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8.225334 - STRAUSS I, J.: Edition - Vol. 14
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Johann Strauss Snr • Edition • Vol. 14

 

[1] Adelaiden-Walzer (Adelaide Waltzes), Op. 129

The Volksgarten (People’s Garden), because of its proximity to the Hofburg, was one of the most elegant venues in and around Vienna for putting on concerts given by the Strauss orchestra. The benefit concert which took place there on 22 June 1841 for Kapellmeister Johann Strauss (Father) naturally attracted a wide audience. Even so, members of the aristocracy such as the Archduke Stephan and Prince Leopold of Salerno put in an appearance. It was probably in connection with the presence of aristocracy that a new set of waltzes was composed for this special event. The newspapers had, quite contrary to their usual practice, refrained from announcing this new work and in the reviews of the concert it was mentioned only as: “…a new, highly successful set of waltzes”, although without the work actually being named. But probably for one of the ladies present one of the pieces must have had a special significance—in several places one can detect in the setting of it to music a variant of her Christian name, Adelaide. The Adelaide Waltzes was the title given to the work when it was published. Its dedicatee—and possibly also its commissioner—was Adele von Latinovits, née Baroness of Geramb, a Hungarian noblewoman. She owned a castle in Katymár in the north of Bácska and at that time might already just have been widowed. She must have played an important rôle in Viennese social life for Joseph Lanner had dedicated to her his Hoffnungs-Strahlen (Rays of Hope) waltzes, Op. 158, a year earlier.

[2] Die Wettrenner (The Runners), Walzer, Op. 131

For a new work by Strauss to be flatly rejected by contemporary critics simply did not happen. When one reviewer was especially circumspect, this is what he wrote: “The new piece, The Runners, although far from being one of his better works, contains so much energy, power and life that on hearing it one feels oneself agreeably touched by it; even Strauss’s weaker pieces have their worth.” Another journalist avoided passing critical judgement right from the start and resorted to bland cliché: “A race for Strauss’s most beautiful palm—the goodwill of the public.” The title of the work, which was first performed on 24 May 1841 at a flower festival in the renowned Sperl ballroom, refers in reality to the race held by runners in aristocratic service. It was the job of these people to accompany on foot, like heralds, the coaches of their employers and, with the help of long sticks, to obtain a clear passage for them. The route of the race, which had its origins in the first half of the eighteenth century and which was held every year on 1 May, was from the present-day Praterstern, along the Hauptallee to the Lusthaus and back. In 1841 the winner of the ten-man field took forty minutes to cover the approximately nine kilometre distance. That was a long way off the record, which was set in 1836, of 30 minutes, an excellent time. By comparison, the current world record for the 10,000 metres for men is just over 26 minutes. In 1847 the profession of a runner was abolished as being ‘inhuman and anachronistic’, so the races did not take place again because of their ‘inhumanity’.

[3] Die Debutanten (The Debutantes), Walzer, Op. 132

The Golden Pear inn in the Viennese suburb of Landstrasse, located in what is now the third district, was, from 1839, a particular stronghold of Joseph Lanner, so it must have come as a great surprise when Strauss let it be known that he intended to mount there on 16 August 1841 an extraordinary garden festival with ball. “The undersigned”, he added in the advertisement, “has good reason to believe that, as is well known, only a short time is left to put on such a large celebratory function in the above popular inn.” What had happened? The current owner of the inn was preparing to transfer the lease to a tenant, a qualified architect; major renovation works could not be ruled out. Strauss, therefore, preferred to steer the gaze of the public back to better times: “Pictures of Happier Memories” was the motto for the event, though, as was so often the case in those years, the unsettled weather forced a postponement, if only for a week. By way of consolation, so to speak, Strauss announced that: “He would now have the honour of performing, for the first time, some new waltzes entitled The Debutantes.” As usual, the performance of the new work was interrupted again and again by wild applause; the first, fourth and fifth waltzes made a special impression. Strauss had to repeat the work four times.

