About this Recording
8.225289 - STRAUSS I, J.: Edition - Vol. 13
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Johann Strauss Snr • Edition • Vol. 13


[1] Cäcilien-Walzer (Cecilia Waltzes), Op. 120

In 1840 the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde of the Imperial Austrian State settled on the premises of the Sperl, Vienna’s most prestigious establishment at that time, for its annual ball; it was to be another 30 years until the Society obtained its present imposing home, which provides such a brilliant setting for balls of the sort was to be inaugurated only three decades later. As the ‘in-house conductor’, Johann Strauss (the Elder) was part and parcel of the choice of venue. The “Mädchenherzenbegeisterer” (the one who sets girls’ hearts aflutter) and “Füßebeflügler” (the one who wings our feet) as he was called in the press on this occasion, presented a new composition, the Cäcilien-Walzer or “Cecilia Waltzes”. The choice of title does not apply to the work’s commissioner, but to the patron saint of music and moreover to the substance of the work. In the opening waltz Strauss in fact made use of thematic material taken from Ludwig van Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata for violin and piano; Beethoven was among the first honorary members of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde. The conversion of the original 6/8 and 2/4 to waltz time is achieved brilliantly, though it makes no small demands on the dancers’ grasp of rhythm. Strauss sets the recurrence of the head-motif, derived from the main theme of the second movement from Beethoven’s sonata, with tremolos in the violins. The Belgian violin virtuoso Charles de Bériot had thrilled Viennese music-lovers with the same trick in one of his solo caprices on the same theme. The work’s subtitle mit dem beliebten Tremolo (with the popular tremolo) in the first edition of the waltz sequence brings this fact into account while Beethoven’s name does not receive any mention.

[2] Palm-Zweige (Palm Branches), Walzer, Op. 122

Every year on the fourth Sunday after Whitsun, a fair lasting two days in honour of the patron saint of the Brigitta Chapel in the nearby Auwald* attracted the inhabitants of Vienna. Until the Danube was brought under control the chapel was situated on one of the many islands formed by the extensive network of river branches. There was an inn hosting entertainment and dancing in the vicinity called The Coloseum whose owner was also the leaseholder of Lanner’s stronghold, The Golden Pear. Strauss had no chance of appearing there, though he still wanted to capitalize on the festive mood of the people nonetheless and traditionally held a rival event at the Sperl on the second day of the Brigitta fair. An assembly with ball was specially arranged to take place there on 13 July 1840 under the auspices specified above, entitled The Mirror of Merriment, for Strauss’s benefit. A military band brought the latest operatic extracts to the magnificently illuminated garden for diners while Strauss himself played for the dance in the grand so-called Winter Salon. The highpoint was the first performance of the waltz sequence, Palm-Zweige, given as a midnight interlude: “These waltzes, which we may make so bold as to place alongside the ‘The Spirits of the Mountains’ and the ‘Cecilia Waltzes’, succeeded to such a degree that Strauss was obliged to repeat them amidst the most tumultuous applause.” The title of the new work is as suitable for the festive occasion as it is for the edifying Christian literature, particularly for young people, that is usually indicated by the term. Strauss’s choice of title may be taken as a clear indication that the worldly pleasures of the Brigitta fair had long since overshadowed its spiritual origins. [*Auwald (also Auenwald) denotes an area of woodland on a river, the structure of which is partly determined by flood.]

[3] Amors-Pfeile (Cupid’s Arrows) Walzer, Op. 123

Whoever wanted to listen and perhaps dance to the strains of Strauss in Hietzing during the summer of 1840 would have had the opportunity to do so every Sunday at one of the so-called “Afternoon Conversations” in Dommayer’s casino. If this did not suffice, Strauss and Dommayer were issuing invitations for a special assembly with ball under the title The Fair on Mount Olympus scheduled for 10 August. The weather wrecked the organizers’ plans at the first attempt, but showed itself to best advantage at the second two days later. If contemporary reports are to be believed, the attractions of the festival together with its visitors eclipsed even the most beautiful sunset that followed, and besides, the Archdukes Franz Carl and Stephan had come to visit from the neighbouring imperial summer residence at Schönbrunn. A rather frank journalist described what they were able to see: “Bacchus sat thirsting for wine on a cask of Grinzing; Venus appeared, the very picture of a Bohemian wet-nurse, bearing Cupid in a papoose in her arms where he sighed after his mother’s milk. Mercury’s moustache lent him a genuinely Hungarian appearance, and for each of these, the various attributes of their powers were laid about them”—a scene that would not be out of place in Orpheus in the Underworld. The guests did not in fact hear this work, which would not be written for almost another two decades, but listened instead to a new waltz sequence by Strauss entitled Amors-Pfeile. The audience was so pleased that the work had to be repeated four times and so entranced were they by the sheer captivating quality of the music that no one danced at the initial rendering: “These waltzes are of a type all their own, that is so sweetly ingratiating and gently wheedling, indeed gives itself over, and at the next moment is quick-tempered only again to abate into gentleness to require love and give of its own—A veritable novel!

