for the first time in Russia, having been engaged by the Tsarskoye-Selo Railway Company to give a season of concerts at the Vauxhall Pavilion in Pavlovsk, near St. Petersburg. Such was the success of this venture that the railway management offered Strauss a two-year contract, which he signed in November 1856. This contract expired in October 1858, and Johann did not believe it would be extended. During the 1858 season Strauss had fallen in love with the capricious young Russian girl, Olga Smirnitskaja, and the thought of never again seeing his "poetic love" - as Strauss himself called her - added to the sorrow of his departure. But his Russian adventure was not yet over: instead of heading for home after his final Pavlovsk concert in mid-October 1858, Johann despatched his orchestral players to Berlin, while he himself travelled to Moscow where Tsar Alexander II had placed the Bolshoi Theatre at his disposal for conducting three concerts. Surprisingly, the first was so poorly attended that the remaining two were cancelled, whereupon Johann dispiritedly resumed his homeward journey via Berlin to Vienna, en route learning that his Pavlovsk concert engagements had been extended for a further two seasons (1859 and 1860).

 

But by this time Johann Strauss had already said his Farewell to St. Petersburg with a waltz, in which are locked forever his memories of Russia and of Olga, as well as his mournfulness at this parting. Abschied von St. Petersburg commences with a plaintive Introduction for solo cello - beyond all doubt an acknowledgement to the Grand Dukes Constantin Nikolaievich and Michail Nikolaievich, the Tsar's brothers, who often appeared as cellists in Strauss's orchestra at Pavlovsk. The opening waltz theme, too, is full of melancholy, a mood which is enhanced by the composer's effective use of counter-melody in the cello line. The happiness which Johann had found in Russia also sounds an echo in some of the waltz themes, but no sooner are they heard than they give way once more to the restrained and elegiac mood which dominates this poignant composition. The Coda signals a return of these same solemn melodies, played by the cello against the quaver rhythms of the oboe - a device he was to use again some thirty years later in the Coda of the Kaiser-Walzer (op. 437, Volume 9 of this CD series), and the waltz ends with the fading trumpet call sounded by the composer's carriage as it bears him away from Pavlovsk and St. Petersburg.

 

The world première of the waltz Abschied von St. Petersburg featured on the programme of Johann Strauss's final benefit concert in Pavlovsk on 5 September 1858 (= 24 August, Russian calendar): in keeping with the vogue then current in Russia for the French language, it bore the title Mes adieux à St. Petersbourgh (My Farewell to St. Petersburg). Less than a week after returning to Vienna, Johann introduced his native audience to the delights of the new work when he conducted it at a "Festival Concert" (shared with brother Josef) in the Volksgarten on Sunday 21 November 1858. The critic for the Wiener Allgemeine Theaterzeitung (24.11.1858) wrote enthusiastically of the occasion: "The day before yesterday, Sunday, Kapellmeister Johann Strauss appeared before the Viennese public for the first time since his return from St. Petersburg, and was received in the most flattering way with lengthy applause. For his production, Strauss chose the well loved waltz from the last carnival season, 'Die Extravaganten' [op. 205], which was followed by the charming compositions 'L'Enfantillage' [op. 202, Volume 26], 'Etwas Kleines' [op. 190, Volume 33] and 'Alexandrinen-Polka' [op. 198, Volume 30]. The waltz 'Abschied von St. Petersburg' distinguishes itself among the newly performed compositions by its alluring themes and interesting instrumentation; the composition has a predominantly serious Slavic character ... Strauss was accorded extraordinary amounts of applause and had to repeat each new composition two or three times ...".

 

In spite of public and critical acclaim for the work, it is perhaps surprising that Abschied von St. Petersburg did not remain for long in the Strauss Orchestra's repertoire. Can one perhaps infer from this that its composer had no desire to be reminded of the sorrow he had felt when creating its melodies - a sorrow which had, in any case, now been dispelled with the certainty of a new season in Pavlovsk and the promise of love reborn alongside Olga?

