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8.223250 - STRAUSS II, J.: Works for Male Chorus and Orchestra
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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.

 

An der schönen blauen Donau. Walzer (By the beautiful blue Danube. Waltz) op. 314

 

At the beginning of July 1865 Johann Strauss returned to Vienna from a rest cure to find a letter from the highly prestigious Wiener Männergesang-Verein (Vienna Men's Choral Association) inviting him to participate in their 'Sommer-Liedertafel' (Summer Programme of Songs) scheduled for 17 July and requesting him to compose a new waltz for the occasion. Eighteen years had passed since he had written his waltz Sängerfahrten op. 41 (Volume 16) for the Association, but Strauss nevertheless declined the proposal. He gave his reasons on 8 July 1865 in a letter to the "Highly respected Committee" of the Wiener Männgesang-Verein: "Since my contractual relations with the management in Pavlovsk, by whom I have been engaged and, on account of illness, was unable to be present there at the required time, have unfortunately become very hostile and probably will compel me to take legal action, it is impossible this year for me to accept your honourable and flattering invitation to participate in the concert taking place on the 17th of this month. However, I hereby commit myself next summer, if I am still alive, to make up for what I am now hindered from doing, and with pleasure I [will] offer the esteemed Committee a new composition - written especially for the purpose, as well as my personal participation. Yours respectfully, Johann Strauss".

 

This promise, at least for 1866, went unfulfilled, but during the summer or autumn of that year Johann - after prompting by the Association - certainly began sketching themes for the choral waltz, his first, which would eventually bear the title An der schönen blauen Donau. The military defeat of Austria by Prussian forces at Königgrätz (today, Sadowa) on 3 July 1866 cast a grim shadow across all sectors of the Habsburg Empire, and threatened to shroud even the Carnival festivities of 1867. In view of the prevailing mood. the Wiener Männergesang-Verein decided to replace its traditional rollicking 'Narrenabend' (Fools' Evening) with a more sedate evening programme of songs. Strauss, in great haste, began to adapt his waltz sketches for performance by the Vienna Men's Choral Association at their 'Faschings-Liedertafel' (Carnival Programme of Songs), originally scheduled for 10 February 1867 in the Dianabad-Saal but later changed to 15 February. Initially the Association received a four-part unaccompanied chorus of four waltzes without Introduction and with a brief Coda (which appeared in print in January 1867), and shortly afterwards Johann submitted a hastily written piano accompaniment bearing the apology: "Please excuse the poor and untidy handwriting - I was obliged to get it finished within a few minutes. Johann Strauss". The Association's 'house poet', Josef Weyl (1821-95), by occcupation a police official and a childhood friend of the composer, now added a satirical text to the four waltzes and Coda, beginning with the lines (in translation): "Viennese be happy!/Aha, why so?/Just take a look around!/I ask why?/A glimmer of light/We see nothing yet/Carnival is here!" - in which he exhorts peasants, financiers, builders, landlords, artists and politicians to dance away their cares in the carnival celebrations. Weyl had already completed his task when Strauss submitted a fifth waltz section, requiring the poet to reword the text of the fourth waltz, set words to the fifth and add a revised text to the Coda. Rehearsals began in mid-January, but by the end of the month the waltz still appears to have had no name, being referred to at most by the Association as "Waltz for chorus and orchestra by Johann Strauss, k.k. Hofballmusikdirektor". While widely accepted that the title An der schönen blauen Donau originates from the melancholy poem, "Stille Lieder" (Tranquil Songs) by Carl Isidor Beck (1817-79), it is not known who chose to give this title to Strauss's waltz. It should be noted that in Weyl's text there is no reference whatsoever to the River Danube! Only shortly before the first performance was it decided to furnish the new waltz with an orchestral accompaniment, and Strauss duly obliged, adding the beautiful, shimmering Introduction by which the work is now instantaneously recognised throughout the world. Since the composer and the Strauss Orchestra were performing at the Imperial Court on the night of the première (15.02.1867), the Wiener Männergesang-Verein were conducted by their chorus-master, Rudolf Weinwurm, and accompanied by the orchestra of the 'Georg V, König von Hannover' Infantry Regiment No. 42, which was temporarily stationed in Vienna.

 

Despite the excessive length of the evening's enter1ainment - a 5-hour long 'cabaret' in stiflingly hot conditions, with two rows of ladies sitting on chairs and over 1,200 male spectators standing behind them - An der schönen blauen Donau (the sixth of nine items on the programme) was enthusiastically applauded and repeated. The many laudatory press reports utterly refute claims in the earliest Strauss biographies that the Strauss waltz 'failed' at its première. The critic of the Fremdenblatt (17.02.1867), for example, observed: "The waltz was truly splendid, full of skipping melodies which flowed from the lips of the singers like a crystal-clear mountain spring... The composition was received with rejoicing...", while that for Die Presse (17.02.1867) commented prophetically: "The charming waltz, with its catchy rhythms, ought soon to belong to the most popular of the prolific dance-composer, and in fact formed the only untroubled high spot of the carnival song programme". Over the next twenty-three years the Association performed The Blue Danube Waltz on numerous occasions, but the carnival theme of its text proved limiting, and in 1890 Franz von Gernerth (1821-1900) provided the work with an entirely new text, commencing with the now familiar words (as used on this present recording): "Donau so blau..." (Danube so blue...). The Association gave the waltz its first performance with Gernerth's text on 2 July 1890 at a 'Sommer-Liedertafel' in Dreher Park in the suburb of Meidling (today the 12th district of Vienna).

