About this Recording
8.225338 - STRAUSS I, J.: Edition - Vol. 18
English  German 

Johann Strauss Snr • Edition • Vol. 18

 

[1] Rosen ohne Dornen (Roses without Thorns), Walzer, Op. 166
Roses without Thorns—in July 1844 that state of affairs was more than ever a pipe-dream for Johan Strauss (Father). On the surface he enjoyed a charmed life, but it was one which was by no means without its dark side. For a good ten years he had lived in an extramarital relationship with the milliner Emilie Trampusch who meanwhile had borne him six children, with a seventh on the way. His legal wife, Anna Strauss, no longer wished to maintain the appearance of middle-class respectability and was suing him for divorce. At the same time his son, also called Johann, was preparing to make his début as a music director, despite being expressly forbidden to do so by his father. But the customary huge public seemed to be unaware of all this when Johann Strauss (Father) put on a Nocturnal Solar Gala in the open air on 16th July. Strauss arrived with two new pieces—a set of waltzes with the provisional title Roses without Thorns and a Salon Polka. A critic reported that: “…both pieces were greeted rapturously. I need hardly mention that both works, full of joie de vivre and a charming delicacy, were encored three times to cheering and tumultuous applause.

[2] Wiener-Früchteln (Viennese Fruits), Walzer, Op. 167
Barely two weeks after the performance described above, the Brigitta Fair, which was steeped in tradition, took place. Admittedly, Strauss was not in the habit of putting in an appearance at this carnival, which took place in the district known as Brigittenau. This area, named after Saint Brigitta, was situated between the major channel of the Danube and the Danube Canal, which was closer to the city, and the pleasure-seeking Viennese public flocked there in droves. But Strauss seized the chance to put on, at his own expense, a gala of his own, together with a ball, in his favourite haunt, the Sperl ballroom, which was just off the main road out to Brigittenau. “Mysteries of A Thousand and One Nights” ran the slogan on 29th July 1844. The decoration and lighting in the rooms and the garden suggested an oriental display of splendour, so the obligatory new set of waltzes was called for, as a contrast to it. The title of the work, Viennese Fruits, originally characterized a species of unreliable types: good-for-nothings even, but people who were vested with a certain amount of charm. And the waltzes? “Egad! These really are Viennese fruits, the young dandies, happy as sandboys, who flit from flower to flower and who charm every heart. What a collection of the most effervescent, most vigorous melodies, what cheeky and exuberant whimsy, how piquant and richly effective the instrumentation…” and so on and so forth—the critic banged on for a few more lines in an enthusiastic hymn of praise for the work, which was repeated six times.

[3] Willkommen-Rufe (Shouts of Welcome), Walzer, Op. 168
On 1st May 1844, in Munich, the Archduke Albrecht of Austria married the Bavarian princess Hildegarde. The father of the bride was no less a figure than the Archduke Carl, the first general to defeat Napoleon in open battle. Albrecht’s mother, Henriette von Nassau-Weilburg, entered the history-books by “inventing” the concept of the Christmas-tree. Soon after the wedding the young couple took themselves off on a steamship down the Danube to Vienna. The Wiener Zeitung newspaper alone devoted two columns to an account of the arrival of the craft in the suburb of Nussdorf on 11th May, to the accompaniment of a dutifully cheering crowd, and of the onward journey, by coach. Here is a taste of what was written: “To the noble garland, full of hope, of his house…”—a reference to the family of Archduke Carl—“… the benevolent heaven weaves a new, noble carpet of flowers in bloom.” Strauss made his own contribution to the popular festive mood which gripped all of Vienna in the following days. On 20th May in the Sperl he put on a flower festival, complete with ball, with the title “Celebration to Hymen”, the climax of which was the first performance of a set of waltzes called Shouts of Welcome. They must have set the feet tapping of Hymen, the Greek god of marriage, as he sat on Mount Olympus.

[4] Quadrille über beliebte Motive aus der Oper: Die vier Haimonskinder (Quadrille on favourite themes from the opera The Four Aymon Sons), Op. 169
During his lifetime, the operas of Michael William Balfe, the Irish composer who is almost completely forgotten today, enjoyed enormous popularity in many parts of Europe. The first of these operas to reach Vienna was The Four Aymon Sons. The action of the opera, which is based on an old French poem, concerns the fate of the four sons of a Count from the Dordogne. The première of the opera took place on 14th December 1844 in the Josefstadt Theatre. The opera was such a huge success that in the following year it was put on again in Vienna’s two leading houses—the Kärntnertor Theatre and the Theater an der Wien. But before these productions took place Strauss had brought together the most popular melodies from the opera into a quadrille which had its première on 19th January 1845 at a ball for The Society of Music Friends given in the Redouten Rooms of the Hofburg Palace. The critics were beside themselves with enthusiasm: “He, the maestro of the Viennese waltz, writes with a tenderness and piquancy that the vaunted Musard in Paris would not be ashamed of. And how Strauss understands the sweet melodies which Balfe has set in his ‘Sons of Aymon’, and how best to mould them to his purpose. Soon people in Vienna will be talking about only one quadrille, and it will be the one by Strauss from the Four Aymon Sons.

