About this Recording
8.225335 - STRAUSS I, J.: Edition - Vol. 15
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Johann Strauss Snr • Edition • Vol. 15

 

[1] Minnesänger (Minnesinger), Walzer, Op. 141

Twice in 1842 the traditional flower festival, together with the ball in the Sperl, had to be postponed because of bad weather, but on 13 June the day had finally arrived: the motto for the event was “Aladdin’s Magic Lamp”, a theme which offered the opportunity for delightful lighting effects in the establishment’s garden. In the ballroom, as usual, Johann Strauss (Father) directed the music and had come armed with a new set of waltzes called Minnesinger. Strauss was not alluding here to the minstrels of the Middle Ages but, on the contrary, to a leading instrumental virtuoso of the day, the Belgian cellist Adrien-François Servais (1807–1866), who had excited the Viennese public in the previous season. “A.F. Servais was the acknowledged darling and hero of the 1842 concert season. In Servais an admirably fearless and elegant technique was allied to a certain amount of coquettishness, a studied nonchalance and effective mannerisms which at that time seemed to make a fine and charming virtuoso even more ‘interesting’. Although he did not make a purely artistic impression (or perhaps even because of it) his success with the elegant public was exceptional.” So ran the retrospective judgement of Eduard Hanslick, the leading Viennese music critic of the time. In Minnesinger Strauss had made use of music from several compositions by Servais: in the first extremely long waltz he borrowed extensively from Servais’s biggest hit, Souvenir de Spa, Op. 2; in the second from his Fantaisie burlesque ou le Carneval de Venise, Op. 9, and in the third, La Romanesca, a famous dance from the sixteenth century. “With this work he celebrated a complete triumph” stated one reporter at the time.

[2] Haute Volée Quadrille (High Society Quadrille), Op. 142

In a certain sense the High Society Quadrille is a companion-piece to the Popular Anna-Polkas—both owe their existence to the name-day celebrations held in 1842 in the Volksgarten in honour of the Austrian imperial couple. While the Polkas were intended for the Empress Maria Anna, the Quadrille is associated with her husband, Emperor Ferdinand I, but without an explicit dedication having been given. The Highest Name-Day Celebration of His Majesty took place on 31 May and the new work, even set against the background of the widespread enthusiasm for the quadrille form at that time, achieved an extraordinary success. “The highly original musical themes, the most genuinely piquant French instrumentation and the outstanding freshness of the ideas, which one always finds in Strauss, place this quadrille among the very finest which he has written in this genre. The fact that the public, which listened to the work with the most rapt attention, was of the same mind was the best proof, so that after each individual section there was a burst of applause. The Quadrille had to be played three times in succession and each time Strauss reappeared he was greeted from all sides with applause, bravos and cheers.” According to other sources Strauss had to repeat the work five times in all. The enthusiasm carried over into the following months; even the publication of the piano score in January 1843 was hailed as an event: “At last it has appeared, the specially-chosen, the much-praised, the eagerly-awaited one. Dear reader, do they mean a famous dancer, a singer? No! The High Society Quadrille by Strauss has appeared in Herr Haslinger’s music shop! An appearance is not uncommon in this busy shop but this quadrille is an exceptional phenomenon.”

[3] Latonen-Walzer (Leto Waltzes), Op. 143

With the organization of the summer festivals Strauss was actually in competition with himself. His public still had the previous functions in their heads, so Strauss had to come up with ever more splendid décor and costumes, more original lighting and catchier music. If the reviewer of the garden party which took place on 18 July 1842 in the Sperl with the description “Star-mosaics in the Temple of the Night” is to be believed, it outdid “in magnificence and splendour anything seen before.” The temple, with its softly-lit cupolas, stood in the middle of the Sperl garden; its back wall depicted a mountain landscape bathed in moonlight and whoever saw it would have thought he was looking into a mysterious distance. “The stars, which were otherwise obscured by the little garden-lights, came gleaming into their own today and everything was new once again, unlike before, overflowing with real Strauss touches. […] The garden was beyond the terrace, which was opened for the first time, adjoining the new winter ballroom, in which Strauss, the Waltz King, sat enthroned and performed his new Leto Waltzes three times, to wild applause.” The significance of the choice of the title would have been known to those well-versed in Greek mythology: Latona is the Roman goddess of the night and of everything secret; she can be equated with the Greek goddess Leto, the mother of Apollo and Artemis. The result: the ball was so successful that Strauss had to repeat it a week later.

[4] Parade-Marsch (Parade March), Op. 144

The Viennese Civilian Guard, a remnant from the time of the Napoleonic Wars, had only a ceremonial function in the Vienna of the Biedermeier period. The Guard consisted of seven units: the Civilian Grenadier division, Artillery and Cavalry, the Knightly Corps of Marksmen, the Academic Corps as well as the First and Second Civilian Regiments. The directors of music of the last two were Johann Strauss and Joseph Lanner. Strauss, though, wrote the Parade March not for ‘his’ regiment but for a ball of the Civilian Artillery Bombardier Corps, which was held on 21 February 1843 in the Sperl. There were no newspaper reports of this event, so presumably it was a closed function. We know about the circumstances of the première of the work from a note which appeared on the title-page of the first edition of the piano score which was already on sale on 7 March—just two weeks later. Whether Strauss later had the work performed by the band of the First Viennese Civilian Regiment is not known.