 

The first piano edition of An der schönen blauen Donau, which the publisher C.A. Spina was able to put on sale in early March, bears Johann Strauss's dedication to the Wiener Männergesang-Verein. In accordance with a decision taken by the Association on 1 October 1847, whereby "for each composition first performed in a production of the Wiener Männergesangverein, an Imperial Royal ducat in gold is to be paid to the living composer as honorarium, only if the composer releases the printing and publishing rights of the piece", Strauss received one gold ducat. However, despite the Association's clear ruling on the matter, he also collected the publisher's usual one-off payment!

 

's gibt nur a Kaiserstadt! 's gibt nur a Wien! Polka (There's only one Imperial city! There's on I y one Vienna! Polka) op. 291

 

For its traditional Faschings-Liedertafel (Carnival Programme of Songs), to be held during the 1874 Vienna Carnival, the Wiener Männergesang-Verein had obtained Johann Strauss's promise that he would either compose for them a new waltz, or would place an existing one at their disposal. In the event Strauss was prevented from fulfilling his promise by essential work on his operetta Die Fledermaus. On New Year's Day 1874 the Fremdenblatt newspaper had announced that the new stage work would not be mounted until that September, since the Theater an der Wien was anxious to avoid the rival attractions of a new Strauss operetta and guest appearances at the theatre by soprano Adelina Patti, scheduled for the same period. Just seventeen days later, however, the paper reported that the operetta would be staged immediately after its completion at the end of that January. With insufficient time available to him to create a new composition for the Wiener Männergesang-Verein, Johann charged his Fledermaus librettist, the conductor and composer Richard Genée (1823-95), with setting a text to his 1864 polka 's gibt nur a Kaiserstadt! 's gibt nur a Wien! op. 291 (Volume 17) and arranging the piece for male chorus and orchestra. Despite the pressure of his own work on Die Fledermaus, the ever-reliable Genée responded with alacrity to this fresh demand, and in its new guise the Strauss polka was heard for the first time on 3 February 1874 in the Dianabad-Saal, performed by the Wiener Männergesang-Verein and the Baron Hess Regimental Band - who had not previously rehearsed together! - under the baton of Johann himself.

 

Reporting on this performance, the Illustriertes Wiener Extrablatt (5.02.1874) observed: "What now followed was, for Viennese hearts especially, the most festive moment of the evening: "s gibt nur a Kaiserstadt!' and 'Johann Strauss in person', that says it all. Strauss, sadly so often the missing person, was now all the more thunderously greeted. With fire, verve and abandon he swept along with him chorus and orchestra as only 'our' Johann is able to do. Not until Strauss began to conduct his quick polka again did the applauding hands become silent".

 

In its original, purely orchestral form, 's gibt nur a Kaiserstadt! 's gibt nur a Wien! was heard for the first time when the composer himself conducted it - under the title Vergiss mein nicht (Forget me not) - during his penultimate concert at the Vauxhall Pavilion in Pavlovsk on 8 October 1864 (= 26 September, Russian calendar). Johann derived the polka's subsequent title from the refrain of a waltz duet in Aline oder Wien in einem anderen Weltteil (Aline, or Vienna in another Part of the World), a 'Singspiel' (musical comedy) by Adolf Bäuerle, with music by Wenzel Müller, first seen at the Theater in der Leopoldstadt on 9 October 1822. The song, "Was macht denn der Prater", became an immensely popular hit, while its refrain - "Ja nur ein' Kaiserstadt, ja nur ein Wien" (Yes, only one Imperial city, yes only one Vienna) became a household phrase. Strauss's polka uses no music from Aline, though into its Finale he appropriately weaves a quotation from the beginning of Haydn's Austrian Hymn ("Gott erhalte").

 

Wein, Weib und Gesang! Walzer (Wine, Woman and Song! Waltz) op.333

 

"Who loves not wine, woman and song

Remains a fool his whole life long."