 

Der Kobold. Polka-Mazur (The Imp. Polka-mazurka) op. 226

 

"My angel, everything that you say to me makes me boundlessly happy, because more and more I can allow myself to think that in you I have at last found my ideal. Thus my love for you is my only happiness, my life, my everything, and even though far from you I am always with you in spirit".

 

Johann Strauss wrote these lines on 14 November 1859, some two weeks after returning to Vienna from his fourth summer season of concerts at Pavlovsk, near St. Petersburg. His words were addressed to Olga Smirnitskaja, the young and pretty Russian girl whom he had first met and fallen for during the summer of 1858, and whom he desperately wished to marry. (See also note on Bonbon-Polka op. 213, Volume 25 of this CD series.) Johann's pet names for the capricious Olga were "L'Espiègle" and "Der Kobold" - 'The Imp' in French and German. In September 1859, for example, he ended a letter to her with the phrase: "You may be totally assured that the little imp Olga is worshipped and truly loved by Jean [= Johann]". L'Espiègle was also the title Strauss gave to the polka-mazurka he composed in Olga's honour and first performed during his benefit concert "with illuminations and fireworks" at the Vauxhall Pavilion in Pavlovsk on 13 August 1859 (= 1 August, Russian calendar).

 

This humorous polka commences with a skittish main section, followed by a Trio of changeable mood in which an ascending staccato scale in the lower register instruments (cello, bassoon and viola) imitates the mischievous tripping step of the imp. Johann conducted the Viennese première of the new polka on 20 November 1859 at a concert in the Volksgarten, given jointly with his brother Josef, the event marking his first public appearance since returning from Russia. The programme, which included five works written for Strauss's Pavlovsk audiences, was enthusiastically applauded by the 2,000-strong public. The following day (21 November) Johann wrote to Olga, advising her of the special success enjoyed by his waltz Reiseabenteuer (op. 227, Volume 30), adding that "also an encore was demanded of your polka-mazurka 'L'Espiègle', rechristened 'Der Kobold' in Vienna". It was indeed under this amended title that Carl Haslinger published the work on 20 November 1859, although without any specific dedication to Olga.

 

It is apparent from Johann's letter of 21 November to Olga that his passion for her was undiminished, even though he must by then have realized that his hopes of a permanent union with his "imp" could never be realised. The stumbling block to his dreams proved to be Olga's aristocratic parents, whose undisguised opposition to the Viennese 'Musikdirektor' as a prospective son-in-law was made clear to Johann during his meeting with Olga's mother in mid-September 1859, when she expressed her disapproval of him in terms which he found "heartless and indelicate!". In the face of such parental intransigence, Olga acquiesced and ended her affair with Strauss. Early in 1860 she wrote to him in Vienna, advising him of her plans to marry another. Recalling the nickname Johann had given her, she closed her letter with the words: "Forget your unfaithful imp, who will never cease to cherish your memory".

 

Im russischen Done. Fantasie (In the Russian Village. Fantasy) op. 355

 

Johann Strauss spent the summer months of 1856 to 1865 at Pavlovsk, in Russia, as musical director for the Tsarskoye-Selo Railway Company of St. Petersburg. In 1869 he returned for a further season as a favour to his brother Josef, who wanted to establish himself there as Johann's successor, and the two men jointly shared the daily concert schedule.

 

Under the gentle, but firm, guidance of his wife Jetty, whom he had married in 1862, Johann was increasingly turning his talents to the composition of operetta. It was while he was working on his second stage work, Der Carneval in Rom, that he unexpectedly received a further invitation from the Russian railway company requesting him to open their 1872 concert season at Pavlovsk with a series of events. The idea appealed to him, and on 24 January 1872 the Vienna Fremden- Blatt reported: "In the spring he is going to St. Petersburg, where he will receive for his performances 1,290 silver roubles for only a brief stay, and in the summer [he will go] to Baden-Baden where, during the high season, he will receive 42,000 francs under a contract". Having signed the contract for the Russian visit, Johann began to prepare his programmes. The 'darling' of the Russian public had had ample opportunity during his previous eleven visits to acquaint himself with Russian folk music, and he composed two 'characteristic pieces' in the Russian style: the Russische Marsch-Fantasie op. 353 (Volume 5 of this CD series) and the fantasy, Im russischen Dorfe.