[5] Maskenlieder (Songs of the Maskers), Walzer, Op. 170
In the middle of November 1844 Strauss made a guest conducting appearance in Mährisch-Schlesien, to be precise in the cities of Troppau, Teschen and Neutitschein. Yet on 24th November he had every reason to be back again in his home town since it was on that day that the annual Katherine Day carnival—a benchmark event in the Viennese ball calendar—took place. It was stormy and was pouring with rain: “…and yet every night there gathered countless numbers of elegant people distinguished by the presences of their Serene Highnesses the Archdukes Franz Carl and Stephan and by many high-ranking dignitaries, wearing imaginatively colourful masks and elegant make-up, beautiful women and girls and many, many men and youths in the truly imperial salons …the Redouten Rooms in the royal-imperial Hofburg. The net income raised from the event came courtesy of the retirement fund of the Society of Fine Arts, as well as from the presence of many society luminaries. By contrast, even the involvement of someone such as Strauss had to take a back seat in the press coverage of the event; the set of waltzes Songs of the Maskers, which was written specially for the occasion, was not once mentioned by the reporter.

[6] Eunomien-Tänze (Eunomia Dances), Walzer, Op. 171
With his choice of the title of the set of waltzes dedicated: “To the students of law at the University of Vienna” Strauss stressed once more his fondness for the antique world of the gods. Above all, time and time again, he struck gold with the intriguing character of Zeus. With Themis Zeus produced three daughters, Eunomia, Dike and Eirene. The first of these, whom Strauss chose as the eponymous subject of his Op. 171 waltzes, directs the legal course of human life with divine wisdom. The circumstances of the first performance of the Eunomia Dances are, so far, obscure, but there exists an interesting account from the year 1845 in which the said set of waltzes features. “Recently, towards midnight, as I came to the Technical Ball at the Sperl, Strauss was already playing his heavenly Eunomia Dances to rapturous applause; after I had marvelled at the beautiful people, of whom a great number were in attendance, and had gorged myself on Strauss’s music and on Kriegler’s delicious ice-creams […] I said farewell to the Sperl and made my way to the Ball for the Blind, which was being held in the royal-imperial Redouten Rooms, just as a quadrille […] was being danced. Imagine my great surprise when I caught sight of Strauss once again, at the front of the orchestra. During the course of the event I learned that he had already played for the court ball from 6 o’clock until 11 o’clock. I can’t think of a single year in which Strauss would have been busier than in this one, even though a dozen new music directors have emerged recently.

[7] Odeon-Tänze (Odeon Dances), Walzer, Op. 172
On 8th January 1845 the Viennese public enjoyed a sensation—the opening of a huge and opulent dance-hall called the Odeon. The ballroom, which measured 184 by 34 metres, was capable of holding several thousand people and was lit by 5000 candles; at both ends of the room there were 8000 plants, as well as a sumptuous winter-garden. In the middle was the dance-floor; on that day Strauss presided there over an orchestra of eighty players. There was nothing else quite like it anywhere in Europe, and yet some crucial points had been overlooked: “What impresses one above all is the inadequacy of the layout of the cloakroom. The area which has been allocated for this purpose consists of a single space and it can accommodate in comfort only a tenth of the number of people for which it was intended. […] At the same time the functions suffered from the lack of a kitchen and cellar, even a sideboard, so that confusion reigned […] and the catering arrangements must be called seriously deficient.” Yet the passion for the dancing carried on without interruption: “When the reporter left the dance-hall, at three o’clock in the morning, countless groups of people were wandering past him, and our Strauss’s Odeon Waltzes, written specially for the occasion, were loudly applauded, with cries of ‘encore’ and they set the feet of those dance-mad people tapping even more.

[8] Marianka-Polka, Op. 173
While Strauss paid great attention to the quadrille and contributed to its dissemination in Vienna he took much less interest in the polka, a form which emerged at about the same time. Following on from the Sperl, Anna and Salon Polkas the Marianka Polka was only the fourth example of this genre to come from his pen. By all accounts, in terms of quality, this work left nothing to be desired, if the critic at the first performance is to be believed: “The Marianka Polka, which Strauss performed for the first time at this celebration, was extraordinarily well received, and it could be argued that this is the most successful of all the polkas. Subtle in its conception and character and with clever and masterful orchestration, this work is flawless, for Strauss is altogether a master of instrumentation.” The gala in question took place on 1st June 1845 in Unger’s Casino in Hernals, in what is now a western district of Vienna, and it marked the prelude to a series of Sunday summer balls in that district. But what must have pleased Strauss rather less was the addition of the title “Father” to the publicity advertisements—something made necessary by the activities of his son who was also called Johann.

[9] Musen-Quadrille (Muses Quadrille), Op. 174
The carnival season of 1845 was short but because of that it promised to be all the more intense. “And then there is the Strauss question, the most important question of the moment occupying the minds of the European public. Will the question be decided or not by the great powers of the dance during this festive season? Will Strauss Senior remain the unchallenged king of the waltz and the quadrille? Or will he have to share power with his audaciously ambitious son?” Whatever the case, the Sperl ballroom, the foremost venue in Vienna, remained firmly in the grip of the father. On 13th January Strauss (Father) directed the music at a ball for the Academy of Fine Arts. He had written a new piece, a Muses Quadrille, specially for the occasion. As always he had chosen the title to fit the occasion, but as far as the choice of the dance was concerned there were critical voices: “During this festive period we want to waltz again in typically Viennese fashion, and only to waltz, since we must cherish the waltz as our most beautiful and most important creation. I should like to wager that the lady in the picture [here the writer refers to the illustration which was added to his review] turning down the dancer approaching her because she is dancing only quadrilles and not waltzes is not really Viennese at all. She knows nothing of the magical power of three-four time, the proper meaning of a waltz. The waltz is the dance of love and it contains within it more poetry than all the other national dances in the world!


Thomas Aigner
English translation by David Stevens


Close the window