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8.554523 - STRAUSS II, J.: 100 Most Famous Works, Vol. 7
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Johann Strauss II (1825-1899)
100 Most Famous Works Vol. 7

Johann Strauss II, the most famous and enduringly successful nineteenth century light music composer, was born in Vienna on 25 October 1825. Building upon the firm musical foundations laid by his father, Johann Strauss I (1804-1849) and Joseph Lanner (1801-1843), the younger Johann (along with his brothers, Josef and Eduard) achieved so high a development of the classical Viennese waltz that it became as much a feature of the concert hall as of the ballroom. For more than half a century Johann II captivated not only Vienna but also the whole of Europe and America with his abundantly tuneful waltzes, polkas, quadrilles and marches. The appeal of his music bridged all social strata, and his genius was revered by such masters as Verdi, Brahms and Richard Strauss. The thrice-married "Waltz King" later turned his attention to the composition of operetta, and completed 16 stage works (among them Die Fledermaus, Eine Nacht in Venedig and Der Zigeunerbaron) besides more than 500 orchestral compositions - including the most famous of all waltzes, The Blue Danube (1867). Johann Strauss II died in Vienna on 3 June 1899.

The Marco Polo Strauss Edition, from which these recordings were selected, is a milestone in recording history, presenting, for the first time ever, the entire orchestral output of the "Waltz King". Despite their supremely high standard of musical invention, the majority of the compositions have never before been commercially recorded and have been painstakingly assembled from archives around the world. All performances featured in this series are complete and, wherever possible, the works are played in their original instrumentation as conceived by the "master orchestrator" himself, Johann Strauss II.

[1] Cagliostro in Wien (Cagliostro in Vienna) Overture
The concert tour of Italy which Johann Strauss undertook with the Julius Langenbach Orchestra during May 1874 ended 'officially' at the end of that month with performances in Graz. The composer did not return immediately to his villa in Hietzing – giving rise to rumours that he was intending to establish residence at Graz –but remained in the Styrian capital, intending to make excursions for recuperation to the little spa-resort of Römerbad in Lower Styria. While in Graz Johann held meetings with several librettists, who brought him proposals or completed drafts for his next operetta. His choice fell eventually to a subject furnished by Richard Genée and F. Zell (the nom de plume of an erstwhile captain with the Danube Steamship Company, Camillo Walzel). On 7 August 1874, the day before Johann returned to Vienna, the Illustrirtes Wiener Extrablatt informed its readers. "The libretto for the new Strauss operetta is already finished and has been sent to the composer. The principal female rôles are being composed for the ladies Geistinger and Nittinger". In the event, Marie Geistinger created the rôle of Lorenza Feliciani in the new stage work, while Inna Nittinger (the first Prince Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus) was not cast.

On 22 November 1874, the Viennese Fremden-Blatt newspaper reported on Johann Strauss's future plans as an operetta composer, before returning to his present activities in this field: "Meanwhile, Strauss is working very hard on the instrumentation of his latest operetta, 'Wien anno 1780' ['Vienna 1780'], or, as the title has now been finally determined, 'Cagliostro in Wien' ...The opera is in three sections' 1. A jubilee on the Türkenschanze, 2. The magician from the Blue Lord, 3. The Sleep-Walker. These are supposed to present an historically accurate picture of social life in our Imperial city in 1783 with, in the foreground, the highly interesting figures of [the ingenious alchemist and swindler, Count Alessandro] Cagliostro and his lifelong companion Lorenza Feliciani, to our knowledge portrayed in drama for the first time". As is clear from this announcement, Johann Strauss was thereby being afforded the opportunity, so frequently demanded by public and press alike, to apply his inventive gifts to a stage work with a specifically Viennese background. However, it proved to be a fateful error that his librettists selected material based on events in 1783, the centenary of the year in which Vienna was liberated from its second siege by the Turks. As the operetta's opening scenes show, Johann Strauss understood "historical" Viennese music, but it was not in his blood; he was by temperament and nature a man of the times. In an historic operetta he was not freely able to develop his individuality, and this ultimately damaged the success of Cagliostro in Wien. Despite this, the Neues Fremden-Blatt (3.03.1875) felt moved to observe that "amongst all the colourful confusion and commotion the most charming Strauss music rings and sings, always genuine Viennese original melody whether it strikes an old, fatherly melodious note, or whether – as often happened – in very evident anachronistic mood it overrides the span of 90 years (1783 to 1873) with the quite overflowing verve of the modern waltz [and] the modern quick polka".

