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8.556846 - STRAUSS, Josef (THE BEST OF)
The Best of JOSEF STRAUSS (1827–1870)
The second of Johann Strauss the elder’s sons, Josef, was born in Vienna on 20 August 1827. After completing his formal education he studied mechanical engineering, opposing his father’s wish that he should enlist in the army, and embarked upon a career as an architectural draughtsman and foreman, in which field he soon distinguished himself. In his spare time he put to good use his talents as an artist, painter, poet, dramatist, singer, composer and inventor—he designed the horse-drawn forerunner of today’s revolving-brush street-sweeping vehicles—and also published two textbooks on mathematical subjects.
The shy and sensitive Josef Strauss was coerced into deputising for his brother Johann when the latter’s doctors prescribed for him a lengthy rest cure in 1853. Although temporarily relinquishing the post of ‘interim conductor’ upon Johann’s return, Josef soon abandoned his own career and joined the family music ‘business’ full time. He was a remarkably versatile, gifted and prolific composer of whom Johann once said: “[Josef] is the more gifted of us two; I am merely the more popular…” Josef left more than 300 original dances and marches, as well as 500 arrangements of music by other composers. He died in Vienna on 22 July 1870, following a fall from the conductor’s podium.
 Ohne Sorgen! Polka schnell (Without a Care! Quick Polka), Op. 271
A little later, however, Josef Strauss must have overcome his fears about what the future might bring. He wrote a lively fast-paced polka entitled Ohne Sorgen! What is remarkable about this frolicsome, cheerful work is the distress out of which it arose. Josef Strauss wanted to be thrilled and uplifted with optimism. He managed it, too, in the quick polka performed for the first time in Pavlovsk on 22 September (10 September according to the Russian calendar) 1869, which must have made the musician laugh, as if he was in fact “Without a Care!” in the world.
 Schlaraffen-Polka (française) (Fool’s Paradise. French Polka), Op. 179
The piano score for the Schlaraffen-Polka was issued in April 1865, the orchestra parts in January 1866.
 Die Gazelle. Polka Mazur (The Gazelle. Polka Mazurka), Op. 155
At this concert the most applauded works were the waltz masterpiece Morgenblatter (Morning Journals) Op. 279 and the rousing quick polka Vergnugungszug (Pleasure Train), Op. 281 by Johann, and the lively Rudolfsheimer-Polka, Op. 152, by Josef Strauss. However, Josef Strauss was also very satisfied with the warm reception given to his unusual polka-mazurka Die Gazelle. It was not the speed of the African animal, known in Europe only in zoos, that inspired the composer, but its ability to leap. Josef Strauss in fact succeeded in imitating the leaps of a gazelle in all four sections of the composition. The polka-mazurka appeared in print in March 1864.
All reference to the gazelle’s homeland, i.e., Africa, was absent from the title page of the piano score. The time of the great expeditions to this continent had not yet arrived.
 Hesperus-bahnen. Walzer (Hesperus’ Path. Waltz), Op. 279
“The Music Lovers’ Society hall did not fill up very densely; there were barely one hundred pairs of dancers, who nevertheless did their best to do credit to the postcarnival event. And the dancing could not have been more fiery and seductive than to the stirring new waltz by Josef Strauss, Hesperusbahnen, three encores of which were enthusiastically requested.”
In a similar report, which appeared in the Morgenpost on 6 April 1870, we find this mention: “Josef Strauss dedicated one of his most stirring compositions to the holiday ball, entitled Hesperusbahnen.”
The ball reporters were correct, yet they had no inkling of the whole cruel truth: the Hesperus-bahnen Waltz was Josef Strauss’s last masterpiece, dazzling the listener once again with an accelerating lilting motif at the very beginning of the work. In the summer of 1870, Josef’s short life came to an end. His imagination left this earth with Hesperus-bahnen.
 Wiener Fresken. Walzer. (Viennese Frescoes. Waltz), Op. 249
Josef Strauss, however, did not rest there. At his concert on 28 July 1868 in the Volksgarten he also presented visitors to the Danubian metropolis with the interesting composition, Wiener Fresken. How ‘Pepi’ Strauss came upon this title he did not disclose, but one can assume that he wished to make foreigners aware of the abundance of splendid mural paintings, especially the ceiling frescoes in Vienna’s churches, as well as in its palaces and in many citizens’ homes, which were worthy of admiration. Josef Strauss was himself a talented sketch artist and painter; he tried out this art form before he concentrated on music. The waltz does not actually offer a musical tour of some of Vienna’s frescoes. It does, however, offer a splendid tone “painting” in the manner of first-class Viennese music. As a contemporary put it, it is “full of vitality and zest for life.”
 Heiterer Muth. Polka française. (Cheerful Fortitude. French polka), Op. 281
Oddly enough, Josef Strauss did not record the date of the première of the Heiterer Muth polka. In his notes mention can only be found of the last Carnival Revue of his life, which took place on 13 March 1870 in the Goldenen Saal at the Music Lovers’ Society. But the press reports unanimously confirm the performance of the Heiterer Muth polka at the Wieden district’s charity ball on 9 February 1870 in the Blumensälen at the Garden Society on Ringstrasse.
 Phönix-Marsch (Phoenix March), Op. 105
The display of flowers was such that right after the opening of the ‘Neue Welt’ on 20 May 1861, throngs of visitors were attracted to Hietzing. Schwender also organised numerous concerts. Josef Strauss had the honour of entertaining the visitors with his orchestra on the opening day. He offered them a copious programme, in which the place of honour was held by the Phönix-Marsch, composed by Josef Strauss specially for this occasion. The work had to be repeated by popular demand and it remained in the repertoire of the Strauss orchestra throughout the summer of 1861.