[4] Egerien-Tänze (Egeria Dances), Walzer, Op. 134

On the occasion of the publication of the Egeria Dances the reviewer of the weekly satirical magazine ‘Witty new letters from Hans-Jörgel von Gumpoldskirchen to his brother-in-law Maxel in Feselau, and their conversations about various daily occurrences in Vienna’, known in short as ‘Hans-Jörgel’, mocked the habit of the dance composers for allowing the choice of titles of their works to be inspired too often by Greek and Roman mythology: “There is certainly no God, no half-God and no quarter-nor eighth-God, who has not been used like minims, crotchets and quavers in their waltzes. So who actually was she—this Egeria? A nymph from whom the Roman king Numa Pompilius constituted the law for the Romans. The dear person could hardly ever have dreamed that one day she would be used as the title of a waltz, otherwise she would certainly immediately have added a paragraph in her statute book, which would have been a blow to Strauss.” Strauss appeared to be unimpressed and within a year defiantly followed the Egeria Dances with the Leto Waltzes and the Strains of Minos. The target audience which Strauss hoped to reach was clearly intelligent enough to understand the meaning of the title. In fact the Egeria Dances were dedicated to “Students of law at the University of Vienna”. Yet, on 17 January 1841, Strauss had launched the work in a completely different context: namely, on the occasion of the annual ball in aid of the institution for the care and employment of impoverished blind adults. Since, as usual, Archduke Franz Carl, brother of the reigning emperor Ferdinand and father of the future sovereign Franz Joseph, had taken on patronage of the event, some members of the aristocracy appeared, and “…through their noble presence honoured this happy and beautiful celebration”, as they felt themselves obliged to say at that time. Since the newly-opened ballroom on the first floor of the Sperl was also in the news, Strauss’s activities, just for once, receded into the background.

[5] Die Tanzmeister (The Dancing-Masters), Walzer, Op. 135

At the beginning of November 1841 Strauss and his orchestra had undertaken a three-week concert tour to Bratislava and Pest. He was back in Vienna, though, in time for the St Catherine’s Day celebration which took place traditionally on 24 November and was a fixed point in Vienna’s calendar of events, in order to present in the Sperl his new set of waltzes bearing the title The Dancing-Masters. In the dancing, waltzes alternated with quadrilles so that the latter, alongside the long-established waltzes, had developed into a really fashionable dance. Since the quadrille is intended to be an amalgam of all the dances, whose smooth execution can only be achieved through the agency of a guiding hand, the dancing-masters had high season. Strauss knew that his success depended on their performances, so he formed alliances with those who were the best at their job. The choice of title for the new set of waltzes was a strategically clever obeisance to this profession. For one or two members of this brotherhood fame had obviously gone to their heads, if the previously quoted ‘Hans-Jörgel’ is to be believed: “This is what a dancing-master has painted on his door: Ordained from 9–12 and from 3–6 o’clock. He ordains! Yes, what then? Take three waltzes and go round like one possessed, thereafter two galops, and you will develop a predisposition to consumption of the lungs.” But the Viennese population was so intoxicated with the dance that tirades like this could change almost nothing. Also the fact that, because of building works on the first floor in the Sperl ballroom during the St Catherine Festival—a new room was being built there—dancing was only possible in the downstairs rooms, a fact which did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of those who were there. The new work made an especially favourable impression: “The Dancing-Masters have the advantage over so many of the other maestri in that they never miss the right beat.

[6] Stadt-und Landleben (City- and Country-Life), Walzer, Op. 136

Many of the titles which Strauss gave to his compositions testify to his unmistakable feeling for the pulse of the time. One such example is the set of City- and Country-Life Waltzes. The new transport systems of the time enabled countless city-dwellers to experience nature and the village way of life—opportunities which had not been possible before. The traditional fairs which took place in and around Vienna, such as that of the popular annual one on the fourth Sunday after Whitsun and the following day’s church consecration festival in Brigittenau, a lowland riparian forest land, attracted an increased stream of visitors, and showed all the indications of the beginnings of mass tourism. The accompanying destruction of the environment was becoming a theme, even then: “If I had come across Brigittenau in the Prater, I really would not have recognized it—it seems so virginal and shy since it has lost its Greek necklace, its woods, appearing more like some Brigitta Plain; but it is the people themselves who are guilty because in earlier times on holy days they chopped things down endlessly. Trees form forests but in Brigittenau it is men who build forests.” Strauss himself, though, who felt no discomfort whatever in the face of a public emerging on a massive scale, never performed in the Brigittenau, but at that time put on his own festival in his favourite venue, the Sperl, which was practically on the doorstep of the quickest route from the city centre to Brigittenau. Also in 1841 he offered something superior. “The Homeland of Beautiful Jewellery” was the motto of the festival for which a professional stage-painter had prepared the scenery. The set of waltzes mentioned at the start had its première on this occasion and presents, in accordance with its title, contrasting stylised melodies from both the town and the country: on the one hand there are refined, rhythmically-intensified waltz tunes and on the other unforced, hearty Ländler themes.