The première of Strauss's new operetta, which took place at the Theater an der Wien on 27 February 1875, found itself in the shadow of two musical sensations: the first performance of Ein deutsches Requiem by Johannes Brahms and a concert conducted by Richard Wagner. Mindful of this, the critic Ludwig Speidel wrote in the Fremden-Blatt on 3 March 1875: "To say in one breath Richard Wagner, Johannes Brahms and Johann Strauss – is that a sin? In any event, I allow myself to do it". During the course of his first-night review of Cagliostro in Wien, Speidel noted two musical highlights in Act 2: "The first is characterised by the sextet (actually a doubled vocal trio) of the old women 'Wundermann, hör' uns an' – a tripping polka of thrilling effect – and also the waltz duet in D-major … in which there breathes the dancing soul of Vienna". Both themes also feature to good effect in the overture Johann Strauss scored for his three act operetta, Cagliostro in Wien.

The Allegro non troppo introductory music to the overture is based on Blasoni's words "Immer vorwörts" from the Act 1 Quartet (No. 3). After a clarinet cadenza, a Moderato passage presents the accompaniment to Frau Adami's words "Ja ja! So war ich, die Loeken" from the Act 2 Trio (No. 11) and this Trio is also the source of the Poco meno section which follows. Then comes an Allegro passage based on part of the Act 1 Quintet (No. 7), sung by Cagliostro to the words "Geschwindigkeit ohne Hexerei". With the Tempo di Valse, Strauss allows the listener a foretaste of music from the enchanting Act 2 Duet (No. 13) for Cagliostro's servant Blasoni and the abysmally deceived Frau Adami: "Könnt' ich mit Ihnen fliegen durchs Leben". Next, an Allegro section again based on "Immer vorwörts" (Act 1 Quartet, No. 3) leads into an Allegretto moderato rendering from Act 2 (No. 9), accompanying the sextet of old ladies ("Wundermann, laß in neuem Glanz wieder uns eilen froh zum Tanz") After a reprise of the Tempo di Valse, a 17-bar Vivo link passage leads directly into music from the Act 3 Finale (accompaniment to the words "Hörst Du, es nahen schon die Rächer"), which provides the brilliant climax to the overture.

Unusually for an overture to a Johann Strauss stage work, that for Cagliostro in Wien was given its first performance in advance of the operetta's premiere (Theater an der Wien, 27 February 1875), when the Composer himself conducted the piece with the Strauss Orchestra (augmented by the orchestra of the Theater an der Wien) during the interval at the Vienna Journalists' and Authors' Association 'Concordia-Ball' in the Sofienbad-Saal on 1 February 1875.

[2] Stadt und Land, Polka-Mazurka
(Town and Country, Polka-mazurka) Op. 322
The contrast between rural and city life left its mark on Johann's music, and appears to have inspired him to the polka-mazurka he wrote for an English-style promenade concert which he organised for 12 January 1868 in the Spacious Blumen-Säle (Floral Halls) of the Wiener Gartenbaugesellschaft (Vienna Horticultural Society) on the Ringstrasse. In the event Johann's illness enforced the postponement of the concert for one week until 19 January, when the new work, Stadt und Land, was accorded an enthusiastic welcome by those attending the charity concert given in aid of the city's crèche. The piece also proved popular with audiences in Pavlovsk the following year when Johann introduced it at the Vauxhall Pavilion on 15 May 1869 (= 3 May, Russian calendar), and it was issued by Strauss's Russian publisher as Vilanella [Country Girl] Polka-Mazurka.

[3] Immer heiterer, Walzer im Ländlerstyle
(Ever more cheerful, Waltz in Landler-style) Op. 235
Like Johann's dances Die Zillerthaler (op. 30), Dorfgeschichten (op. 47), D'Woaldbuama, Die Waldbuben (op. 66), Volkssänger (op. 119), Man lebt nur einmal! (op. 167) and Grillenbanner (op. 247), Immer heiterer is designated by the composer as a "Waltz in Ländler-style", a typical 'peasant waltz' harking back to one of the true antecedents of the Viennese Waltz – the rustic Ländler of Lower Austria. The rather ungainly hopping and stamping steps from this generally alfresco dance are demonstrated by the couples pictured on the cover of the first piano edition of Immer heiterer.

