About this Recording
8.553956 - WALDTEUFEL, E.: Famous Waltzes (Slovak State Philharmonic, Walter)
English 

Emile Waldteufel (1837-1915)
Famous Waltzes

Like Johann Strauss, Emile Waldteufel came from a family of dance musicians, being preceded in the business by his father Louis (1801-84) and brother Léon (1832-84). Despite their Germanic surname, the family were French. This is explained by their German ancestry and the fact that they hailed from Alsace, which despite strong German traditions had been fully integrated into France since 1793.

Emile Waldteufel was born in Strasbourg on 9th December 1837, just seven weeks after the elder Johann Strauss gave his first concert on French soil in that very city. When he was seven the family moved to Paris for his brother Léon to take up a place as a violin student at the Paris Conservatoire. Emile Waldteufel was to live in Paris for the rest of his life, and he in turn studied piano at the Conservatoire from 1853 to 1857, his classmates there including Jules Massenet.

Meanwhile the family dance orchestra was becoming one of the best-known in Paris, increasingly in demand for Society balls during Napoleon III's Second Empire. In 1865 Emile was appointed court pianist to the Empress Eugénie in succession to Joseph Ascher (composer of 'Alice, where art thou?'), performing at Court functions not only in Paris but in Biarritz and Compiègne. From 1867 the Waldteufel orchestra played at Napoleon III's magnificent Court balls at the Tuileries.

After the Franco-Prussian War the orchestra again presided at the Presidential balls at the Élysée. Yet so far Emile Waldteufel's dances had been known only to a relatively limited Society audience. By the time international fame came he was almost forty. In October 1874 he happened to be playing at a soirée attended by the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII. The Prince complimented him on his waltz Manolo and agreed to help launch his music in London. The result was a long-term publishing contract with the London firm of Hopwood & Crew. Since the firm was half-owned by Charles Coote, director of Coote & Tinney's Band, the premier London dance orchestra, this also gave access to the musical programmes of Queen Victoria's State Balls at Buckingham Palace. For several years Emile Waldteufel's music dominated the programmes there, generating him world-wide fame as he turned out a string of works that enjoyed huge popularity – including his best-known work Les Patineurs (‘The Skaters’) in 1882. His French publisher Durand, Schoenewerk was now forced to buy the French rights to these works from Hopwood & Crew. So later did the German firm of Litolff, in whose editions the works sometimes appeared under slightly different German names. In addition, to suit Germanic custom, in 1883 Litolff retrospectively began an opus numbering system. This began at 101 to make arbitrary allowance for early works, and for various reasons many works were numbered out of chronological sequence, thereby providing a source of much confusion ever since.

Waldteufel appeared in London in 1885 and Berlin in 1889, and in 1890 and 1891 he conducted at the Paris Opéra Balls. His orchestra continued to provide dance music for Presidential Balls, as well as for other Society functions, until 1899, when he retired. He continued to compose, but his style was by then outdated. He died in Paris on 12th February 1915 at the age of 77. His wife, a former singer Célestine Dufau, whom he married in 1873 and who bore him two sons and a daughter, had died the previous year.

Waldteufel was recognised as a good-natured person, with a ready sense of humour – characteristics that are readily perceivable in his music. Unlike the music of Johann Strauss, Waldteufel's perhaps scales no great architectural heights, but rather seeks to enchant by the grace and charm of his melodies and their gentle harmonies. By comparison with Strauss's very masculine creations, there is undoubtedly more of a feminine feel about Waldteufel's waltzes. Unlike Strauss, he conducted with a baton rather than a violin bow, and he composed at the piano, his works being orchestrated later. The standard Waldteufel orchestration was for strings, double woodwind, two cornets, four horns, three trombones and ophicleide (or tuba), plus timpani and percussion.

After Waldteufel's death his music continued to hold a place in the affections of ordinary music-lovers alongside that of Johann Strauss. The conductor of these recordings, Alfred Walter, recalls having a lot of Waldteufel's music at his childhood home in Southern Bohemia – not only for piano but also in arrangements for piano trio which were played in his musical family. If in recent decades Emile Waldteufel's music has been overshadowed by that of the Strausses, it is with correspondingly greater freshness that we are able to rediscover its grace and charm today.

