About this Recording
8.225337 - STRAUSS I, J.: Edition - Vol. 17
English  German 

Johann Strauss Snr • Edition • Vol. 17

 

[1] Volksgarten Quadrille (The People’s Garden Quadrille), Op. 157

Driven by the aim of offering the public ever new temptations, even the generic names for the dance festivities were trendy in the Biedermeier period. In 1843 it was evidently the magic word Redoute (a fancy dress or masked ball) which had the greatest appeal. “Redoubt in the Open Air” was the name of the celebration which Johann Strauss (Snr) put on every year on 10 September in the Volksgarten (The People’s Garden). The correspondent of the Theaterzeitung, who was there to report on it, was full of enthusiasm: “This really was a celebration in the widest sense of the word. There were countless numbers (about 6000 in all) of beautiful people, marvellous lighting, magnificent fireworks and charming music; it was a heavenly evening. Everything combined to make this one of the most splendid celebrations that had ever been given.” The evening’s novelty item was called the Volksgarten Quadrille, which, as was customary in such cases, was “…received with a storm of applause” and had to be encored.

[2] Nur Leben! (Just Live!), Walzer, Op. 159

Only three days after the first performance of the Redoute-Quadrille (3) Strauss surprised his public with yet another work from his pen: “Johann Strauss gives himself the decorous honour of announcing to high society and the revered public that on Wednesday 29 November 1843, in the newly-decorated upper winter rooms of the Sperl ballroom, he will put on a grand celebratory ball at which he will conduct the orchestra. As well as his most popular works, he has the honour of announcing the first performance of a new waltz with the title: Just Live! (composed by Strauss himself).” The deeper meaning of this title has been much puzzled over. It was associated with an invitation not to concern oneself with socio-political questions, but simply to enjoy life. Or, on the contrary, did he mean that the majority of the population only just survives when the economic situation is tight?

[3] Redoute-Quadrille (Masked Ball Quadrille), Op. 158

Every year in nineteenth-century Vienna the name-day of Saint Katharina (24 November) gave rise to a series of celebrations. On 26 November 1843 in the Redouten rooms of the Hofburg Imperial Palace Strauss put on a “Katharina Masked Ball” in support of the pension funds of visual artists, on which occasion he gave the première of his Redoubt Quadrille: Up to four o’clock in the morning discreet men wearing dominos* waltzed furiously with Turkish ladies, horsewomen, bats, ladies in character masks or in simple ball attire, or used the measured steps of the quadrille as a substitute for a reciprocal exchange of emotions. Above this crowd of people hovered an endless, brilliant sea of lights, and in this atmosphere, saturated with love and secrets, trysts and jealousies, fulfilled and yearning passions, the magical mesmeric violin bow of our Strauss reigned, with his spirited, heart-stopping tunes; and what more is required to make these thousands of people sway in blissful enjoyment and oblivion! Only at daybreak did the rooms begin to empty.

*Domino = a long, hooded cape that guarantees anonymity

[4] Waldfräuleins Hochzeits-Tänze (Forest Maiden’s Wedding Dances), Walzer, Op. 160

14 February 1844 was the date on which it was rumoured that Strauss was supposed to take his leave of Vienna and “Strauss’s Swansong to the Sperl” was the motto for an event which attracted a huge number of people. There were rumours that the much-loved music director was to leave the imperial city for a few years: “…in order to seek in the far north the success which had been accorded to him so liberally in the world cities of Paris, London and Vienna.” This reference can only be understood to mean St Petersburg or, to be exact, its southern suburb of Pavlovsk. Today nobody can say whether at that time there actually were serious plans for such a guest appearance or whether the whole thing was merely a clever publicity stunt. In any event the public was eager to see its favourite once more, but because of the huge crush of people in attendance dancing anyhow was out of the question. As well as the set of waltzes, Forest Maiden’s Wedding Dances (based on a romantic fairy-tale by Joseph Christian Freiherr von Zedlitz) and written specifically for this “farewell” and which “earned enthusiastic applause and had to be encored three times, similar scenes from another of Strauss’s pieces were also performed. “Poor Strauss” commented one newspaper reporter who was present: “your income might have been high, but your work-rate is certainly not small. To have to play without a break for between six and seven hours is certainly arduous.