 

These lines (in translation), written in the mediaeval castle of Wartburg in Germany, and attributed to Martin Luther (1483-1546) during his residence there when he began his German translation of the New Testament, provided the title and part of the text for the truly magnificent choral waltz Johann Strauss wrote in 1869 for the Wiener Männergesang-Verein - Wein, Weib und Gesang! But whereas his first choral waltz, An der schönen blauen Donau (By the beautiful blue Danube) of 1867 had been more or less constructed from previously existing sketches, the new work was conceived in its entirety for male chorus and orchestra and, as was noted by the Strauss authority Professor Dr. Fritz Racek, the work "makes up for the absence of a recapitulating Coda by means of an impressive [137 bars] Introduction of almost symphonic proportions", As with An der schönen blauen Donau, the text for the waltz came from the pen of the Association's house poet, Joseph Weyl (1821-95). The sung Introduction includes the words: "Three heavenly gifts remained as comfort for us poor men", and appropriately each of these "gifts" - wine, woman and song - in turn provides the subject matter for one of the verses (corresponding with each waltz section) which follow, the fourth and final verse referring to Luther and quoting his famous aphorism.

 

Wein, Weib und Gesang! - a particular favourite with Richard Wagner - was given its first performance by the Wiener Männergesang-Verein at their carnival-time 'Narrenabend' (Fools' Evening) held in the Dianabad-Saal, Vienna, on 2 February 1869. The Strauss Orchestra provided the accompaniment, and while the composer did not conduct the première of his new waltz, he was present among the audience. Although dedicated "in friendship to Johann Ritter von Herbeck [1831-77], Imperial Royal Court Conductor", who had served the Association as chorus-master from 1856 to 1866 and who had recently been decorated with the 'Knight's Cross of the Order of Emperor Franz Josef', the waltz was conducted at its première by Herbeck's successor as chorus-master, Rudolf Weinwurm. The composition featured as the third number in the programme, and we can still enjoy something of the atmosphere of uninhibited carnival gaiety which abounded from the word-picture painted for us by the critic of the Fremdenblatt newspaper (4.02.1869): "The members of the Männergesangverein were dressed as negroes and termed themselves Club Slaves, President Dumba was dressed up as a plantation- and slave-owner. The Strauss Orchestra was likewise attired in extremely silly caps, and in such a way it [the evening] could begin. Kapellmeister Weinwurm, like a negro from head to toe, instead of his baton a fool's sceptre in his hand, gave the signal and Konradin's 'Narren-Multiplikationsmarsch' (Fools' Multiplication March) blared through the hall. The pearl of the evening was, however, the new waltz by Johann Strauss: 'Wein, Weib und Gesang'. The outstanding composition is an equal counterpart to the same composer's famous waltz: 'An der schönen blauen Donau', indeed some parts of the new waltz are composed even more finely and with more dash. At once the artistically constructed Introduction evoked a storm of applause. After the first waltz section, Strauss was called for with rejoicing. Dressed as a pilgrim, he mounted the rostrum and blessed the audience. The cheering grew even greater with the second waltz [section], after which the composer was called for again, a deserved honour, which was repeated with the two waltzes that followed. The excellent composition had to be repeated by popular demand. The fools were sufficiently sensible that they could not hear enough of the piquant melodies of the Waltz King. Also Weyl, the author of the humorous text, was called for several times".

 

Thirty years later, much of the melodic material in the waltz Wein, Weib und Gesang! was given a fresh vocal treatment for the posthumous Johann Strauss operetta Wiener Blut (Vienna Blood, 1899), as may be heard in the Act 2 Finale (themes 2a, 2b, 3b, 3a and 4b). Later, in Act 3, themes 1a and 1b appear in the sextet "Stoss' an! Stoss' an! Du Liebchen mein", and theme 4a is sung in polka-time to the words "Schlau und fein! Schlau und fein!" by the Countess and Franzi in their Act 3 duet.

 

Hoch Österreich! Marsch (Hail Austria! March) op. 371

 

Johann Strauss's operetta Cagliostro in Wien [Première: Theater an der Wien, Vienna. 27 February 1875] was the result of Strauss's first association with the librettist team of F. Zell (the pseudonym of Camillo Walzel) and Richard Genée, and was also the first original work by the two writers who previously had only collaborated on German language versions of operettas by Émile Jonas and Jacques Offenbach. It was Genée who also provided the title and text for the choral march Hoch Österreich! - one of six individual pieces which Strauss had arranged from melodies in Cagliostro. The first verse of Genée's text reads: "Recht in Freud und Lust/Aus der vollen Brust/Klingt der Ruf: 'Hoch Österreich!'/Wo er schallet/Wider hallet/Weckt er Echo donnergleich" (Full of joy and merriment, from the depths of the heart sounds the cry: 'Hail Austria!' Where it rings and resounds it wakens the echoes like thunder).

 

As a choral number, Hoch Österreich! may have been sung for the first time at the première of Cagliostro in Wien, performed by the orchestra and (mixed) chorus of the Theater an der Wien. This cannot, however, be determined from first night reviews. The published edition for male voice chorus and orchestra was not issued until October 1875, and only continued research work may establish the actual date on which this version was first heard. (A performance by the Josefstädter Männergesangverein, under its conductor Franz Huber and accompanied by Eduard Pfleger's orchestra, featured on the programme of a "Johann Strauss (Father and Son) Festival of Commemoration and Homage" given at the Hotel Rudolf Wimberger in Vienna on 25 September 1929).