[4] Elektrische Funken (Electrical Sparks), Walzer, Op. 125

In 1840 the much-read Theaterzeitung (Theatre Journal) made the following prophetic announcement: “The St Catherine’s Day gala ball is a long-established custom at the sociable Sperl, and, much as one is accustomed to seeing so much of tradition trampled sufficiently underfoot by vandals, yet still this celebration shall endure for a long time to come, especially when it is arranged as splendidly as today”. The feast of St Catherine, celebrated according to custom on 25 November, was indeed “splendidly arranged” that year. Strauss was well aware that whatever was relied on too much quickly became old-hat and was consequently always at pains to surprise his audience with novel attractions. On this occasion he had prepared an array of musicians: two dance orchestras were to ensure that those who wanted to dance would find their steps winged, and a military band was to help the ball-goers pass the time during the intervals. Of course the event would not have been complete without the obligatory novelty from Strauss’s pen. The title of the new waltz sequence, Elektrische Funken, was probably an allusion to the advances being made during an era of technological zeal in research into the use of electricity as a part of daily life. Strauss gives a musical depiction of flying sparks during the first section of the third waltz. The work had to be played three times in order to satisfy the audience. Nevertheless, the reviewer quoted above issued the following appraisal: “There would have been absolutely no need of the ‘electrical sparks’ to electrify the audience”; and in any case everybody felt “magnetically drawn by the magical power of Strauss and his violin.

[5] Erinnerung an Ernst oder Der Carnival in Venedig, (Reminiscence of Ernst or The Venetian Carnival), Op. 126

The main innovation for the St Catherine’s Day celebration held at the Sperl in 1840 was the concert that was given as a prelude to the ball. Together with his orchestra, Strauss presented a ‘musical serenade’ consisting of six sections in the programme including such demanding works as Beethoven’s Egmont overture. It must have been a rousing performance. But it was Strauss’s new work, the fantasia Erinnerung an Ernst oder Der Carneval in Venedig, that was most eagerly awaited. Here Strauss alludes to two virtuoso pieces by the 26-year-old German violinist prodigy Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst whose performance of these pieces had recently astounded the Viennese public. Strauss borrows the march theme from his Fantasie brillante sur la marche et la romance d’Otello de Rossini for the introduction. The ensuing theme together with seventeen variations is an orchestral arrangement of Ernst’s Carneval de Venise. It is based on the popular song, the only too well-known canzonetta, La Bruna Gondoletta (The Little Dark Gondola), better known in the English-speaking world as ‘My hat, it has three corners’. The rhythmically intricate variations provided the principal players of Strauss’s orchestra with an opportunity to display their abilities: “Every effect afforded by the fertile theme was made use of by Strauss as well as what the numerous orchestra was able to provide, and a truly entertaining nature of impish glee with which each instrument appeared from one corner of the orchestra or another, playing hide-and-seek with the theme, hiding at once behind a seat in the orchestra and then…, and then—when one imagines oneself to have found and seized the theme–shoo!–only to see it raise its knavish little head teasingly from the opposite side […] aroused such thunderous applause that the entire somewhat lengthy piece had to be given again.

