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8.223207 - STRAUSS II, J.: Edition - Vol. 7
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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, Joseph 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 Il 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 Il 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.

Zeitgeister, Walzer (Spirits of the Age, Waltz), Op. 25

Images depicting some of the “spirits of the age”—amongst them a paddle-steamer and steam-train, a ballroom scene and even “Father Time” himself—appear on the ornately illustrated cover of the first piano edition of Johann II’s waltz Zeitgeister. The title page also features a scene outside Dommayer’s casino in Hietzing, with two ladies looking at a poster advertising a performance at the establishment by the younger Johann Strauss. Clearly discernible on the poster are the letters “ZE!”—presumably the first three characters of the name ZEITGEISTER, the waltz which Johann played for the first time at his benefit evening in Dommayer’s Casino on 23 February 1846. The reviewer for Der Wanderer declared the new work “a credit to the whole waltz genre, and perhaps the pride of Strauss Son’s waltzes”.

Bachus-Polka (Bacchus Polka), Op. 38

While Bacchus (Dionysus), the classical god of wine and revelry, inspired the elder Johann Strauss to just two compositions—the Champagner-Galoppe (Op. 8) and the Champagner-Walzer (Op. 14)—his eldest son was to turn to this theme for the titles of several of his dance works.

The latter’s jolly Bachus-Polka was heard for the first time at a “Festival in the Halls of Bacchus”, held in the Sträussel-Säle of the Josefstädter-Theater building on 2 February 1847. The printed edition of this polka actually calls for the members of the orchestra to sing the praises of the “monarch of the vine”: “Bachus, Bachustralalala” and “Der Bachus lebe hoch!” (Long live Bacchus), although their choral refrain is omitted from this present recording.

Odeon-Quadrille, Op. 29

With the opening of the immense Odeon ballroom in the Viennese suburb of Leopoldstadt on 8 January 1845, the largest and most fashionable dance establishment built during the Biedermeier period came into being. With dimensions of 144 metres by 33 metres, its length approximated to the height of St Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna. Naturally Johann Strauss Father was engaged with his orchestra to play at the official opening festivity, and for it wrote his Odeon-Tänze, Walzer (Op. 172). The younger Johann made a brief guest appearance at this establishment on 13 July of the following year, occasioning his specially-composed Odeon-Quadrille.

The Odeon’s huge ball-arena could accommodate up to 8,000 persons and an orchestra of 80 players. Yet, in common with the newer luxury entertainment establishments of the period, its clientèle were no longer drawn from mixed society: in the mid- to late 1840’s the vast majority of the Viennese population could no longer afford such pleasures. The glory of the Odeon was, in any case, to be short-lived: on 28 October 1848 it was burned to the ground by Polish soldiers during the bloody days of the Revolution, and was never rebuilt.

Schnee-Glöckchen, Walzer (Snow-drops, Waltz), Op. 143

There is much of the delicacy of the tiny bell-shaped snow-drop in the waltz Strauss named after the flower, especially evident in the cello introduction and in the slow unfurling of the opening waltz. The newspaper Der Wanderer considered that this waltz “can be compared with the best of the late Father Strauss”.

Johann composed this lovely work for a Russian Embassy dinner given at the “Sperl” ballroom on 2 December 1853, but did not perform it publicly until the 1854 Vienna Carnival when he introduced it at his benefit ball in the Sofienbad-Saal on 13 February. The “Sperl” banquet was given in honour of her Excellency Frau Maria von Kalergis, née Countess Nesselrode (1823–74), daughter of the Russian diplomat and foreign minister Count Karl Nesselrode, and Strauss also dedicated his waltz to her.

Neuhauser-Polka (Neuhaus Polka), Op. 137

Only after completing his busy schedule of commitments in the Carnival and spring of 1853 did Johann accede to the urgings of his doctors to undertake a convalescent holiday. After entrusting the direction of the Strauss Orchestra to his reticent younger brother, Josef, Johann departed Vienna on 25 July, travelling first to Bad Gastein, near Salzburg. From there he made his way to the Lower Styrian spa resort of Bad Neuhaus beicilli (today Celje, Yugoslavia), where he remained until mid-September.