 

The thematic content of the Hoch Österreich! Marsch derives from the first two numbers of Act 1, although the second theme of the Trio section is nowhere traceable in the published piano score of the operetta: it may perhaps have been discarded during the course of the operetta's composition or during actual rehearsals before the final version of the stage work was realised. It is also possible that the elusive theme derives from one of the many musical sketchbooks which Strauss kept to hand throughout his career, in which he would jot down melodic ideas as they occurred to him for possible future use.

 

Neu-Wien. Walzer (New Vienna. Waltz) op. 342

 

Just over a year after giving the première of Johann Strauss's choral masterpiece Wein, Weib und Gesang! (Wine, Woman and Song!) op. 333, the Wiener Männergesang-Verein presented the first performance of another waltz for male chorus and orchestra composed especially for them by the Waltz King. The new work was entitled Neu-Wien, and its text, by the Association's own poet Josef Weyl (1821-95), who had earlier provided the texts for Strauss's An der schönen blauen Donau, Walzer op. 314, Sängerslust, Polka française op. 328 and Wein, Weib und Gesang!, pokes fun at a number of contemporary issues. The mocking tone is set in the Introduction: "The City Expansion Commission/dipped mightily deep into our pockets/And like a Phoenix from the ashes/New Vienna arose for us as recompense". Weyl's lines chronicle, among other topics, the problems arising from Vienna's major reconstruction work following the demolition of her ancient inner city bastions, her tramway ("The horses go hither and thither/their carriages are seldom empty/But those who buy the tramway [shares]/are tearing their hair out"), stock-market speculation, inflation, women's emancipation ("When a woman's hair has been as black as coal/for a full twenty years/It suddenly occurs to her/that it's beautiful to be a blonde") and the absence of tourists ("And we are lacking/in this world/nothing more than many guests/who bring us the best/which is lacking/Namely money").

 

Johann Strauss was not present for the first performance of his topical new waltz Neu-Wien, for he was already committed to provide the music for a ball hosted by Prince Constantin Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst, First Master of the Royal Household. Instead, it was the young Eduard Kremser (1838-1914) - since October 1869 joint chorus-master of the Association with Rudolf Weinwurm - who conducted the Wiener Männergesang-Verein and the Baron Hess regimental orchestra in the première of the new work at the Association's rollicking carnival-time 'Narrenabend' (Fools' Evening) in the Dianabad-Saal on 13 February 1870. The waltz found immediate favour, although more than one observer shared the disappointment expressed by the reviewer for the Neues Wiener Tagblatt (15.02.1870) that "the delightful melodies were lost in the wild frenzy" of the boisterous gathering. The Neues Fremdenblatt (15.02.1870) reported graphically: "Hardly had the stormy applause died down but there followed the new waltz by Johann Strauss: 'Neu-Wien'. We know the excitement that grips the Viennese before such an event. There was an almost breathless silence as the Introduction began, but hardly had this finished when the rejoicing broke out, and increased from number to number".

 

At about midnight, there was much jubilation in the Dianabad-Saal as Kremser and the management of the Wiener Männergesang-Verein ushered in a surprise guest - Johann Strauss! To great applause the celebrity mounted the stage and, seizing a violin, led straightway into a performance of the Blue Danube Waltz. But this was a Fools' Evening and, after the final chord, "Strauss" suddenly stripped away a remarkably lifelike mask to reveal - not the Waltz King, but the actor Friedheim!

 

The waltz Neu-Wien bears the composer's dedication to the great industrialist and patron Nicolaus Dumba (1830-1900), at that time Chairman of the Wiener Männergesang-Verein and Vice-President of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien (Society of the Friends of Music in Vienna). Time has proved the waltz to be a popular one, not least with those charged with adapting Strauss¡¦s musical legacy for the stage: the work¡¦s Introduction and some of its waltz themes may be heard in the posthumous operetta Wiener Blut (1899) and In Antal Dorati¡¦s ballet Graduation Ball (1940).

 

Sängerslust, Polka (Singer¡¦s Joy, Polka) op. 328

 

"He who sings merrily and dances gleefully/is armed against every sorrow/Cheerfulness stirs the sluggish blood/to new passion/raises the spirit/What makes him glad/makes everything good/He sees how the little bird hops carefree/how he glides through the branches/He sings merrily/he jumps joyfully/lightly winged!/What the little bird enjoys in bush and shrub/the singer enjoys too/Dancing and singing/is to him sweet impulse".