[6] Deutsche Lust oder Donau-Lieder ohne Text (German Joy or Songs Without a Text from the Danube), Walzer, Op. 127

In addition to a fixed fee from the inn owner for their contested appearances, the leaders of the dance orchestras were able to arrange contracts for a number of so-called benefit performances from which they collected the net profits. Strauss organized a “grand gala ball” of this sort at the Sperl for 17 February 1841; he had of course composed a new sequence of waltzes for the occasion. It bore the title Deutsche Lust oder Donau-Lieder ohne Text and it was enthusiastically received by audience and press alike: “What more is to be said of the wonderful instrumentation, to be mentioned about the world-famous execution, of the originality of the theme; what more is to be said of the truly Straussian rhythm which pervades the same but the old familiar refrain fitting for every Strauss waltz sequence, excepting only that one must mention that these “Songs from the Danube” are indeed songs, the melodies of which come from a truly Austrian soul and exude a genuinely German joy that resounds with cheerful tones in every heart, so that one is bound to say that waltzes of this sort have not hitherto been known”. At the work’s première it had to be repeated three times at the audience’s request and became a real box-office draw. The performance of this series of waltzes is expressly mentioned in a newspaper advertisement for a series of “afternoon conversations” at the Volksgarten. Josef Wanczura wrote his Leichte Variationen über den beliebten “Donaulieder-Walzer“ von Joh. Strauß (Simple variations on the popular Songs from the Danube Waltzes by Johann Strauss) in spite of the contemporary view of variations as tasteless and suitable only suitable as necessary preparatory material for pianists. That Strauss may himself have set particular store by the Deutsche Lust waltzes is indicated by his dedication of the work to a specific learned body, the Philharmonic Society in Nuremberg, of which he was made an Honorary Member shortly afterwards on 13 October 1841.

[7] Apollo-Walzer (Apollo Waltzes), Op. 128

In 1841 the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde held its annual ball once again at the Sperl, the date falling on 27 January, Mozart’s birthday. The new dedicatory work by Strauss, who was of course also entrusted with the music for the occasion, was not, however, a reference to either the aforementioned commemorative day nor to any other current event, as had been the case in the previous year. On the contrary, it bore the more shrewd title Apollo-Walzer after the Greek god Apollo, son of Zeus and Leto. His title “Phoebus” means both “The Light” and “Purity”; as god of salvation and order he was the guardian of the law and of all that is good and true in nature and humanity. He was also revered in this context as protector of the arts and sciences, particularly music, and as leader of the Muses. In the closing bars to the coda of the Apollo Waltzes, Strauss refers back to the first section of the introduction, thereby achieving not merely an exceptionally unified composition, but also suggesting to the audience that they might like the work to be repeated. Incidentally, Oscar Straus took the headmotif of the opening waltz as a model in his operetta A Waltz-Dream.

[8] Souvenir de Liszt, Fantaisie o. op. (Reminiscence of Liszt, Fantasia without opus number)

As early as 1839 Strauss had reacted to the spell cast by the Hungarian virtuoso pianist with his Furioso-Galopp nach Liszt’s Motiven (Furioso Galop on Motifs from Liszt). Now, as Liszt was revisiting Vienna in the summer of 1846, Strauss succeeded in engaging him for a joint charity concert in Brühl bei Mödling, a popular holiday resort in summer, to the south of the capital. Strauss and his orchestra gave the première of Liszt’s Ungarischer Sturmmarsch (Hungarian March to the Assault) and Liszt reciprocated by performing several of his own solo pieces. This joint venture with one of the most celebrated musicians of the time was a most welcome fillip for Strauss who was already beginning to sense competition from his eldest son. He did not fail to exploit this as a brilliant advertising strategy to the full for his own ends: he immediately wrote an orchestral fantasia entitled Souvenir de Liszt, which was first performed as part of a fair celebration in Unger’s casino in Hernals, then a suburb of Vienna. This work in three sections is made up of themes from Liszt’s Magyar dállok (Hungarian Melodies). Liszt had composed eleven of these piano pieces in total during 1839-40 and Strauss’s publisher, Haslinger, had issued them complete in four volumes by 1843. Nos. 5, 4 and 11 appeared subsequently, having been revised by the composer, and were published in a separate volume by B. Latte in Paris and again by Haslinger, finally appearing in March 1846. It is quite possible that Liszt had played them at his performance in Brühl. From these pieces, Strauss selected Nos. 1 (originally No. 5) and 3 (originally No. 11) for his fantasia; his own contribution is mainly to be found in the lento continuation of the latter. The work, however, remained unpublished during Strauss’s lifetime. Christian Pollack found the manuscript sources for the present recording in the music collection of the Vienna City Library.

Thomas Aigner
English translation by Neil Coleman

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