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.
Hopser-Polka (Hopping Polka) Op. 28
The Graces, those three mythological
sisters who were the bestowers of charm and beauty upon mankind, lent their
name to a 'Graces Ball' held at the Straeussl-Saele, in the Viennese suburb of
Josefstadt, on 6 September 1846. Such was the incongruous setting for the first
performance of Johann Strauss's frolicsome Hopser-Polka, a composition
suited to a fashionable, if much ridiculed and short-lived, dance style in
which the hopping step of the polka was greatly exaggerated.
Serail-Taenze, Walzer (Dances of the
Harem, Waltz) Op. 5
Together with the Cytheren-Quadrille,
Johann's waltz Serail-Taenze featured for the first time on the
programme of the composer's benefit concert in Dommayer's Casino, Hietzing, on
19 November 1844. The titles Strauss chose for these two works were well-suited
to the festive nature of the evening's entertainment, which was advertised as
'An Evening of Cheerfulness'.
The march-like theme in the Introduction
to Serail-Taenze, with its echoes of Mozart's Die Entfuehrung aus dem Serail,
may be familiar to some listeners through its inclusion in the opening and
first act of the posthumous Johann Strauss operetta Wiener Slut (1899).
Austria-Marsch Op, 20
Within months of his public début as
composer and conductor Johann Strauss the Younger experienced the satisfaction
of 'official recognition' when, in summer 1845, he was elected bandmaster of
the 4,200-strong 2nd Vienna Citizens' Regiment. At Vienna's numerous festivals
and parades the post brought him into public contact with the bandmaster of the
1st Vienna Citizens' Regiment – his own father, Johann Strauss the Elder, who
had become increasingly estranged from his family.
The patriotically-entitled Austria-Marsch
was first played at a citizens' military parade in Vienna on 19 April 1846, at
which both Johann Strauss Father and Son participated, resplendent in their
respective dress uniforms.
Veilchen-Polka (Violets, Polka) Op, 132
Following Johann's illness in late 1852
and the strenuous demands that the 1853 Vienna Carnival made upon the young
composer/conductor, his doctors urged him to take an immediate convalescent
holiday. For the moment, however, Johann demurred: before him lay a busy
schedule of commitments as the spring calendar beckoned, and he was wary of
competition from recently emerged rival orchestras.
Strauss commenced the vernal season with a
fête at the "Sperl" on 1 May 1853, and for it he wrote his
irrepressibly frolicsome Veilchen-Polka.
Knall-Kuegerln, Walzer (Firecracker,
Waltz) Op. 140
For his annual benefit at the Bierhalle in
the suburb of Mariahilf in early July 1853, Johann Strauss planned a
performance of Philipp Jakob Riotte's 'tone-picture' spectacle, Die Schlacht
bei Leipzig (‘The Battle of Leipzig’). The event, involving the participation
of 224 musicians as well as the famed fireworks-expert Anton Stuwer, was
postponed through bad weather, and eventually took place on 18 July. On the
appointed evening, however, proceedings were abruptly terminated by a
thunderstorm – but not before Johann had delighted the 4,000-strong audience
with the first performance of his waltz Knall-Kuegerln. The composer
seems to have added his own wry comment on the hostile elements, for the waltz
ends with a few bars of musical 'cloudburst'!
The 'Knall-Kuegerln' of the title were
pea-sized hollow glass balls, containing liquid, which one threw onto a fire or
placed on glowing coals. The heat converted the liquid into steam, causing the
tiny spheres to explode with a loud report. Through the effective instrumentation
of his waltz, Strauss contrived to permeate the whole work with these tiny
Motor.Quadrille Op. 129
Following the death of the Austrian
Archduke Joseph Rainer in Bolzano, Italy, on 16 January 1853, all balls at the
Austrian Court and in the residences of the nobility and aristocracy were
cancelled as a mark of respect. The number of balls at which Johann II
conducted during that year's Carnival, therefore, was much reduced. The
festivities of the various faculties of Vienna University, however, proceeded
according to plan, and at the Technical Students' Ball on 31 January in the
Sofienbad-Saal Strauss conducted his orchestra in the first performance of his
specially composed dedication: the Motor-Quadrille.
Themes from Johann's quadrille were later
incorporated into the Finale of the ballet Le beau Danube (1924),
arranged by Roger Desormière.
Buerger-Ball-Polka (Citizens' Ball Polka)
Even in present-day Vienna numerous
individual ball-organising committees arrange around three hundred festivities
during the brief Carnival season, recreating the lavish splendour of those
entertainments held during the heyday of the Habsburg Empire.