 

So (in translation) runs the first verse of Josef Weyl¡¦s text for the French polka Sängerslust, composed by Johann Strauss to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Wiener Männergesang-Verein in 1843. The work was given its first choral performance by the Association - to whom it is also dedicated - at a charity 'Liedertafel' (Programme of Songs) held in the Sofienbad-Saal, Vienna, on 12 October 1868. The members of the Wiener Männergesang-Verein were under the direction of their chorus-master Rudolf Weinwurm, whilst accompaniment was provided by the Association's member Adolf Lorenz on harmonium and the brothers Johann and Josef Strauss playing piano duet! The press reported the polka's immediate success. The Theater-Blätter read: "Johann Strauss stole the show; his choral 'Sängerlustpolka' [sic], furnished with an excellent text by Weyl, aroused a storm of applause. The chorus, which made the heart skip in the body, had an electrifying effect. Strauss was called for and the applause did not subside until the tireless singers, who had sung this chorus with extraordinary dash, had repeated it". The Fremdenblatt (13.10.1868) was in full accord: "The pearl amongst the pieces performed by the Gesangverein was the, 'Sängerlust-Polka' [sic!], a polka by Johann Strauss, a glorious, fresh and vibrant work by the Waltz King. Strauss was called for again and again, and only one voice prevailed: that the 'Beautiful blue Danube' had found a rival".

 

On the occasion of its Silver Jubilee the Wiener Männergesang-Verein took the opportunity to bestow honorary membership upon 'Hofballmusikdirektor (Court Ball Music Director) Johann Strauss', whom it officially recognised as a "true friend of this Association and its endeavours". (This honour was also conferred upon other composers of world renown, among them Franz Liszt, Richard Wagner and Anton Rubinstein). Writing from his home in Hietzing on 14 October 1868, Johann expressed his thanks to the Association: "During my long years of work as an artist I have enjoyed many dear and lofty distinctions, but certainly none has filled me with greater joy than the nomination as honorary member of the Wiener Männergesang-Verejn, which can justly be called the pride of our musical Fatherland. Please accept my deepest thanks for this honour, and also my assurance that I will always be ready with pleasure and with love, to put my modest talents at the service of the Association, whenever I shall be called upon to do so. I remain true to the Association in song and deed".

 

On the present recording of Sängerslust, the Wiener Männergesang-Verein performs with full orchestral accompaniment.

 

Bei uns z'Haus, Walzer (At home. Waltz) op. 361

 

In the summer of 1873 Vienna was literally 'at home' to the world when she opened her doors to a World exhibition held on the open parkland of the Prater from 1 May that year. The Strauss Orchestra, under Eduard Strauss, was already committed to concert performances elsewhere, so Johann engaged the Langenbach Orchestra from Germany to perform as official 'World Exhibition Orchestra'. It was thus with this body of foreign musicians that Johann himself conducted the Wiener Männergesang-Verein in the first performance of his lilting waltz for male chorus and orchestra, Bei uns z'Haus, on 6 August 1873 at Schwender's 'Neue Welt' entertainment establishment in Hietzing. The waltz was dedicated to Princess Marie Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst (1837-1920), Franz Liszt's daughter by his long-term mistress Princess Carolyne Wittgenstein, and wife of the First Master of the Royal Household, Prince Constantin Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst. The work was well received. The reviewer for the Deutsche Zeitung (7.08.1873) observed: "The 'event' of the evening was the waltz 'Bei uns z'Haus' by Johann Strauss. When the composer stepped on to the conductor's rostrum he was received with rejoicing, which was repeated when the waltz had finished. This then had to be repeated, and when the applause still did not die down our Waltz King obliged with his 'Wiener Blut'". Of similar opinion was the Wiener Abendpost (7.08.1873): "Strauss's 'Bei uns z'Haus', like his other choral waltz 'An der schönen blauen Donau', will soon become popular not only 'at home' [= bei uns z'Haus] but also in the whole world". The Wiener Männergesang-Verein were to give two more performances of Bei uns z'Haus that year, on both occasions directed by the composer with the accompaniment of the Langenbach Orchestra: on 22 August in the World Exhibition grounds before an audience of 30,000, and then at a concert in the Great Hall of the Musikverein building on 25 October - Strauss's forty-eighth birthday.

 

The amusing text to the waltz, provided by the successful stage-author, writer and journalist Anton Langer (1824-79), a former school-friend of the composer, describes the everyday life of elevated society in Vienna - even referring to the recent stock market crash (9 May 1873) - and concludes with the lines (in translation): "Lovely ladies, on you we build/O stay just as you are/for our supreme happiness/Even though in life/there is often much that's unpleasant/We are happy to endure it/at home!".

 

Auf¡¦s Korn! Bundesschützen-Marsch (Take aim! Federal Shooters¡¦ March) op. 478

 

The ebullient Auf's Korn! Bundesschützen-Marsch was the last of the nine choral compositions which Johann Strauss II was to write especially for the great Wiener Männergesang-Verein. All of these pieces, comprising 6 waltzes, 2 polkas and a march, are included on this present compact disc, performed by the Association whose 19th-century members proudly gave the works their choral premières.