 

But now came an even more lucrative invitation for Johann to participate that summer at the World's Peace Jubilee and International Musical Festival at Boston, in the United States of America. Sublimating his lifelong dread of travel in the face of rich financial rewards, Vienna's 'Waltz King' accepted the American offer and, together with Jetty, travelled to the Boston Jubilee. He may naively have thought that his popularity within Russia would preclude any legal action on the part of the railway company, with whom he was now in breach of contract. Had he entertained such thoughts, they were misplaced, for the railway management embarked upon a lengthy legal process which eventually cost him dearly.

 

The Strausses made the return trip from the 'New World' via the fashionable German spa resort of Baden-Baden, where Johann was scheduled to conduct a "festive ball" and twelve concerts. In the event, they extended their stay to avoid an outbreak of cholera in Vienna, and additional concerts were organised. The series of "Grand Concerts" took place in the Great Hall of the Baden-Baden Conversationshaus, and Johann appeared there for the first time on 3 August 1872 to conduct the spa orchestra in three of his compositions: the waltz Künstler-Leben op. 316 (1867), Egyptischer Marsch op. 335 (1869) and Tritsch-Tratsch-Polka op. 214 (1858). On this occasion Strauss shared the billing with the orchestra's resident conductor, Miloslav Koennemann. It was at the fourteenth "Grand Concert", held on the evening of Tuesday 17 September 1872, that Johann presented the première of his novelty fantasia Im russischen Dorfe, alongside the well-known waltzes Freuet euch des Lebens op. 340 (1870) and Wein, Weib und Gesang! op. 333 (1869). The local newspaper, the Badeblatt für die grossherzogliche Stadt Baden, kept a watchful eye on the musical entertainments at the Conversationshaus, and on 28 September observed that "Johann Strauss has, moreover, just recently brought us several new compositions. For example, the charming, richly colourful national fantasy, 'Im russischen Dorfe' ...".

 

The advertisement for this "14th Grand Concert", which appeared in the Badeblatt Baden-Baden on the day of the performance (17 September) noted that Im russischen Dorfe was dedicated to Madame la Baronne de Case [sic!], presumably the wife of the French foreign minister, Louis-Charles Decazes (1819-86), eldest son of the French statesman, Duke Elie Decazes (1780-1860). The dedicatee, whose name appears on the title page of the first piano edition of Im russischen Dorfe as "Baroness L. Decaze, née Countess Stackelberg", was a guest at the highly respectable health resort on the edge of the Black Forest.

 

Johann appears to have given just a single performance of his fantasia at Baden-Baden, and Viennese audiences were only introduced to the work when Eduard Strauss - recently decorated by the Sultan of Turkey for the dedication of his waltz Huldigungen op. 88 - conducted it with the Strauss Orchestra on New Year's Day 1873 during his promenade concert in the Musikverein.

 

The search continues for the original orchestral material for this interesting composition, but it appears to have been lost. (Interestingly, the work was also missing from the catalogue of the Strauss Orchestra's Archive compiled in 1901 by Eduard Strauss.) This present recording therefore utilises the orchestration made by Professor Dr. Max Schöherr (1903-84).

 

"Dolci pianti", Lied (Romanze) ("Sweet Tears", Song (Romance)) o. op.

 

Feigning illness, Johann Strauss interrupted his summer 1862 concert season at Pavlovsk, near St. Petersburg, and returned to Vienna. His "illness" was short-lived: once back in his native city his motives became apparent when, on 27 August 1862, he married Henrietta Carolina Josepha Chalupetzky (1818-78).