Unfortunately Paris newspapers did not report the titles of dances played at Society balls. Thus the best available dating of Emile Waldteufel's works comes from publication records and dates of registration with the French copyright collecting agency S.A.C.E.M. In the following notes, the original French titles are given, together with English translations and the titles under which the works were published in Germany.

[1] Les Patineurs (‘The Skaters’ / ‘Die Schlittschuhläufer’), Valse, Op. 183 (1882)
In years before increasing urbanisation and industrialisation created any thought of global warming, ponds and rivers iced over far more commonly than today. Ice-skating was a popular pastime, and the Cercle des Patineurs in the Bois de Boulogne was a popular Parisian meeting place. The winter of 1879-80 was especially severe, and on 10th December 1879 Paris experienced a temperature of -25.6°C – the lowest ever recorded there. The Seine froze over completely, and omnibuses and carriages had to operate on runners. It was against this background that, some two years later, Emile Waldteufel composed his most famous waltz, Les Patineurs. Of them ail it is the one with the most obvious programmatic content. The introduction, anticipating the main theme, offers a sense of the sharpness and glitter of a wintry scene, with the flute and answering violin glissandi helping to give the impression of skaters trying out the ice. The main theme in turn presents a readily recognisable picture of skaters gliding around, after which they build up their confidence and try some daring leaps and falls. Then a sleigh, complete with sleigh-bells, arrives to complete the wintry scene. Waldteufel delivered the waltz to Hopwood & Crew on 27th July 1882, and it was published by them on 30th October 1882. He dedicated it to his friend Ernest Coquelin (1848-1909), the younger of two celebrated actor brothers of the Comédie Française.

[2] Très jolie (‘Very Pretty’ / ‘Ganz allerliebst’), Valse, Op. 159 (1878)
Yet another of the very finest Waldteufel waltzes from the years of his great international success, Très jolie develops quite splendidly, with the cumulative effect of the inflections of rhythm and dynamics building up an irresistible climactic sweep. Note especially the third waltz section, in which the violins flirt deliciously with the trombones, and the broadening of melody in the fourth waltz section, where dotted minims make up 29 of 30 consecutive bars of the 32-bar trio. The work carries a dedication to Vicomtesse Léonie de Chabrol.

[3] Estudiantina, Valse, Op. 191 (1883)
Besides his original compositions, Emile Waldteufel made many dance arrangements from currently popular songs and stage works. Thus it was that the publisher Enoch commissioned him to arrange a set of waltzes around a highly popular duet Estudiantina ('Band of Students') composed by Paul Lacome (1838-1920). The actual song was sufficient for only the first one-and-a-half sections of Waldteufel's waltz. However, since Lacome and his lyricist Comte J. de Lau Lusignan had made many French adaptations of Spanish popular songs (including an 1872 collection Échos d'Espagne), Waldteufel needed to go on further than Lacome to find some genuine Spanish songs to complete a four-part waltz with a consistently Spanish tang. The songs used in the various waltz sections are: 1 Estudiantina (refrain); 2 Estudiantina (verse) and Chanson d'automne (another original Lacome composition); 3 Jota de la Estudiantina and 'Tirana'; 4 De Cadiz al Puerto and El Tripili. Lacome's Estudiantina was published in December 1881, and Emile Waldteufel's waltz in April 1883.

[4] Pomone (‘Pomona’ / ‘Herbstweisen’), Valse, Op. 155 (1877)
One of the most majestic and successful of ail Emile Waldteufel's waltzes, Pomone dates from the period when his reputation was being established around the world. As usual, we do not know precisely when it was first heard in Paris, but we know that it was introduced to London – along with Toujours ou jamais – by Coote & Tinney's Band at the Prince and Princess of Wales's wedding anniversary ball at Marlborough House on 21st March 1878. Pomona was an Italian goddess of tree-fruits such as apples (hence the word pommes), who was pursued by Vertumnus, god of the ripening fruits of autumn. The autumnal country atmosphere is admirably captured in the introduction, which is in Ländler tempo, but the waltz proper has a particularly broad melodic sweep. This is especially true of the second part of the third waltz section, which is marked grandioso and which is repeated fortissimo in the coda to bring the waltz to an especially exhilarating conclusion. The work bears a dedication to the Comtesse Raphael Cahen d'Anvers.