[7] Beliebte Annen-Polka (Popular Anna Polka), Op. 137

When the Emperor or his wife celebrated a name-day it meant a carnival for the inhabitants of Vienna. On such occasions Strauss, who directed the music for the court balls, was always to be found in the front line, namely in the Volksgarten, where he and his orchestra were expected to provide a highbrow concert. In the programme on the Empress’s name-day in 1842—her name was Maria Anna—was a request for the middle two movements of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, among others. Nevertheless Strauss always took advantage of such an occasion to programme a new work of his own; in this case it was a polka, the first of two such pieces to come from his pen. Hardly surprisingly the title was Anna Polka, which had the marketable advantage that these could be felt to be in honour not only of the Empress herself but also of all the other bearers of the name ‘Anna’. Anna Day actually falls on 26 July but because of inclement weather the 1842 celebration, held in the open-air, could not take place until 2 August. The published edition of the piano version appeared only eight days later, on 10 August. This is an incredibly short period of time, even if one assumes that the polka would have been ready in time for the date of the originally-planned first performance. In the course of this, an interesting detail comes to light. This piano edition bears the title Popular Anna Polka. In truth, the publisher could not really have known at the time of the work’s publication—even considering the fact that it was encored four times at its première—that this new piece would become an enduring crowd-pleaser. The addition of this word of endearment might have had a deeper, underlying objective: namely, to launch the Polka as the new dance sensation—a move which was, in the end, crowned with success.

[8] Die Fantasten (The Fantasists), Walzer, Op. 139

On 26 January 1842 Strauss organized in the Sperl a large benefit gala ball with the name “The Garland of Grace”, the proceeds from which he collected himself. It goes without saying that on such occasions he did all he could to attract the greatest numbers of people, so a new work from his own pen, written specially for the occasion, was an absolute must. As it happens, once again Strauss had done everything right for the press, which went overboard with enthusiasm: “I think that if Herr Strauss were to put on a ball on the Marchfeld Plain one would be hard-pressed to get a seat, since in recent times his popularity has increased like no other. Apart from his recent and most successful compositions such as the Dancing-Masters, the Egeria Dances and the Fashionable Quadrille there was a completely new set of waltzes: The Fantasists. I really do not know what to say about this most recent work: witty, charming, melodious—that sounds too hackneyed. In short, he who is not already a fan of Strauss’s compositions should go and hear The Fantasists and he will soon become one. What is certain is that this latest set of waltzes can be considered among his most successful; he had to repeat the work three times due to the wild applause. ” In his efforts to be original himself, though, the reviewer had confused the word ‘fantasist’, a dreamer, or a person with heightened powers of imagination, with the term ‘fan’. Now let us hope that the intention speaks for the work.

[9] Musik-Verein-Tänze (Music Society Dances), Walzer, Op. 140

The balls held by the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde of the Austrian Imperial State were the most elegant and most spectacular in the whole of Vienna. Priority for entry to them was restricted to members of the Society and to ‘distinguished’ people who had been specially recommended by a member. Furthermore, from 1840 the Music Society’s balls were held in a place which, by putting on prestigious festivals of dance, set the standards for the whole of Europe—the Sperl ballroom. In 1842 this establishment could offer, along with additional attractions, several previously-mentioned new dance-halls on the first floor, something that was referred to specifically in the advertisements. A certain Rabensteiner, one of the most prominent dancing-masters of his time, had been engaged to arrange the dances. But the biggest attraction turned out to be Johann Strauss, who once again had taken on the direction of the ballroom music. “Strauss knew, through the power of his irresistible dance melodies, how to captivate dancers and listeners alike, so that the rooms were still full long after midnight and it was not until after four o’clock in the morning that people started to wend their way home, highly contented and satisfied.” That is what one newspaper reporter said about the celebration that took place on 19 January. The Music Society Dances, which were launched on that occasion, were mentioned only in passing: “Strauss had written some new waltzes for this gala ball, which drew resounding applause and had to be repeated, although they were outdone in melodic richness and originality by their predecessors, the charming Egeria Dances.”


Thomas Aigner
English translation by David Stevens


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