[5] Minos-Klänge (Strains of Minos), Walzer, Op. 145

About the first performance of the Strains of Minos, a set of waltzes dedicated to law students of the University of Vienna, there are, strangely enough, no records of any kind in the newspapers of the time. On the other hand there were newspaper reports of a set of waltzes known as Viennese Echoes, whose first performance took place on 9 October 1842, but again there is no evidence of any work being published with that title. Since the gap between the performance date of this work and the appearance of the published score of the Strains of Minos is, roughly speaking, six months—the usual period estimated for the preparation of an edition of a new set of waltzes—the thought cannot be denied that this is probably a case of one and the same work. This theory gains further credence in the light of the fact that a work dedicated to the law students for a ball for the blind had already been written in 1841 and its title, Egerien-Dances, had not been added until later. The final ball of the season in the Volksgarten in Vienna, at which Viennese Echoes was heard for the first time (and which was repeated three times, by public demand), had had to be postponed once again because of bad weather and it finally took place, not in the garden itself, but in the ballroom. “This piece Viennese Echoes”, remarked one critic, “contains so many electrical vibrations and lightning-like effects, so much lustre and so much variety in its individual numbers, that one hesitates to name the one to which the prize should be awarded.” These lines could actually do service for the Strains of Minos about which the Strauss scholar Max Schönherr wrote: “The terribleness of King Minos’s kingdom is characterized in the introduction by the low register of the 1A melody.” Minos, the mythical King of Crete, was the founder of the old-Cretan constitution and, according to a later legend, one of the judges of the dead in the Underworld.

[6] Die Lustwandler (The Strollers), Walzer, Op. 146

Three months before Viennese Echoes the set of waltzes known as The Strollers was launched in the Volksgarten. This park was laid out between 1821 and 1823 during the rebuilding of the Outer Castle Gate (Burgtor) following the blowing-up of the Burgbastei by Napoleon’s retreating troops and it had quickly become a popular place for the Viennese to promenade. So The Strollers was a fitting choice of title for the new composition on the occasion of the benefit concert, ‘an extraordinary summer assembly’, which Strauss promoted on 1 July 1842. As usual, the press was well-disposed towards the beneficiary and his latest child of the Muses. “The day before yesterday thousands of people could be seen pouring through the halls of the Burgtor and it seemed as though humanity itself was out for a walk. Apart from the Minnesinger, which has been heard already, Herr Kapellmeister Strauss played his new waltzes, The Strollers. This really is music of movement. Here the listener’s ear can find refreshment in this sea of suppleness and never tires of this overflowing abundance of tenderness. With Strauss the music is the most eloquent, most fiery expression; expression is language, language is feeling, feeling is poetry—how agreeably, how upliftingly the cosmetic charms of such dance music exert their influence on us.”

[7] Walhalla-Toaste (Valhalla-Toasts), Walzer, Op. 147

For 15 February 1843 Strauss put on a big celebratory ball in the Sperl under the name “Carnival Dreams Come True” for which he announced the first performance of his Valhalla-Toasts waltzes. With this title he was referring to the so-called Valhalla Temple erected by the architect Leo Klenze near Regensburg which was built for all Germans who had achieved great things and was named after the mythical Germanic kingdom of the dead. The Valhalla Temple was opened officially on 17 and 18 October of the previous year in the presence of the Bavarian King Ludwig I, the Prussian Crown Prince Wilhelm and the Grand Duke of Hessen-Darmstadt, but it could never truly live up to its name. However it was quite another matter with the already-mentioned musical novelty: “Once again Strauss has revealed his good taste and shown how much the goodwill and love of the public matter to him. His most recent waltzes, Valhalla-Toasts, are highly original and melodious; incidentally, since they played the piece five times and the applause would not stop, it is futile to extol further the quality of the most recent work of our Strauss.” By the way, it is worth noting that, according to another reporter, the temperature in the ballroom was supposed to have been 30º Réaumur, or an incredible 37.5º Centigrade! The journalist ended with the remark: “Strauss’s admirers proved […] that he enjoys more and more the goodwill of his Viennese and that this relationship would, under any circumstances, remain irreplaceable.”

[8] Saison-Quadrille nach Motiven der berühmten Virtuosen Vieuxtemps, Evers und Kullak (Season-Quadrille on themes by the famous virtuosi Vieuxtemps, Evers and Kullak), Op. 148

A Ball! The Musikverein’s Ball!What more could one want? A ball whose highest patroness is Art herself who, with her charming power binds all men together, who has no regard for rank or wealth and who can make happy beggar and millionaire alike. The nobleman, the rich man and the artist can all mingle there in the colourful throng, without anyone feeling intimidated by the privileged status of the other. What harmony! To add to that there would be a radiantly-lit ballroom and foot-tapping melodies from Strauss, the Poet of the Waltz, who exhibited yet again such charming tunes in the quadrille written specially for the occasion and who showed what a brilliant talent he possesses.” The work referred to here in such glowing terms bears the title Season-Quadrille—an allusion to the opening concert season which was already rich in highlights. This was the age of the virtuosi and three of them, none hardly more than twenty years old at that time, are enshrined in the aforementioned quadrille. The Belgian violinist Henri Vieuxtemps (1820–1881) is represented in the second section of the quadrille, L’été, by the finale of his Fantaisie-Caprice, Op. 11, and in the fifth section, La pastourelle, by the rondo from his Violin Concerto No. 1. From the twelve Chansons d’amour, Op. 13, characteristic songs without words from different nations, by the piano virtuoso Karl Evers (1819–1875), Strauss chose Provencefor the first section, Le pantalon, Italy, for the third section, La poule, and Germany for the fourth section, La Trénis. The finale was underpinned by themes written by another pianist, Theodor Kullak (1818–1882). The newspapers felt constrained to report further that the ball, which took place on 17 January 1843 in the Sperl, was graced by the presence of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wasa.


Thomas Aigner
English translation by David Stevens


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