The work was one of a clutch of new dance pieces written by Johann for the 1860 Vienna Carnival, during which the 34-year-old "Herr Musikdirektor" once more reigned supreme despite the musical activities of his younger brother, Josef. Wherever there was dancing, people wanted Johann Strauss. An article in a Viennese newspaper from 21 February 1860 attempted to capture the magic of his presence at the head of his orchestra. "How the couples fly along in tempestuous haste and passionate delight when Strauss, his violin supported against his rhythmically moving knee, stands on the conductor's rostrum; when he himself begins to play, his violin held high far above the horizontal, twisting his body in endless undulations, drawing his bow in swift strokes across the strings – that inflames the hearts, sends electric currents through the legs!"

Johann conducted the Strauss Orchestra in the first performance of Immer heiterer on 20 February 1860 at a genial "Strauss Ball' in the 'Sperl' dance hall in the Viennese suburb of Leopoldstadt. The event was to prove the last festivity of that description, and while the new composition did not meet with the same success as some of Johann's other carnival novelties, notably the waltz Accelerationen (op. 234), it is nevertheless worthy of attention. Particularly effective is Waltz 3B, where Strauss unexpectedly introduces a soaring legato melody entrusted to the cello and bassoon sections. In keeping with the jovial sentiment expressed in the work's title, Johann even calls for the members of the orchestra to exercise their vocal chords in a chorus of laughter during the course of the Coda!

[4] Stürmisch in Lieb' und Tanz, Schnell-Polka
(Tempestuous in love and dance, Quick polka) Op. 393
The quick polka Stürmisch in Lieb' und Tanz was Johann's contribution to the ball of the Vienna Authors' and Journalists' Association, 'Concordia', which took place in the Sofienbad-Saal on 22 February 1881. The work, which was conducted by the composer's brother Eduard, draws upon melodies in Strauss's seventh operetta, Das Spitzentuch der Königin [Première: Theater an der Wien, Vienna, 1 October 1880], the thematic material deriving from Act 3 and from the Act 1 Finale.

[5] Tausend und eine Nacht, Walzer
(Thousand and One Nights, Waltz) Op. 346
Before eventually reaching the stage on 10 February 1871 as Indigo und die vierzig Räuber (Indigo and the Forty Thieves), Johann Strauss's début stage work had undergone several changes of name, and one can imagine the confusion in the minds of Vienna's theatre-going public as they read in their newspapers first of Ali Baba, then Fantaska and then Vierzig Räuber. The Morgen-Post (4. 12. 1870) found the situation laughable: "They still shilly-shally between the names 'Fantaska', 'Espritta', 'Hildalga', 'Grazietta', 'Gitana', 'Varietta', 'Amora', 'Amanda', 'Zizine', 'Florinde', 'Lorina', 'Zerbina', 'Bimbona', 'Friola', 'Dryana', 'Uldalma', and several dozen more sonorous women's names" (Thirty-five years later, in 1906, Strauss's operetta was triumphantly re-worked under yet another title: Tausend und eine Nacht, a name harking back of to Antoine Galland's original 18th-century translation of this collection of oriental tales, The Thousand and One Nights).

Tausend und eine Nacht was also the evocative title Johann Strauss gave to the splendid orchestral waltz he arranged from melodies in his first-born operetta. The composer had intended to unveil the waltz as his dedication dance for the ball of the powerful Vienna Authors' and Journalists' Association, 'Concordia', to be held in the Sofienbad-Saal on 7 February 1871. When the date set for the première of Indigo was postponed until10 February, however, he found himself in the embarrassing position of having promised the waltz to the 'Concordia', yet wishing to avoid pre-empting the première of his operetta with an orchestral selection of what he knew to be its most charming melodies. In the event, believing that he depended upon the goodwill of the journalists, he presented the Association with his Tausendundeine Nach-Polka – based on themes from the operetta – which he personally conducted at their ball, and which was later published under the amended title Shawl-Polka française op. 343. It was therefore left to Eduard Strauss to perform the première of the waltz Tausend und eine Nacht at his Sunday promenade concert in the Goldel1 Hall of the Vienna Musikverein on 12 March 1871. The programme of music also included the Indigo Overture and the Indigo-Quadrille op. 344