[5] Salon-Polka, Op. 161

The title Salon Polka work refers to Peter Corti’s coffee-house, which was built in the Volksgarten in 1822/23 and is one of the few venues where Strauss performed which is still in existence today. Because of its proximity to the Hofburg the celebrations which were put on in the Volksgarten in the nineteenth century attracted a particularly select public; so it was on 16 July 1844 that Strauss staged, at his own expense, a Nocturnal Solar-Fest. In spite of repeated weather-related postponements and strong competition from other events the Volksgarten was packed. Strauss had worked especially hard on this event and: “…had come with two new pieces written specially for this occasion, waltzes in fact, bearing the titles Roses Without Thorns and a polka, the Salon Polka, which are so magnificent that one has to be enthusiastic in spite of oneself.” Both the new pieces had to be encored three times in response to public demand. The Salon Polka appeared in print within the space of a month. With this considerable achievement perhaps the publisher Tobias Haslinger wanted to stir up interest in a dance form which was still fairly new in the Vienna of that time?

[6] Orpheus-Quadrille, Op. 162

Orpheus, who enchanted animals and plants with his singing and his lute-playing and who even persuaded the gods of the underworld to release his beloved Eurydice, is the very symbol of the power of music. Which mythological figure could have been better suited to provide the title for a work written specially for a ball for the Society of Music Friends of the Austrian Empire? On 30 January 1844 Strauss used the occasion to present the first performance of his Orpheus Quadrille in the royal-imperial Redouten rooms. As was always the case with these Music Society balls the clientele was very select but on this occasion the public was sparser than usual. That was because Strauss himself was responsible for putting on a rival attraction, since he had organized a glitzy Industrial Ball to take place in the Sperl on the same evening. The Music Society Ball should actually have happened six days earlier, but because of a period of court mourning brought about by a bereavement in the imperial family, it had had to be postponed. The press asserted that “…the ‘art’ had been in no way affected [by the Industry Ball] for in a city where, in both cases, the most exceptional is on offer, the outcome can only be beneficial.” What a beautiful idyllic world!

[7] Frohsinns-Salven (Salvoes of Gaiety), Walzer, Op. 163

The date and circumstances of the première of the waltz sequence Salvoes of Gaiety are not known. What is certain is that it was written during Mardi Gras in 1844. When Strauss announced the first performance of his “latest composition” on the invitation to his “swansong” in the Sperl (see the Forest Maiden’s Wedding Dances 4) he mentioned also his Salvoes of Gaiety. It is conceivable that this waltz was heard for the first time at the widely-advertised Industry Ball on 30 January (see the Orpheus Quadrille 6).

[8] Aurora-Festklänge (Aurora’s Festive Sounds), Walzer, Op. 164

On 1 May each year the traditional spring festival took place in the Prater, with a procession of up to 500 private and public carriages. The outfits worn by these influential people on that particular day dictated the city’s fashion for the whole year. Until 1847, there was also a footrace on the programme. All of this attracted up to 30,000 people to the grounds of the Prater and in 1844 Strauss capitalized cleverly on this huge number of people by putting on in the nearby Augarten a musical matinée performance “by the highest command”. The proceeds from the event, held under the auspices of the Empress, were to go to the first hospital for children in Vienna. Strauss had composed a new set of waltzes, Aurora’s Festive Sounds, for this benefit concert. With his choice of title, Strauss wanted elegantly to draw attention to the higher purpose of the event: Aurora, goddess of the dawn, rises every morning from her bed to bring light to mankind. Unfortunately, on that day the weather did not play ball, so that the event had to be rescheduled and was moved from outside into the ballroom. But this had no effect on the general good mood and the enthusiasm for the new work; Aurora’s Festive Sounds was “received with noisy applause and had to be encored.

[9] Fest-Quadrille (Festive Quadrille), Op. 165

The name-day of Emperor Ferdinand I, “the much-loved father of the people”, fell technically on 30 May but in 1844 bad weather yet again forced repeated postponements of the open-air festivities held in his honour. Strauss, who put in an appearance at this occasion in the Volksgarten every year, was also affected. Almost every conceivable superlative had been applied to the qualities of his presentations so that it had become difficult to satisfy the public’s high expectations of them. The advertisement in the Wiener Zeitung newspaper caught the eye: “…this celebration, with its congenial lighting and décor, is particularly splendid.” What is more, Strauss will conduct “in person”, and apart from his most recent compositions “…will have the honour of performing for the first time a newly-composed quadrille, written specially for the occasion, and called Festive Quadrille.” The band of the Royal-Imperial Infantry Regiment “Hoch- und Deutschmeister” under the direction of Philipp Fahrbach was engaged to play, and the grand finale of the celebrations would, as the advertisement cryptically had it: “…consist of something impressive.” By this was meant the obligatory fireworks which rendered the huge numbers of the public as completely satisfied as they had been by the pieces of music which had been presented earlier.


Thomas Aigner
English translation by David Stevens


Close the window