The ‘Neue Welt’ would later be expanded with numerous attractions and would exist until the year 1883, when it would be subdivided and villas built on it. Today only the name of a small alley in Hietzing recalls Carl Schwender’s grandiose ‘Neue Welt’.
 Deutsche Grüße, Walzer (German Greetings, Waltz), Op. 191
The waltz Deutsche Grüße was not as popular as his brother’s Wiener Bonbons, but in the twentieth century it had, if you will, a belated echo. The first motif of Deutsche Grüße is reproduced note by note in Cole Porter’s musical comedy, Kiss Me, Kate, in the duet Wunderbar. And it really is…wonderful!
 Perlen der Liebe, Concert-Walzer (Pearls of Love, Concert waltz), Op. 39
Josef Strauss was not thinking of his family’s waltz business as he planned his wedding waltz. With this work he wanted to expand the traditional form of Viennese dance music, but without abandoning the basic structure of a waltz. Important to him were both the symphonic development of the score, where his preference for the music of Richard Wagner and Franz Liszt is unmistakably expressed, and the suitability of the work for the concerts of the Strauss orchestra, rather than for the ballroom. Josef Strauss therefore gave Perlen der Liebe the then new designation of ‘concert waltz’—thereby proving himself far ahead of his brother Johann. For whilst the easy-going ‘Jean’ had already written several compositions which were better-suited to a concert programme than a ball repertoire (for example, Wellen und Wogen, Op. 141 (Waves and Billows) from the year 1853 or Gedanken auf den Alpen, Op. 172 (Thoughts in the Alps) from the year 1855), his avowal of the concert waltz first came with two works which originated in Russia: Gedankenflug, Op. 215 (Flight of Fancy) from the year 1858, and Schwärmereien, Op. 253 (Daydreams) from the year 1861. Neither work, incidentally, had lasting success.
The situation was different for Josef’s concert waltz Perlen der Liebe. Even the first announcement of the new work pointed to the special character of the composition. The Fremden-Blatt of 5 June 1857 wrote that “the newly-composed waltz is offered in a wholly original structure in new forms.” The benefit concert in the imperial Volksgarten at which Josef Strauss planned to perform Perlen der Liebe for the first time was announced for 30 June, but had to be delayed until 6 July, probably owing to inclement weather that evening. Although there is no report on it, one can assume that the happiest listener in the imperial Volksgarten that evening was Caroline Strauss.
Johann Strauss respected the fact that his brother Josef was the first composer to expand the waltz form into a concert piece. Thus he presented his brother’s concert waltz to the Russian public as well in his programmes in Pavlovsk, near St Petersburg. From then on Perlen der Liebe never disappeared from the programmes of the Strauss concerts. The score was later expanded to ‘modernise’ the work. But the original version, carefully taken down by the copyists of the Strauss orchestra, is still the most beautiful—the version which ‘Pepi’ dedicated to his Caroline.
 Sphärenklänge, Walzer (Music of the Spheres, Waltz), Op. 235
Josef Strauss did not react to this complaint. The title Sphärenklänge had stimulated in him a vision in triple time that is among the most impressive tone poems in all of Viennese music. The composer may have felt closer to the hereafter as he wrote this set of waltzes than he wanted to admit. That may have led to his setting down the sequence of chords at the beginning of the introduction of the work, the melodies of which well can qualify as ‘music of the spheres’. But in the waltz itself, ‘Pepi’ Strauss, as a true Viennese dance-band leader, set out with that sweep and élan which dancers expected.
In the waltz Sphärenklänge, however, the melodies and harmonies of Josef Strauss were grounded in realms of feeling which, for the time being, were closed to his brother ‘Jean’, who above all wanted to be a man of ‘eternal youth’. Knowledge of irrevocable parting can be heard in it, but also the conviction of a comforting harmony of those spheres which we call ‘the hereafter’.
 Feuerfest! Polka française (Fireproof! French polka), Op. 269
Josef Strauss, who was responsible for the concert and dance music at the Wertheim celebration on 13 March 1869, brought, as a dedication, a character-piece in the rhythm of a French polka that was enthusiastically received at the original performance. In this still-popular and often-performed work, the forge hammers of a by-gone era can still be heard in our day. The title of the dedication was obvious; it echoed the advertising slogan of the company: Feuerfest!
 Brennende Liebe, Polka Mazur (Burning Love, Polka Mazurka), Op. 129
Only the titles of the compositions which he presented on his first appearance in Vienna—on 9 November in the Zum Sperl establishment—give an indication of Josef’s frame of mind upon his return to his native city. Josef Strauss called his new set of waltzes Freuden-Grüsse (Best Wishes), Op. 128, and also included a polka mazurka entitled Brennende Liebe. The illustrator of the title page attributed the polka mazurka, which is evocative and melancholic in the first part, to the series of works by Josef Strauss named after flowers. He drew three campion blooms, a flower known popularly and in poetry as ‘Burning Love’. But the artist did not look closely enough at Josef’s composition before designing the title-page. He would have noticed the description doloroso in the second motif of the first part of the piano excerpt. Whilst the concept ‘painful’ did not have anything to do with the flower, it had very much to do with the composer’s feelings. Burning love had consumed ‘Pepi’ Strauss because in Pavlovsk he had had to endure a separation of great distance from his beloved wife Caroline. With the polka mazurka Brennende Liebe he now disclosed to her his tender affection and the pain he had suffered on account of the separation.
 Steeple chease. Polka schnell (Steeplechase, Quick Polka), Op. 43
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