Little wonder, therefore, that Strauss should have awarded pride of place to the melody of "Ja, so singt man" in his orchestral waltz Tausend und eine Nacht; indeed, this number provides the music for the entire first waltz section, including the Trio. Waltz 2 comprises material exclusively from the waltz section in the Act 2 (No. 16) Bacchanal, "Lasst frei nun erschallen das Lied aus der Brust", sung by Fantasca with the chorus of bayadere. Waltz 3A also owes its origins to the Act 2 Bacchanal, to the second waltz tune "Die Freiheit lacht für diese Nacht", whilst the final waltz section (3B) is to be found with the text "Esel, nur Esel, nur Eseltreiber All"' in Act 1 (No. 3), sung by Alibaba, the donkey-driver, and chorus.

* A term referring to an old Viennese custom whereby, at times of great joy, the rich citizens sold their clothes and donated the proceeds to the poor.

[6] Fledermaus-Quadrille Op. 363
Die Fledermaus, the third Johann Strauss operetta to reach production, opened at Vienna's Theater an der Wien on Easter Sunday, 5 April 1874. In complete contrast to the assertion of numerous Strauss biographers, the total success of the work was assured from its first performance, although only with the passage of time has the piece come to be regarded as the premier stage work in the entire operetta genre.

On 1 May 1874, less than four weeks after the première of Die Fledermaus, Johann Strauss departed Vienna to commence a concert tour of Italy with the Julius Langenbach Orchestra of Germany. His preoccupation with the organisation of this project limited the time available to him for composing the eagerly-awaited dance pieces arranged from the score of his operetta masterpiece, and only three of the eventual seven works were rushed on to the market by his publisher, Friedrich Schreiber. Amongst these was the Fledermaus-Quadrille, which went on sale on 13 May 1874 – a 'rest-day' for Strauss and the orchestra in Italy. The programmes of music Johann played to his Italian audiences do not include the Fledermaus-Quadrille, and it has so far proved impossible to establish a firm date for the first performance of the new piece in Vienna. Since Schreiber issued the quadrille in May, however, its first performance could well have taken place in the Austrian capital during June 1874. The Fledemaus-Quadrille provides the listener with an exhaustive tour of the delights in this, the most celebrated operetta of all time. The ear is charmed by a relentless succession of its rhythmic melodies, the selection of which paid heed only to the strict demands imposed by the six distinct sections (or 'figures') of Viennese quadrille form – No. 1 'Pantalon', No. 2 'Eté', No. 3 'Poule', No. 4 'Trénis', No. 5 'Pastourelle' and No. 6 'Finale'. The quadrille was one of the most popular ballroom dances of the nineteenth century, and was executed by sets of four, six or eight couples. Each dance section comprised rigid eight- or sixteen-bar melodic phrases, and even though these were repeated frequently within a section, the quadrille demanded a large number of separate themes, thus providing operetta composers with an ideal vehicle for exploiting the musical highlights of their stage works.

[7] Wiener Frauen, Walzer (Viennese Ladies, Waltz) Op. 423
At the beginning of 1886 the 60-year-old Johann Strauss was invited to conduct in St. Petersburg (now Leningrad) by 'The Russian Red Cross Society' and a children's foundation there – both institutions under the patronage of the Tsarina. Strauss and his wife-to-be, Adéle, left Vienna in March bound for Russia and, via stops in Hamburg and Berlin where Johann conducted performances of his new operetta Der Zigeunerbaron (‘The Gypsy Baron’), they reached St. Petersburg in mid-April. Strauss had brought with him a number of compositions specially prepared for his St. Petersburg concerts, including a homage in three-quarter time to the ladies of that city. The waltz, entitled Les dames de St. Petersbourgh, was heard for the first time in the riding school of the Horse Guards Regiment on 27 April 1886 (= 15 April, Russian calendar), and was published in Russia under this title. For Viennese audiences, however, the work underwent a subtle change of identity, emerging as Wiener Frauen (Viennese ladies)!