Included in the 1854 Carnival calendar
was a Citizens' Ball, held in the Redoutensaal of the Imperial Hofburg on St
Valentine's Day. It was for this occasion that Johann Strauss wrote, and first
performed, his Buerger-Ball-Polka.
Dividenden, Walzer (Dividends, Waltz) Op.
The delightful cover illustration on the
first piano edition of Johann's waltz Dividenden shows an imaginary
share certificate for the firm of 'J. Strauss', on which are featured various
symbols signifying trade, transport and industry. Spilling from a horn of
plenty are the dividends from the firm – namely, several bundles of waltzes!
Strauss composed his Dividenden Walzer
for the first ball of the Industrial Societies, held on 15 January 1861 in the
Dianabad- Saal. As such, it was the earliest of Johann II's works to receive
its première in this newly-renovated establishment.
Verbruederungs-Marsch (Brotherhood March)
The titles which the Strauss family
frequently chose to give their compositions read like a social, cultural,
technological and political guide-book of the nineteenth century. With an
instinctive commercial sense, the Strausses were quick to exploit any current
trend or situation which might usefully lend itself to a new composition, and
thus maximise the music's popularity and sales.
A case in point is the Verbruederungs-Marsch,
which glorified the 'Treaty of Brotherhood' (= 'Verbruederungs-Vertrag') signed
between Prussia and Austria on 16 January 1864, which provided an ultimatum to
Denmark over the vexed issue of Schleswig-Holstein.
Having already applied for permission to
dedicate his march to King Willhelm I of Prussia (who later responded by
awarding Strauss the Order of the Prussian Crown), Johann gave the première of
the work at a charity performance in the concert hall of the Koenigliches
Schauspielhaus, Berlin, on 11 April 1864. With the composer conducting members
of the Koenigliches Theater orchestra school, proceeds from the concert were
given to Prussian war invalids and those left destitute by the outbreak of
Im Krapfenwald'l, Polka francaise Op. 336
First performed under the title Im
Pavlovsk-Walde (‘In the Woods of Pavlovsk’), this now-familiar French polka
caused a sensation when the composer first played it at an open-air benefit
concert in Pavlovsk on 6 September 1869 (=25 August, Russian calendar), during
his eleventh Russian concert season. The audience demanded several encores of
To add 'local colour' for his home
audiences, the commercially-minded Johann – possibly at the bidding of his
Viennese publisher – subsequently retitled the polka Im Krapfenwald'l,
and it was under this name that Viennese audiences first heard the work when
Eduard Strauss conducted it at a festival concert in the Volksgarten on 24 June
1870. The new title referred to the popular Krapfenwald area of the Vienna
Woods, situated between the scenic village of Grinzing and the heights of
Kobenzl and the Kahlenberg, where Franz Josef Krapf had earlier opened his
O schoener Mai! Walzer (O Lovely May!
Waltz) Op. 375
On 3 January 1877 the curtain of Vienna's
Carl-Theater rose on the première of Johann Strauss's fifth operetta, Prinz
Methusalem (‘Prince Methuselah’). Based on a French original, this rather
uninspired, Offenbach-style tale, was set in the imaginary princedom of
Trocadero. Though greeting the new work with mixed reviews, the critics spoke
most favourably of Strauss's music. As was so often the case, however, several
of the separate orchestral numbers Johann fashioned
from the score of his operetta went on to enjoy far greater success when freed
from their parent stage work. A fine example is the waltz O schoener Mai!,
which Johann's brother, Eduard, introduced to the Viennese public at his Sunday
concert in the Musikverein on 21 January 1877. The principal waltz theme of
this work quotes from the Act 3 duet for Pulcinella and Methusalem ("O du,
O du, me in Feldmarschall"), while the remaining melodies are culled from
Acts 1 and 2, including the Act 1 Chorus and Ensemble, "O schoener
Mai!", which also gives the waltz its title.
CSSR State Philharmonic Orchestra
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.
The Austrian conductor Richard Edlinger
was born in Bregenz in 1958 and directed his first concert at the age of
seventeen. In 1982 he completed his studies in conducting and composition at
the Vienna Academy, having by then already acquired considerable professional
experience on the podium. He was the youngest finalist in the 1983 Guido
Cantelli Conductors' Competition at La Scala, Milan. Richard Edlinger has made
recent appearances with the Vienna Chamber Orchestra, the Zagreb Philharmonic,
the George Enescu Philharmonic, the orchestra of La Scala, Milan, and the RTSI
Orchestra in Lugano. In 1987 he was appointed Music Director of the Kamptal
Festival in Austria.