 

'Jetty Treffz', as the 44-year-old Frau Strauss was known to the musical world, was an internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano. Although no longer at the peak of her career, she was still sufficiently admired to perform before the Russian Imperial Court when she accompanied her husband to Pavlovsk in the summer of 1863. During the course of a long letter, written to Johann's Viennese publisher, Carl Haslinger, on 8 July 1863 (= 26 June, Russian calendar), Jetty announced: "My dear, dear Jeany-boy [= Johann] was seduced by me into writing a song for me in the Italian style, but good Italian style, and it came off so splendidly that it is my cheval de bataille [= current fad]. [Sigismund] Thalberg has also set the same text to music, only Jeany's composition is far, far better, more beautiful and more rewarding. It is written with cello and harp, and was sung exquisitely well (naturally!) by my humble self. Would you like to have absolute ownership of this composition, possibly dedicated to the Emperor of all the Russias and graciously accepted by him? If so, I request that you inform Jeany immediately and specify how many hundreds you are prepared to give for it. The song is for mezzo-soprano and will sell as quickly as hot rolls after a famine".

 

In the event, Haslinger declined to publish the song, entitled "Dolci pianti" (Sweet Tears), and regrettably the original version sung by Jetty has been lost. However, an arrangement of the piece for cello and piano is extant: bearing a dedication to Jetty Treffz, it survived among the papers of Strauss's estate and is now housed in the collection of the Wiener Stadt- und Landesbibliothek in Vienna.

 

Johann himself had referred to the same piece of music during June 1863, adding in a postscript to Haslinger: "You'll be getting a little song from me which, fashioned in Verdi's style, is a disgrace". In a subsequent letter, written from Pavlovsk on 16 August that year, the composer again mentioned the piece: "The song will very shortly be in your possession. I am playing it for the first time in my benefit concert on Tuesday (arranged for cello and harp) ...". The first performance of the work in the version for cello and harp (with orchestral accompaniment) took place, as Johann announced, at his second benefit concert held at the Vauxhall Pavilion in Pavlovsk on 18 August 1863 (= 6 August, Russian calendar). The enthusiastic audience at once demanded a repetition of the work, which the orchestra's diarist, F.A. Zimmermann, entered in his programme details under the title Neue Romanze (New Romance). Commenting on this benefit concert, Jetty wrote to Haslinger on 24 August (= 12 August) that "a new polka-mazurka (Invitation à la Polka Mazurka) caused a furore, and so did my song, which Johann has written for cello and harp and orchestra; it always has to be repeated and sounds absolutely delightful".

 

Between its première and the final concert of the 1863 Pavlovsk season on 27 September (= 15 September), Strauss conducted the piece a further sixteen times - most notably on 11 September (= 30 August) during a ball given by the Russian Emperor, Alexander II, at his palace in Tsarskoye-Selo (= Pushkin), situated some 3 miles/5 km from Pavlovsk. Zimmermann's records for this, and several other performances, entitle the work: "lied [Song] Süsse Thränen" - the German translation of the title "Dolci pianti" - while further entries refer to it as a "Romanze". Regrettably it has proved impossible to determine which, if any, of these aforementioned performances were sung by Jetty, rather than being purely instrumental renditions.

 

Viennese audiences heard the new composition for the first time on 10 January 1864 at a concert in the Volksgarten given by Josef and Eduard Strauss, "with the participation of Hofball-Musikdirektor Johann Strauss". The press announcements for the event (for example, in the Fremden-Blatt of 6 January) drew particular attention to the performance of the novelty, arranged as an instrumental romance: "Note: 'Dolci pianti', song in the Italian style for cello and physharmonica [a large harmonium] by Johann Strauss, accompanied by him on the physharmonica".

 

The version for cello, harp and small orchestra used in this present recording was prepared by a long-standing member of the Strauss Orchestra.

 

Niko-Polka (Niko Polka) op. 228

 

"What makes [Johann] Strauss's compositions even more attractive is the careful, inspired and bold development and charming instrumentation ... He is a master of musical effect, and knows how to exploit it with nobility and fine taste. In a word, he has become the reformer of dance music". Eugene Eiserle's laudatory words, published in Vienna's theatrical paper, Der Zwischen-Akt, on 6 March 1860 at the close of that year's Vienna Carnival, apply admirably to the composer's jolly Niko-Polka, heard in Vienna for the first time that Fasching.

