About this Recording
8.225336 - STRAUSS I, J.: Edition - Vol. 16
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Johann Strauss Snr • Edition • Vol. 16

 

[1] Die Dämonen (The Demons), Walzer, Op. 149

The Katharinenfest was the climax of the autumn festivities in nineteenth-century Vienna. The dance events, which were held on the name-day of the patroness (25 November), were to some extent a foretaste of the impending Carnival ball season. On the occasion of his ‘extraordinary festival evening’ in the Sperl ballroom on 23 November 1842, however, Johann Strauss the Elder did not content himself only with dance music. With his own distinguished orchestra at his disposal he could afford to present a musical programme of operatic and salon pieces. As was customary at these prestigious Strauss dance celebrations, the jewel in the crown at the ball was the eagerly-awaited novelty-item—in this case the set of waltzes with the title Die Dämonen (The Demons). The work made an immediate impression and ‘…to tumultuous applause […] had to be repeated two or three times’. The first and fifth waltzes met with particular approval. However the dancing at this ball must have been rather strenuous, since the ballrooms were jam-packed with many visitors who were not put off attending the event by the atrocious weather. The first edition of the piano score of Die Dämonen appeared barely a year after its première and was highly distinctive in appearance. The letters of the work title consisted of all kinds of demonic forms and monstrous creatures. Satanism was all the rage at that time, resulting in an explosion of works of this nature on the Viennese stages, with Die Papiere des Teufels by Johann Nestroy leading the way.

[2] Künstler-Ball-Tänze (Artists’ Ball Dances), Walzer, Op. 150

In the modern age of motorised mass transportation traffic-jams are an everyday occurrence. Yet it might come as a surprise to discover that this phenomenon was known more than 150 years ago. Even then a widely-read Viennese newspaper reported on: ‘…a tightly packed procession of carriages, progressing only slowly and stretching from Stephansplatz all the way to the Sperl’, a distance of almost a kilometre! The cause of this was the ball for the Society of Fine Arts held in the aforementioned Sperl on 31 January 1843, and those who were looking forward to a special feast for the eyes were not disappointed: ‘The dance hall itself [,] decorated in orange, formed in its sea of flames the central focus of the convivial entertainment. The dining-table was red, decorated in gold in the Renaissance taste, while a host of life-like multi-coloured birds bestowed a novel charm on the proceedings and because of this created an equally alluring impression as the tent-like suites.’ The dances were led by three of the most illustrious dancing masters of the time, while the quadrille proved hugely popular and even the minuet was appreciated once more. This fashion-induced preference of the public might be the reason that the reporter mentioned only en passant the Künstler-Ball-Tänze (not to be confused with his Op. 94 which appeared under the same title) which Strauss composed for this celebration. It is worth noting that Strauss prefaced this work with a march, an idea which his son (also called Johann) took up 46 years later in his famous Kaiser-Walzer (Emperor Waltz).

[3] Quadrille zur allerhöchsten Namensfeyer Sr. Majestät des Kaisers Ferdinand I.
(Quadrille for the name-day celebration of His Majesty Emperor Ferdinand 1), Op. 151

The cult of personality, which in earlier times grew up around European rulers, strikes us as distinctly odd from today’s perspective. That the name-day of a ruling prince should be celebrated across the country was naturally taken for granted at that time. Strauss’s regular involvement in celebrations to honour his monarch was evident, since he directed the music for the court-balls and was a person of public interest. Now how did the press cover the Waltz King’s paying homage to the Emperor of Austria on the occasion of his name-day? For the columnist who had to write a report on the celebration which, on account of the persistently bad weather, could not take place until 2 June 1843 in the royal-imperial Volksgarten, it went without saying that the scenery, lighting and music were all of the highest quality and, in addition, ‘…that the refreshments refreshed, all went well and an assortment of beautiful women and elegant men filled the salon and the promenade area.’ But much more was expected of him— to give voice to his patriotic sensibility. He assured his readers that in an adjoining building: ‘…appropriate portraits of our most gracious Emperor and of His Majesty the late Emperor Franz form, as every whole-hearted Austrian will say, the most beautiful adornment to the decoration and almost outdo the beautiful paintings.’ The ‘portrait of our most gracious father of the people’, so the editor felt obliged to report, ‘also displayed outdoors, bathed in light.’ Even so, for him Strauss’s dedicatory composition was worthy of a eulogy: ‘One could call the new Ferdinand-Quadrille the best of his quadrilles and, after all, who composes better ones?’ The reporter of a rival newspaper went on to say that the new work was the highlight of the evening and ‘in response to wildly enthusiastic applause had to be repeated three times.’

