About this Recording
8.223201 - STRAUSS II, J.: Edition - Vol. 1
English  German 

The Johann Strauss Edition

Johann Strauss II, the most famous and enduringly successful of 19th-century light music composers, 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 thrice-married 'Waltz King' later turned his attention to the composition of operetta, and completed 16 stage works 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 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.

Wooers of Favour, Waltz op. 4 (Gunstwerber)
On 5 September 1844 eighteen-year-old Johann Strauss II was granted permission by the Viennese authorities to perform in public with his orchestra of some twelve to fifteen players. Just six weeks later, on 15 October, he made his historic début as conductor and composer at Dommayer's Casino in Hietzing, then a suburb of Vienna. His father, Johann Strauss I (1804-49) – already the most fêted of European dance music conductor / composers – had earlier forbidden any of his three sons to pursue musical careers, and was justifiably angered by this blatant expression of filial defiance.

The Dommayer evening had been advertised as a 'Soirée dansante', but such was the overwhelming clamour for admission that dancing was impossible. Johann II commenced his programme of music with the Overture to Auber's opera La Muette de Portici (= Masaniello), followed by the Cavatina from Robert le Diable by Meyerbeer. Both were enthusiastically received. Then came the moment the eager crowds had awaited: the first of the dance compositions written especially for this concert by the young conductor – the waltz Gunst-Werber. The question posed by everyone, namely whether the musical talents of the father had been passed on to the son, was answered by the first-night critic of the Oesterreichisches Morgenblatt: "I myself only heard the Overture from [Auber's] 'Sirene' and the 'Gunst-Werber', as it was possible only for a hyper enthusiast to endure the scuffling, pushing and being trodden upon in this heat for several hours...but from these two pieces I quite well understood that in Strauss there exists a quite excellent talent for conducting, and that in regard to his compositions he has the same flow of melody and the same piquant and effective instrumentation as his father, of whose style of composition he cannot once be called a slavish imitator."

Heart's Content, Polka op. 3 (Herzenslust)
The polka Herzenslust was the second of Johann's own compositions played at his début concert, and it adheres to the established form of the Bohemian polka popular in Vienna since the early 1840s. Just as the inclusion of operatic works in the Dommayer programme was skilfully designed to show the young Strauss as an interpreter of the classical repertoire, so his own compositions written for that night – two waltzes, a polka and a quadrille – were intended to reflect his abilities as a composer and conductor of music for Vienna's three most popular dance forms.

Reviewing Johann's concert, Der Wanderer noted that both the Debut-Quadrille and the Herzenslust Polka "are so piquant in their inspiration, and handled with such glittering effect in the instrumentation that we...have to recognise and commend the bold and exuberant talent of Strauss Son."

Wings of the Phoenix, Waltz, op. 125 (Phoenix-Schwingen)
>Fame came early to the younger Johann Strauss, and with it the pressures of public adulation. As conductor of the family orchestra – he had amalgamated his own musicians with those of his father alter the latter's death in 1849 – he was expected to organise engagements, compose, orchestrate, rehearse and often conduct at two or three venues on the same day. During 1851 and 1852 his relentless exertions brought about repeated breakdowns in his health and in December 1852, after an exhausting concert tour through Germany, he was again taken ill. After several postponements he reappeared with his orchestra on 16 January 1853, and on the following day conducted at his benefit concert in the Sofienbad-Saal ballroom. On this occasion he presented his adoring public with the first performance of a new waltz entitled Phonix-Schwingen. This title referred not only to Strauss himself having risen, like the mythological bird, 'from the ashes', but was also a wry reference to a much-derided contemporary transport enterprise called 'Phoenix', which had promised faster and cheaper travel than its rival, the traditional Viennese Fiaker, but which had foundered after only a few days. Johann's waltz, with its effective, rising motif in the lower strings, is especially brisk and stylish! The work was dedicated to the pianist, and later conductor, Hans Guido von Bülow, whom Strauss met in Vienna and whose compositions he willingly took into the repertoire of the Strauss Orchestra.