 

The Niko-Polka came into being during Strauss's 1859 summer concert season at the Vauxhall Pavilion in Pavlovsk, near St. Petersburg. While the work's first performance may well have been at a private function, Johann conducted its public première at his benefit concert on 14 July 1859 (= 2 July, Russian calendar) at the Vauxhall. The polka's title derives from the nickname of its young dedicatee, Nikolai Dadian (1847-1903), the ruling prince of Mingrelia - the so-called 'Land of a Thousand Springs' in the southern Caucasus region. Nikolai, the son of Prince David Dadian (1812-53) and Catherine-Alexandrovna (née Princess Tchavtchavadze), was the sovereign prince of Mingrelia until 4 January 1867 (= 23 December 1866, Russian calendar), when he abdicated in favour of the Emperor Alexander II, and Mingrelia was annexed to Russia.

 

Prince 'Niko' was evidently a well-respected guest at the Tsar's court, and to judge from Strauss's musical portrait was full of fun. In the main section of the polka, the melancholic Russian folk tune played by cello and bassoon in the minor key is masterfully balanced by the upper strings playing a jaunty countermelody. The Trio section is both lyrical and flirtatious, and Strauss deals a final master stroke with the surprise 'false' ending - which surely must have delighted the 12-year-old prince: the tranquillity created by the harp in the closing section is suddenly shattered by a full orchestral fortissimo chord. (Strauss's relationship with the Dadian family was strengthened still further the following year when he dedicated his Romance No. 1 in D minor op. 243 to Prince Niko's mother, Catherine Dadian - see Volume 14 of this CD series.)

 

With the 1859 'Russian summer' behind him, Johann Strauss returned to Vienna at the end of October and made his first public appearance there on 20 November 1859 at a concert in the Volksgarten. He took the opportunity to introduce five novelties written for his Pavlovsk audiences: the Niko-Polka was not amongst them, and not until 18 December, when Carl Haslinger announced its publication, was there any mention of the work in the Viennese press. Then, on 19 January 1860, the Wiener Allgemeine Theaterzeitung announced a list of dance pieces which Johann had prepared for the forthcoming carnival season, and includes "a 'Niko-Polka', composed in Petersburg [but] not yet performed here". Thereafter the Viennese press carries neither announcements nor reviews of its performance at any of the carnival festivities, but the greatest likelihood is that it featured among the (unnamed) nine French polkas which Johann and Josef Strauss played at their "Monster Ball" benefit - an evening entertainment comprising 50 dance compositions - in the Sofienbad-Saal on Monday 13 February 1860.

 

Programme notes © 1993 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.

 

Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava)

 

The Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava), the oldest symphonic ensemble in Slovakia, was founded in 1929 at the instance of Milos Ruppeldt and Oskar Nedbal, prominent personalities in the sphere of music. Ondrej Lenárd was appointed its conductor in 1970 and in 1977 its conductor-in-chief, succeeded recently by Robert Stankowsky. The orchestra has given successful concerts both at home and abroad, in Germany, Russia, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Spain, Italy, Great Britain, Hong Kong and Japan. For Marco Polo the orchestra has recorded works by Glazunov, Glière, Miaskovsky and other late romantic composers and film music of Honegger, Bliss, Ibert and Khachaturian as well as several volumes of the label's Johann Strauss Edition. Naxos recordings include symphonies and ballets by Tchaikovsky, and symphonies by Berlioz and Saint-Saëns.

 

Michael Dittrich

 

Michael Dittrich was born in Silesia and studied the violin at the Music Academies in Detmold and in Vienna. As a student he was employed as second Concertmaster and Assistant Conductor of the Tübingen Chamber Orchestra and was also a violinist in the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, of which he has been a member since 1970. His career as a conductor was developed under Hans Swarowsky, Karl Österreicher, Otmar Suitner and Franco Ferrara and through the advice and friendship of Carlo Maria Giulini. In 1977 he established his own ensemble Bella Musica for the historically correct performance of music from the Baroque, Classical and Biedermeier periods, with concel1 tours throughout Europe and the Americas. Since 1978 his recordings for Harmonia Mundi have won six international prizes, including the Diapason d'Or of Radio Luxemburg and the Paris Grand Prix du Disque. He has served as a guest conductor in Italy, Germany and Austria and given television performances.


Close the window