[4] Tanz-Capricen (Dance-Caprices), Walzer, Op. 152

The summer of 1843 in Central Europe was extremely rainy, and led to wide-spread flooding everywhere. On 3 July the temporary bridge over the Danube by the Karolinen Gate in Vienna had to be closed, since the waves had already washed over it and many cellars in Leopoldstadt, part of today’s second district, were under water. So it was crucial that Strauss too would have to acknowledge the weather conditions, since he had been forced to postpone yet again his musical celebrations which were scheduled to take place outdoors. On 7 July, after several abortive attempts, his benefit concert took place in the royal-imperial Volksgarten. At first it seemed as though the weather god was going to smile on the proceedings but shortly before the event began a heavy downpour drove the orchestra and the expectant public inside into the salon. This seems not to have disrupted the entertainment. As one chronicler remarked, it was ‘…good to sit in the dry, as Strauss’s sweeping waltzes ring out’. Whether the advertised new work, the set of waltzes Tanz-Capricen, was also celebrated in the newspapers and reviews, cannot be gleaned from his account of the event, so occupied was Strauss with the ‘caprices’ of the weather. A week later Strauss gave another ‘big celebratory gathering’ in the Volksgarten, at which the new work was on the bill, with the title Toncapricen. No account of this event is recorded.

[5] Quadrille zur allerhöchsten Namensfeyer Ihrer Majestät der Kaiserin Maria Anna,
(Quadrille for the name-day celebration of Empress Maria Anna), Op. 153

Anna Day, which falls on 26 July, and Katharine Day were traditionally the subject of special celebration in old Vienna. During the regency period of Emperor Ferdinand 1, Anna Day assumed an additional significance because Ferdinand’s wife was called Maria Anna. The Volksgarten, which was located in the erstwhile Hofburg area, was felt to be an appropriate space for a celebration in her honour, especially during the warm season. It was here that Strauss and his orchestra habitually performed and, since he was the director of the music for the court-balls, he enjoyed a particularly close relationship with the imperial household. In conformity with prevailing law in the event of bad weather, the event was postponed from 25 to 28 July. But, if the newspaper reporters are to be believed, it all went off to everyone’s satisfaction. Almost as a matter of course there was praise for the musical novelty of the evening: ‘It’s probably superfluous to say anything about Strauss’s latest work, the Anna Quadrille, since every new piece by this composer outdoes each of his previous ones. So the ‘Hautvolée-Quadrille’ has been supplanted by the ‘Saison-Quadrille‘ and this has now been put in the shade by the ‘Ferdinand-Quadrille’; the Anna Quadrille is now a dangerous rival.’