 

In the summer of 1898 the Austrian capital was in jubilant mood as it witnessed twin celebrations marking the fiftieth anniversary of Franz Josef I's proclamation as Emperor of Austria (2 December 1848) and the 5th Austrian Federal Shooting Competition, both events being organised under the auspices of a central committee. The shooting competition was held on the open green expanse of the Vienna Prater, and attracted large numbers of riflemen from all over Austria. Amongst the entertainments provided for the competitors was a festival concert held on 28 June 1898 in the large Schützenhalle (Shooters' Hall), a building specially constructed in the Prater thirty years earlier for the 3rd German Federal Shooting Contest. For the performance before an audience of several thousand, the Wiener Männergesang-Verein was conducted by its chorus-master Eduard Kremser, and accompanied by an ensemble which often played for the Association, the Wiener Radfahrkapelle (Vienna Cyclists' Orchestra). The text to Strauss's Auf's Korn! Bundesschützen-Marsch had been provided by the Viennese popular writer Vincenz Chiavacci (1847-1916) and is in two sections: the first hails the enthusiasm of the marksmen ("Take aim, draw a bead, set your sights and shoot/you gallant shooting folk/Get yourselves a prize from the festival and enjoy/what friendship offers you") while the second pays homage to the city of Vienna and to the Emperor, ending with the familiar words from the Austrian National Anthem: "Gott erhalt'!" (May God keep him!).

 

The new march met with spontaneous applause and had to be repeated, while the reviewer for the Vienna Neue Freie Presse (29.06.1898) observed: "The evening brought only one new piece: a march, 'Aufs Korn', which Johann Strauss had dedicated to the Central Committee. Whatever Strauss writes, when he writes in the Viennese style, is known to the whole world; so, too, was his newest opus a piece of genuine Strauss, and it was a huge success. An uproarious tribute was offered to the composer, who was unfortunately not present [he was at his summer house at Bad Ischl in Upper Austria], and to the author of the text, the writer Chiavacci, who knows how to set off the genial Viennese music like no-one else". Surprisingly, in view of this successful première, the march was not sung again by the Wiener Männergesang-Verein until 1927, and then once more - after a break of almost half a century - in 1975.

 

Myrthenblüthen. Walzer (Myrtle Blossoms. Waltz) op. 395

 

On 8 March 1880 the Imperial Court in Vienna let it be known that the Emperor's son, the Crown Prince Rudolf (1858-89), had announced his engagement in Brussels to Princess Stephanie (1864-1945), second daughter of the reigning Belgian monarch Leopold II. The wedding was to take place in Vienna on 10 May of the following year and the municipal council there lost no time in commissioning Johann Strauss to compose music for a festival performance to be given in celebration of the marriage. Putting aside work on his operetta, Das Spitzentuch der Königin [Première: Theater an der Wien, Vienna. 1 October 1880], Strauss sketched a large-scale work. However, after he had drafted eleven numbers, the city fathers relinquished their plans for such a grand spectacle and instead gave the brothers Johann and Eduard Strauss free rein as to the compositions with which they would honour the royal couple and at which events they would perform these works. Thereupon Johann accepted an invitation from the Wiener Männergesang-Verein, and for this joint venture conceived a waltz for male chorus and orchestra which he first entitled Myrthensträusse (Myrtle Bouquets) and later re-named Myrthenblüthen. The work remains one of the loveliest of all Johann Strauss's creations in three-quarter-time, and is allied to a text by August Seuffert (1844-1904) who had earlier provided the words for Strauss's choral French polka, Burschenwanderung op. 389. Seuffert's Myrthenblüthen text presented impressionistic pictures of nature through the seasons, closing with lines addressed to the 17-year-old bride: "Your new Fatherland/greets you today with heart and hand/Belgium's royal child!/Northern rosebud/The south greets you/aglow with love!".

 

The dress rehearsal for the new waltz took place on 6 May 1881 in the Musikverein building when the composer conducted the Wiener Männergesang-Verein with orchestral accompaniment. A report on this rehearsal reads: "The singers greeted the Maestro upon his appearance with spirited applause, which intensified still more after the close of the number. Real Vienna blood pulses through Strauss's newest composition". The first public performance of Myrthenblüthen followed on 8 May at a festival in the Vienna Prater, with the composer conducting the orchestra of the Ludwig IV, Grand Duke of Hesse, Infantry Regiment. The waltz was received with jubilation by the 20,000-strong Viennese crowded around 'Am Rustenschacher' (the Rustenschacherallee), and the occasion was chronicled by, among others, the reporter for the Neue Freie Presse (9.05.1881): "And then, when the Maestro Johann Strauss appeared on the conductor's platform, which was decorated with brushwood, there was an unending roaring, shouts of hurrah and waving of hats and handkerchiefs! Thus the multitude was able to document very clearly that a right, regular public entertainment in Vienna is unthinkable without a waltz by Strauss. And the new waltz? It will soon no longer be new, because within a few days everyone in Vienna, as well as beyond the precincts of the city, will be singing these sweet sensual tunes. 'Myrthensträusse' is, in fact, a bouquet of fragrant melodies, not of the gripping, singable type of the 'Blue Danube', but delicate and tingling. The two pieces of music behave towards one another like wine to champagne. There was a storm of applause which split the air after the first performance of the waltz, and it looked more like an act of self-defence against this attempted assassination by applause when the composer and singers hastily decided to sing the new waltz again to the joy of the delighted listeners¡¨. The letter of thanks which the Mayor of Vienna wrote to Johann Strauss a few days later, enclosing two specially struck Crown Prince Rudolf Wedding Medals, mentioned nothing of the absence of1he bridal pair from the scene of this first performance. They, together with the Austrian Emperor, had been prevented from reaching the venue by the huge crowd of well wishers blocking the main route along the Prater.