[5] España, Valse, Op. 236 (1886)
Besides his original compositions, Waldteufel's contract with Hopwood & Crew permitted him to make dance arrangements of other composers' music for other publishers, and Estudiantina and España are merely the best-known of many such works. Without for a moment suggesting that Emmauel Chabrier needed any help from Emile Waldteufel, it is a fact that Chabrier's rhapsody and Waldteufel's waltz arrangement have shared popular acclaim for over a hundred years. It was in November 1883 that the rhapsody was published, and some two years later that Waldteufel made his waltz arrangement. Not only the themes are taken over, but also details of orchestration such as the distinctive whirring of the cellos in the second waltz section and the famous barking trombone theme in the fourth. At the same time, so skilfully are the melodies integrated that few realise that not all the material is from the rhapsody. Short of sufficient themes for the standard four two-part sections, Waldteufel found material for the third section in a duet in Chabrier's charming one-act operetta Une Éducation manquée (1879). The waltz arrangement of España was published in France in 1886, but Litolff’s belated acquisition of the German publishing rights resulted in the misleadingly high opus number.

[6] Solitude, Valse, Op.174 (1881)
Solitude is a most delightful waltz, offering a lovely broad opening melody and some wonderfully varied and delicately shaded themes to follow. It was dedicated to Henry Blount, younger son of Sir Edward Blount (1809-1905), a British banker who became President of the Société Générale in Paris. In later years Henry Blount was to be a leading figure in a Parisian tragedy. In May 1897 he was chief organiser of a Grand Charity Bazaar that was held annually in the Rue Jean-Goujon. Usually Emile Waldteufel and his orchestra performed at the bazaar, but on this occasion the organising committee introduced a new attraction – the kinematograph. At 4 p.m. on the first day of the bazaar a fire broke out, started by lamps used in connection with the kinematograph and fuelled by the tarpaulin above the apparatus. The flames spread rapidly, and there was panic in the crowded arena as everyone pressed for the exit. Some 120 people died in the disaster, with many others burned – among them Henry Blount.

[7] Les Sirènes (‘The Sirens’ / ‘Sirenenzauber’), Valse, Op. 154 (1878)
The legend of the sirens who enticed unwary seafarers with their enchanting music has long fascinated composers and artists. Emile Waldteufel's evocation has justly remained one of his most popular waltzes. Indeed, of all Waldteufel's waltzes, this was the one that had the greatest initial success in Britain, the piano edition far outselling other Waldteufel titles. Les Sirènes is full of enchantment, with a haunting siren's call in the introduction and a main theme that is of interest for using the same rhythm as for the opening themes of Les Patineurs and Acclamations. The waltz was first published in London in 1878 and introduced there, together with Hommage aux dames, at a State Ball at Buckingham Palace on 22nd May 1878. It is dedicated to the Composer's friend Louis Dufour, who in 1874 had succeeded Olivier Métra as musical director at Montmartre's leading dance-hall, the Élysée-Montmartre in the Boulevard de Rochechouard. Dufour was to achieve a sort of immortality not only through this dedication but also by being depicted, with baton raised, directing the music for a q~adrille in Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's drawing Le Quadrille de la Chaise Louis XIIIl à l'Élysée-Montmartre.

[8] Pluie de diamants / Pluie d'or (‘Golden Rain’ / ‘Goldregen’), Valse, Op. 160 (1879)
The original title of this waltz was apparently Pluie de diamants, which means not only 'diamond rain' but also a 'shower of diamonds' such as might be found suspended from a lady's neck at any elegant Parisian ball. In London, however, the title was changed to Pluie d'or (‘Golden Rain’), which for British minds has given it associations with fireworks. The British title was in turn translated into German when the work was published by Litolff. Whether associated with jewels or fireworks, the work begins with a suitably dazzling kaleidoscopic display in polonaise rhythm, prefacing another of the best-known and most truly inspired of all Emile Waldteufel's waltzes. The work carries a dedication to the Baroness Hoffmann.

[9] Mon rêve (‘My Dream’ / ‘Mein Traum’), Valse, Op. 151 (1877)
Mon rêve is yet another waltz that might justifiably challenge for the accolade of being the finest Waldteufel waltz of all. In addition to the way in which it builds up progressively from its beautifully dreamy introduction to the superb melodic sweep of the coda, the delicacy of the orchestration is particularly striking. Dating, like Pomone, from Waldteufel's most inventive period, it was dedicated to Mme Michel Ephrussi, a member of a Parisian banking family.

Andrew Lamb
Author of Skaters' Waltz: the Story of the Waldteufels (1995)


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