Debut Quadrille op. 2 (Debut-Quadrille)
The programme of music the younger Johann selected for his début concert included his father's waltz Loreley-Rhein-Klänge, Op. 154, and various overtures and operatic pieces by Auber, Meyerbeer and Franz von Suppé. However, Der Wanderer reported that it was Johann's own compositions which achieved the greatest success: "He performed four of these, namely waltzes under the title 'Gunstwerber' and 'Sinngedichte', then a 'Debut-Quadrille' and the 'Herzenslust Polka', during the execution of which the rejoicing of the audience literally drowned the music, and the young Strauss had to repeat many pieces five or six times." The newspaper continued prophetically: "With regard to the compositions, he ought to be well known, even abroad, in a short time." So began a glorious musical career that was to extend across more than half a century.

The aptly-entitled Debut-Quadrille features all six sections, or figures, usual in the Viennese version of this highly popular 19th-century ballroom dance. These sections are named respectively: No. 1 Pantalon; No. 2 Été; No. 3 Poule; No. 4 Trénis; No. 5 Pastourelle; No. 6 Finale.

'The Ten' Polka op. 121 (Zehner-Polka)
At the beginning of October 1852 Johann Strauss and his orchestra left Vienna for a tour of Germany. In Dresden he became friends with the popular musical director Hugo Hünerfürst, who belonged to a private circle comprising ten people, whose interests may have encompassed spiritualism and parapsychology. Upon his return to Vienna Johann recalled the meeting in his cheerful Zehner-Polka, which he played for the first time on 24 November at a ball in the fashionable Sperl establishment to celebrate the name-day of St. Katherine. The printed piano edition of the polka bears the inscription: "Composed in honour of a Society of 10 persons in Dresden, and dedicated to them in friendship".

Nodal figures, Waltz op. 251 (Klangfiguren)
The exacting waltz Klangfiguren was Johann's dedication composition for the ball of the technical students of Vienna University, held in the Sofienbad-Saal on 4 February 1861.

In 1787, as part of his investigations into the nature of sound, the German physicist and acoustician, Ernst Florens Friedrich Chladni (1756-1827) discovered and named 'Chladni's figures'. These figures were to be the basis upon which the practice of ribbing the soundboard of stringed instruments diagonally to the grain was determined. Chladni's experiments involved scattering sand over the surfaces of glass plates, which were then vibrated by bowing and touching certain points on their edges. The sand arranged itself along nodal lines where there was no vibration, and the 'nodal figures' so produced were remarkable for their variety, with low frequency tones corresponding to simple figures and high frequency tones to more complicated ones.

Procession of Masks, French polka op. 240 (Maskenzug-Polka)
Vienna was given two separate opportunities on 25 November 1860 to hear Johann Strauss conduct his new Maskenzug-Polka. The two venues were very different: in the afternoon the work featured in the programme of an open-air concert in the Volksgarten, while that evening it was introduced to guests at a St. Katherine's Day masked ball held in the elegant Redoutensaal ballroom of the Imperial Hofburg.

Strauss had only recently returned from his fifth concert season in Pavlovsk, and it was there that the Maskenzug-Polka had been given its première. Because the enthusiastic Russian audiences had been accustomed to stamp their feet in time to its rhythm, it had been known there as the Trapp-Polka (‘Stamping Polka’).

Nocturnal Quadrille op. 120 (Nocturne-Quadrille)
On 24 September 1852 the younger Johann Strauss was involved in the presentation of a much-discussed 'tone-picture' entitled Die nächtliche Heerschau (‘The Nightly Review’). With a text by Freiherr von Zedlitz and music by Anton Emil Titl, conductor of the Burgtheater, the entertainment took place in the delightful surroundings of the Vienna Volksgarten. Noting the considerable publicity surrounding this event, Johann took the opportunity to combine this production with the first performance of his Nocturne-Quadrille.

Enjoy your life, Waltz op. 340 (Freuet euch des Lebens)
Johann Strauss dedicated his waltz Freuet euch des Lebens to Vienna's influential Gesellschatt der Musikfreunde (Society of the Friends of Music), and conducted its first performance at the inaugural ball in the Golden Hall of the Society's recently opened Musikverein building on 15 January 1870. Just ten days earlier the Austrian Emperor himself, Franz Josef I, had ceremonially laid the keystone of this magnificent edifice, begun in 1867 to Theophil Hansen's designs.