 

The Wiener Männergesang-Verein repeated Myrthenblüthen at their 'Summer Song Programme' at the 'Neue Welt' entertainment venue in Hietzing on 14 July 1881, this time accompanied by the Strauss Orchestra under Johann's direction. Remarkably, following this performance the Association did not sing this delightful work again until after the First World War.

 

Burschenwanderung. Polka française (Student Travels. French polka) op.389

 

Despite the enthusiastic reception accorded to Johann Strauss's seventh operetta, Das Spitzentuch der Königin (The Queen's Lace Handkerchief), at its première on 1 October 1880 in the Theater an der Wien, public interest in the new work slackened off more quickly than had been anticipated. But this in no way diminished the bargaining power of the theatrical agent Gustav Lewy, who swiftly succeeded in placing the stage work with the Friedrich-Wilhelmstädtisches Theater in Berlin, as well as with theatres in Graz, Hamburg, Hanover, Lemberg, Budapest, Prague, Munich and Trieste. In Vienna, Strauss conducted his first benefit performance of Spitzentuch on 20 October, and left four weeks later with his wife Lili for premières of the operetta in Berlin and Hamburg.

 

Before departing for Germany, however, he still had one obligation to discharge. Rudolf Weinwurm, chorus-master of the Wiener Männergesang-Verein, who had led the first performances of Johann's choral waltzes An der schönen blauen Donau (1867) and Wein, Weib und Gesang! (1869), had recently left to take up the post of chorus-master with the Akademischer Gesangverein in Wien (Academic Choral Society in Vienna). It was in his new capacity that he requested Strauss to contribute a new choral composition for his first 'Liedertafel' (Programme of Songs) with the Akademischer Gesangverein, due to be given in the Sofienbad-Saal on 7 December 1880. Johann willingly complied and, to a poem by August Seuffert (1844-1904), wrote his Burschenwanderung Polka française which he dedicated to the Society. Seuffert's text sings of the joys of student drinking festivals and celebrates the memory of the legendary Herr von Rodenstein, who was in reality reported to have been a devout nobleman from Odenwald who died as a pilgrim in Rome in 1500. As Dr John Whitten points out, however, the poet Viktor von Scheffel presented Rodenstein as an "heroic drunkard" who, in order to pay his bills, was forced to pawn his villages. His last he bequeathed to the students of Heidelberg - who likewise promptly drank away their inheritance!

 

On 6 March 1881 the Viennese were introduced to the first performance of Burschenwanderung in its version for orchestra alone when the composer's brother, Eduard, conducted it with the Strauss Orchestra during a 'Carnival Revue' concert in the Great Hall of the Musikverein building. This purely orchestral arrangement may be heard on Volume 19 of the Marco Polo J. Strauss Jr Edition.

 

Gross-Wien. - Tout Vienne. Walzer (Great Vienna, Waltz) op. 440

 

"This is a memorable day for the City of Vienna, being the birthday of 'Gross Wien' - that is, of the new capital as enlarged by the incorporation of the suburbs. Yesterday Vienna was contained within 55 square kilometres; to-day it extends over 178 square kilometres, which makes it half the size of London, more than twice as large as Paris, and nearly three times as large as Berlin. The palace and park of Schönbrunn now stand within the city... Those favourite resorts of fair-weather excursionists, the villages of Hietzing, Dornbach, Hetzendorf, Döbling, and Baumgarten, have ceased to be rural, and even the Kahlenberg and its brother mountain, the Leopoldsberg, have become enclosed in the metropolitan area". Thus wrote the Vienna correspondent for the London Times newspaper on 21 December 1891, chronicling the incorporation of the 44 suburbs which previously lay outside the old outer defences of the city (the 'Linien') to form the present day districts XI to XIX, and the resultant growth in population by some 400,000 to around 1,342,000 civilians and 22,600 active military personnel. Demolition of these mid-18th-century fortifications - constructed as a defence against further attack by the Turks, who had kept the city beleaguered for three months in 1683 - had commenced in 1890. They had long been objects of execration because of the tolls levied on all who passed through them. At the stroke of midnight such duties were abolished amid great rejoicing. The police made one arrest - a man who shouted: "Hurrah! Now everything in Vienna is going to be dearer"!