[8] Pizzicato-Polka. Johann II & Josef Strauss
The two Strauss brothers were accompanied on their 1869 venture to Russia by Johann's wife, Jetty (1818-78), whose letters home show that the underlying disharmony which had long existed between 'Jean' (Johann) and 'Pepi' (Josef) had largely given way to a spirit of mutual co-operation. As the two musical directors were now able to divide the workload of rehearsing and conducting the orchestra, both had sufficient time to compose. On 13 June 1869 (= 1 June, Russian calendar), Jetty wrote from Pavlovsk to Josef's wife Caroline (1831-­1900) in Vinna "Pepi & Jean are now writing a polka together – that again will be something new". Almost twenty-three years later, on 1 April 1892, Johann detailed in a letter to his publisher Fritz Simrock the events which had culminated in this fraternal collaboration. "I advised my brother Josef – so that he could secure the St. Petersburg engagement (I have been there 10 times and earned a lot of money) [-] to compose something which would catch on in St. Petersburg, and suggested he should prepare a pizzicato polka. He did not want to do it – he was always indecisive – finally I proposed to him that the polka should be created by the two of us. He agreed, and just look – the polka caused a furore in the true sense of the word”.

Johann Strauss was not exaggerating. The records kept by the diarist F.A. Zimmermann, a viola-player in the 47-strong orchestra at Pavlovsk, show clearly that the work was played no less than nine times on the evening it was first introduced to the Russian public – 24 June 1869 (= 12 June). One can only guess at the scenes which must have ensued as the public demonstrated its wild enthusiasm for this novelty item which, according to Johann, was the first of its kind (Léo Delibes's famous Pizzicato-Polka for his ballet Sylvia, ou La Nymphe de Diane was not heard until 1876.) In view of the work's success, it is strange that Johann and Josef omitted the Pizzicato-Polka from their next eleven concerts and only reintroduced it at their benefit performance on 6 July 1869 (= 24 June), when the piece had to be played a total of seven times. At subsequent performances during the remainder of the Pavlovsk season, the Pizzicato-Polka continued to exert its extraordinary effect union the public.

[9] Hofballtänze, Walzer (Court Ball Dances) Op. 298
Johann Strauss had to wait almost fourteen years, until February 1863, before being awarded by decree the prestigious honorary title of 'k.k. Hofball-Musikdirektor' (Director of Music for the Imperial-Royal Court Balls), in succession to his late father. His previous petitions had been rejected because of official concern for his "civic and moral behaviour", but by 1863 the Court could no longer overlook either Strauss's artistic accomplishments or his numerous patriotic and charitable actions. Johann was justifiably proud of his title, and of the uniform of high-necked red dress coat and white trousers he and his orchestra were required to wear for balls at Court. Such would have been their attire for the Court Ball held in the Imperial Hofburg Palace on 22 February 1865, for which Johann wrote his waltz Hofballtänze.

[10] Bauern-Polka (Peasants' Polka) Op. 276
When Johann Strauss composed his Bauern-Polka, he can have had no idea of the furore the work would cause from the moment he first played it at his orchestra's benefit concert in Pavlovsk on 29 August (= 17 August, Russian calendar) 1863. Only two days later he quipped in a letter to his Viennese publisher, Haslinger: "People don't just stamp their feet, they sing it too. I played it today for the third time, and the public already sings it as accurately as the musicians; this peasant music is so catchy, so wonderful the character and poetry of this work, that high and low in the audience stand before the orchestra to enjoy this exceptional work with reverence". Even Tsar Alexander II, a frequenter of Strauss's concerts, demanded to hear the work. But Strauss doubted that the polka would enjoy the same success in Vienna, and in this he was proved right.

The present recording omits the orchestra's choral refrain.

[11] Persischer Marsch (Persian March) Op. 289
In autumn 1864 Johann Strauss 'harvested' a rich crop of decorations as reward for various compositions which he had dedicated to a number of crowned heads across Europe. His medals included the 'Persischen Sonnenorden' (‘Persian Order of the Sun’), awarded by his Imperial Majesty the Shah of Persia, the able and cultured Näser od-Dïn (1831-1896), who acceded to the throne in 1848 and remained a fervent devotee of poetry and music until his assassination at Teheran in 1896. The honour was bestowed upon Strauss in return for the dedication of the Marche persanne – under which fashionable French title the work was originally published, though the German form of the name, Persischer Marsch, was swift to find more widespread acceptance. The composer conducted the first Viennese performance of the march on 4 December 1864 at a festival concert in the Volksgarten, belatedly celebrating the 20th anniversary of his public début as composer and conductor at Dommayer's Casino in Hietzing in October 1844.


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