All three Strauss brothers, Johann, Josef and Eduard, provided dedication compositions for the opening ball, but it is Johann's waltz which has retained the greatest popularity. Its title echoes one of Johann's own maxims: "Enjoy your life, and only complain when there is something genuine to complain about".

Fledermaus-Polka op. 362 (Fledermaus-Polka)
Even when Johann Strauss turned his attentions to the composition of operetta he maintained a presence in the ballroom by arranging melodies from his stageworks as individual orchestral numbers. Die Fledermaus [Première: Theater an der Wien, Vienna, 5 April 1874], the third and most enduring of all his operettas, was no exception, and Strauss arranged six separate dance pieces from its tuneful score.

The Fledermaus-Polka was heard for the first time on 10 February 1874, in the Sofienbad-Saal, at the ball of the Vienna Artists' and Journalists' Association, 'Concordia'. The polka, which was played at this initial performance by the Strauss Orchestra under the direction of the composer, comprises melodies from the opening and Finale of Act 2 of the operetta.

At Home, Waltz op. 361 (Bei uns z'Haus)
In the summer of 1873 Vienna was literally 'at home' to the world when she opened her doors to a World Exhibition. The Strauss Orchestra, under Eduard Strauss, was already committed to concert performances elsewhere, so Johann engaged the Langenbach Orchestra from Germany to perform as official 'World Exhibition Orchestra'. It was thus with this body of foreign musicians that Johann conducted the Wiener Männergesangverein (Vienna Men's Choral Association) in the first performance of his lilting waltz for male chorus and orchestra, Bei uns z'Haus, on 6 August 1873 at Schwender's 'Neue Welt' entertainment establishment in Hietzing. The waltz, which Strauss dedicated to Princess Marie Hohenlohe Schillingsfurst, wife of the Master of the Royal Household, was well received. The Wiener Abendpost commented: "Strauss's 'Bei uns z'Haus', like his other choral waltz 'An der schönen blauen Donau', will soon become popular not only 'at home' [= bei uns z'Haus] but also in the whole world".

The waltz, originally sung to Anton Langer's humorous text describing the everyday life of elevated Society in Austria, is recorded here in its purely orchestral version.

Violet, Mazurka on Russian themes, op. 256 (Veilchen)
The first public concert which Johann conducted during his 1861 summer season at Pavlovsk took place at the Vauxhall Pavilion on 26 May (= 14 May, Russian calendar). The programme opened with the Russian National Anthem, followed by music composed by Erkel, Wagner and Baetz. The next item was new to the audience, and was receiving its first performance. Entitled La Violetta, Mazurka, it found immediate favour and had to be repeated, and during Strauss's six-month engagement in Russia it was played more than fifty times.

Writing to notify his Viennese publisher to expect the Violetta score, Johann remarked: "Even in Vienna there's a shortage of mazurkas, that is why I decided to write it, i.e. using Russian themes". The piece was subsequently published in Vienna as Veilchen, Mazur nach russischen Motiven.

CSSR State Philharmonic Orchestra (Košice)
The East Slovakian town of Košice boasts a long and distinguished musical tradition, as part of a province that once provided Vienna with musicians. The State Philharmonic Orchestra is of relatively recent origin and was established in 1968 under the conductor Bystrik Rezucha. Subsequent principal conductors have included Stanislav Macura and Ladislav Slovák, the latter succeeded in 1985 by his pupil Richard Zimmer. The orchestra has toured widely in Eastern and Western Europe and plays an important part in the Košice Musical Spring and the Košice International Organ Festival.

Alfred Walter
Alfred Walter was born in Southern Bohemia in 1929 of Austrian parents. He studied at the University of Graz and in 1948 was appointed assistant conductor to the Opera of Ravensburg. At the age of 22 he became conductor of the Graz Opera, where he continued until 1965, while serving at Bayreuth as assistant to Hans Knappertsbusch and Karl Boehm. From 1966 until 1969 he was Principal Conductor of the Durban Symphony Orchestra in South Africa, followed by a period of 15 years as General Director of Music in Muenster.

Alfred Walter has appeared as a guest conductor in various parts of the world. In Vienna he has worked as guest conductor at the State Opera and in 1986 was given the title of Professor by the Austrian Government. In 1980 he was awarded the Golden Medal of the International Gustav Mahler Society.

Close the window