[6] Loreley-Rhein-Klänge (Lorelei-Rhine-Sounds), Walzer, Op. 154

To this day the Loreley-Rhein-Klänge is considered to be the most successful set of waltzes by Johann Strauss the Elder. At the same time the work received a somewhat low-key reception at its first performance on 19 August 1843. Admittedly, one chronicler felt obliged to report that: ‘the repeat performance’ of the new waltzes was ‘vehemently demanded’, yet had implied nothing more than that the new piece had not been a failure. Joseph Lanner’s magnum opus, his set of waltzes Die Schönbrunner, which had been launched only ten months earlier, had roused a lot more enthusiasm. As soon as the first bars of that work were heard rapturous applause broke out and the public called for it to be played three or four more times. The differing reaction to these two masterpieces is probably due to the respective composition of the crowds being present. While Die Schönbrunner were first performed in a Lanner benefit concert in the down-to-earth setting of the Fünfhauser beer hall, the Loreley-Rhein-Klänge waltzes were heard for the first time in a charity concert for a children’s hospital sponsored by the Archduchess Sophie on the classy Wasserglacis (an area of what today is the Stadtpark), where a restrained group of listeners had gathered. However, this new set of waltzes quickly established itself as Strauss’s undisputed showstopper, not surpassed until his Radetzky March half a decade later.

[7] Brüder Lustig (Merry Brothers), Walzer (im Ländlerstyle), (Waltzes in Ländler style), Op. 155

The contemporary reports of the celebrations organized by Strauss almost fall over themselves in their eulogies, so that the impartial reader might think that there was nothing more beautiful on earth than to attend such a festivity. So the surprise is all the greater when, for a change, one comes across a critical article. Such a write-up was prompted by a garden-party ball which Strauss put on in the Sperl on 21 August 1843. The organization of the event went according to plan; there were no hitches of any kind, or even scandals. Everything was, so to speak, in apple-pie order. Yet the reviewer could not reconcile the motto of the celebration—‘Summer Night’s Feast for the Eyes’—with his experience of it:

‘The eating was murderous, inexorable, and the drinking merciless. It was a ghastly sight! So many mandibles in constant movement, so many hands, bereft of culinary knowledge, to be seen rummaging around in the fleshy foodstuffs.’ And on the subject of the dancing: ‘One behind the other they charge about in pairs, invariably in a circle, flinging themselves around with each step. [] They gallop around one after the other. Clouds of dust swirl around, the heat goes to their heads, their limbs are in a lather. Waltzing is hard grind indeed! The same can be said of their performing quadrilles, the parade gallop of this dancing squad. One, two, one, two. Reins are gripped tightly, heads held like battering-rams, and off they go! One, two, one, two. Ha, what a beautiful sight!’

When it comes to Strauss, however, the tone of this sceptical correspondent changes substantially. The most fulsome words of praise are not considered too flattering, even if the new set of waltzes, Brüder Lustig, was criticized for appearing too Ländler-like’. At that time the homely Ländler was considered somewhat old-fashioned; its style was not compatible with such a title.

[8] Astraea-Tänze (Astraea-Dances), Walzer, Op. 156

At the beginning of the 1840s the ball for the students of law at the University of Vienna, which was held every year in the Sperl ballroom and was referred to by the catchy title of the ‘Lawyers’ Ball’, shaped up to mark the climax of the carnival season. This description certainly applied to the event which took place on 17 January 1844. ‘The enchanting impression, given by the almost magical lighting in the rooms, the sumptuous arrangements, the magnificent drapery, and the colourful confusion of the assembled guests, among whom were many of the highest rank, and most of the professors from the Faculty of Law, imposing names from the realm of erudition, was indescribable.’ Naturally, the commentator conceded that the success was due in part to the musical contribution: ‘Strauss, our waltz- and quadrille-hero, with his excellent orchestra, figured as the animating agent of the dance-mad part of the company and, with truly unflagging energy, performed his latest work in the terpsichorean sphere—waltzes which are dedicated to the students of law and bear the title ‘Asträa-Tänze‘; along with ‘The Strains of Minos’ it received the most applause.’ Astraea, Virgin of the Stars, is the nickname of the Greek goddess of justice (known also as Dikï), daughter of Zeus and Themis. She lived in the golden age on earth, but in the iron age, when men started to forge weapons, she withdrew into the heavens, from where she has shone down on mankind as the constellation Virgo ever since.


Thomas Aigner
English translation by David Stevens


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