 

Johann Strauss's waltz Gross-Wien, which came into being in early 1891, chronicles the work then under way to extend the boundaries of the Austrian capital, and was composed as a choral waltz for performance by the famous Wiener Männergesang-Verein (Vienna Men's Choral Association) during that year's Vienna Carnival. When the Association suddenly resolved to give only one 'Liedertafel' (Programme of Songs) per year, the performance was postponed until the autumn. There then arose the possibility of a performance by a rival choral society to be arranged by the Vienna Authors' and Journalists' Association, 'Concordia', but on 18 April 1891 Strauss notified a correspondent: "I felt the time was already too far advanced and I promised the first performance of the waltz to the military committee for the Grand Concert on May 10 in the Sängerhalle; but only for orchestra... Should you ever intend to organise something with the participation of the Männer-Gesangverein... then the promise originally given will remain in force, that is, the first performance of the waltz Gross-Wien, with the contribution of the Männer-Gesangverein". Accordingly, the orchestral première of the new work was given at the Sängerhalle Monster Concert in the Vienna Prater on Sunday 10 May 1891, conducted by the composer. (See Volume 23)

 

Not until 4 October 1891 did the Wiener Männergesang-Verein present the choral première of Strauss's Gross-Wien Walzer. The venue was again the spacious Sängerhalle, which had been built for the 4th German Singers' Federal Festival in 1890, and the occasion was a concert of popular music ('Volkskonzert') to raise funds for the Archduchess Valerie's Foundation for the Institute for Officers' Daughters. An audience of 10,000 (including the Archduchess Stephanie - a widow since Crown Prince Rudolf's death at Mayerling in 1889) was present to witness the performance by the Association, with its chorus-master, Eduard Kremser, conducting the Freiherr Ferdinand von Bauer Infantry Regiment (No. 84) in place of its bandmaster, Karl Komzák. The text was by the Association's Franz von Gernerth who, in 1890, had provided the successful new words for Strauss's waltz By the beautiful blue Danube (op. 314) that are still generally adopted today. Gernerth's text for Gross-Wien opens with the line: "Let us sing of you, you Vienna of the future!", and closes with the words: "Three cheers for the Emperor, who built Gross-Wien!" Reporting on this choral première, the critic of the Neue Freie Presse (6.10.1891) remarked: "The new waltz 'Gross-Wien' rang out splendidly in the great hall, text by Franz von Gernerth, music by Johann Strauss, who had intended to come to Vienna yesterday [sic] from his country seat in Schönau in order to attend the concert, but was prevented from doing so because he was unwell". The Deutsche Zeitung (5.10.1891), however, was less enthusiastic, stating that the new waltz "made little impression; in our opinion it was sung at somewhat too brisk a tempo".

 

The pianoforte first edition of Gross-Wien is dedicated "with deepest reverence" by its composer to "his Imperial and Royal Highness Herr Archduke Karl Ludwig" (1833-96), grandfather of the monarch who was to become the very last Austrian Emperor, Karll (1887-1922). Karl Ludwig had, furthermore, been among the audience for the waltz's world première at the Monster Concert in the Prater.

 

Programme notes © 1991 Peter Kemp. The Johann Strauss Society of Great Britain.

 

The author acknowledges, with gratitude, the work of Dr. John Whitten and Professor Franz Mailer in the preparation of these notes.

 

Wiener Männergesang-Verein

 

The Vienna Men's Choral Society, the oldest choral society still active in Vienna, was founded in 1843 by Dr. August Schmidt, in spite of the suspicions of the Metternich government. The following year the choir sang at the invitation of the Emperor and in 1845 appeared with the orchestra of the Court Opera. Two years later Johann Strauss dedicated to the society his Sängerfahrten concert waltz, to mark the twentieth anniversary of the death of Schubert. The following decade brought some collaboration with the Strauss orchestra and in 1857 the first performance of the Pilgrims' Chorus from Wagner's opera Tannhäuser, with the dedication, in 1867, of the famous Blue Danube waltz-sequence. The Wiener Männergesang-Verein has continued to tour widely and in 1975 celebrated the 150th anniversary of the birth of younger Johann Strauss with a concert of works dedicated by him to the choir. The director of the Männergesang-Verein is Xaver Meyer, born and trained in Vienna, and former director of the Vienna Boys' Choir. He is the founder of the Vienna Madrigal Choir and since 1961 has served as artistic director of the Vienna Academy Chamber Choir.

 

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.

 

Johannes Wildner

 

Johannes Wildner was born in the Austrian resort of Mürzzuschlag in 1956 and studied violin and conducting, taking his diploma at the Vienna Musikhochschule and proceeding to a doctorate in musicology. A member of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, he has toured widely as leader of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra's Johann Strauss Ensemble and of the Vienna Mozart Academy. As a conductor he has directed the Orchestra Sinfonica dell'Emilia Romagna Arturo Toscanini, the Budapest State Opera Orchestra, the Silesian Philharmonic, the Malmö Symphony Orchestra, the Dresden Philharmonic and others. He has recorded works by Schumann, Wagner and Mozart for Naxos and is one of the main conductors in the Marco Polo Johann Strauss II complete edition.


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