On 18 September Bäuerle’s Theaterzeitung announced: “This afternoon in Unger’s Casino [in the Viennese suburb of Hernals] Herr Kapellmeister Strauss, completely restored after his illness, will conduct his orchestra again for the first time. The use of the baths in Neuhaus and Gastein has given the well-loved waltz composer new strength”. Strauss took this opportunity to greet his adoring public with two new compositions, the Wiedersehen-Polka (Op. 142) and the Neuhauser-Polka. A lithograph of the Neuhaus sanatorium, in its mountainous setting, adorns the title page of the first piano edition of the latter work.

Kron-Marsch (Crown March), Op. 139

On 8 September 1853 the Hungarian Coronation Crown of St Stephen was discovered near the frontier town of Orsova (now in Romania), having been lost since the suppression of the 1849 Hungarian uprising by the combined forces of Austria and Russia. The Austrian cultural historian, Professor Franz Mailer, notes that the crown’s re-discovery was viewed by observers as a clear indication of a stabilisation in the political situation within the Habsburg monarchy.

Johann Strauss was swift to mark the occasion with his stirring Kron-Marsch, which derives a good deal of local colour from its use of Hungarian national melodies. The work was played for the first time at the composer’s benefit concert in the Vienna Volksgarten on 9 October 1853.

Ballg’schichten, Walzer (Tales of the Ball, Waltz), Op. 150

The insistent melodies of Strauss’s Ballg’schichten Walzer resounded for the first time at the composer’s own benefit ball in the Sperl on 27 February 1854. The work is interesting, for in it Johann returns to the genial style of his earlier works in three-quarter-time, after his recent flirtation with the new orchestral styles of Wagner and Meyerbeer which influenced his two preceding waltzes of 1854, Schallwellen and Novellen.

F. Berndt’s beautifully lithographed title page illustration for the first piano edition of Ballg’schichten humorously depicts various scenes from a ball, the dance music for which is being performed by goblins. The first edition wrongly gives the opus number as 151, an error corrected on subsequent printings.

Furioso-Polka (Quasi Galopp), Op. 260

The title page illustration on the first piano edition of Johann’s Furioso-Polka (quasi Galopp) perfectly captures the mood of this fiendishly exacting novelty with its rapid modulations, alternating between major and minor keys: two demons are pictured stretching a rope across a dance floor, intent on tripping up the frantically whirling couples.

Although Johann Strauss the Elder wrote a Furioso-Galopp (1839), based largely on Liszt’s Grand Galop Chromatique, Johann II’s thrilling Furioso-Polka is an entirely original composition. Strauss conducted it for the first time at a benefit concert for his orchestra on 14 September 1861 (= 2 September, Russian calendar) during that year’s concert season in Pavlovsk, although the work appears to have excited no particular attention there. The Viennese première of the piece followed on 17 November 1861 in the Sofienbad-Saal, after the composer’s return from Russia.

Deutscher Krieger-Marsch (German Soldiers, March), Op. 284

The tuneful Deutscher Krieger-Marsch would certainly be cited by those who maintain that Austrian military marches are often more suited to the smooth parquet of the dance floor than the rough terrain of the battlefield. Nevertheless, in common with a great many Strauss family compositions, the provenance of Johann’s march lies in the world of martial politics.

January 1864 saw the issuing of an ultimatum to Denmark by Austria and Prussia, who had allied over the vexed question of Schleswig-Holstein. Denmark remained defiant, and after declaring war on her the Austrian and Prussian forces crossed the River Eider on 1 February and advanced towards the Jutland Peninsula. Johann Strauss celebrated this military alliance in his Deutscher Krieger-Marsch, which he presented for the first time at a concert in the Vienna Volksgarten on 28 February. Some thirty-five years later Adolf Müller junior, and librettists Victor Léon and Leo Stein, were to take this march and transform it into the Entrance of the Countesses in Act 2 of their pastiche-operetta, Wiener Blut (1899).

Colonnen, Walzer (Columns, Waltz), Op. 262

During the 1862 “Carnival campaign” Johann Strauss II remained victorious over Vienna’s ballrooms with a series of fine compositions in three-quarter-time, among them the waltz Colonnen. The work, dedicated to the students of law at Vienna University, was written for their ball held in the Sofienbad-Saal on 4 February that year.

Colonnen also proved popular with Russian audiences when Johann, and later Josef, gave concerts at Pavlovsk during 1862. Indeed, after Johann returned to Vienna that August to get married, Josef was able to inform his own wife that Colonnen, alone of all Johann’s latest waltzes, was proving a success for their Russian publisher, Büttner.

Kriegers Liebchen, Polka-Mazurka (Soldier’s Sweetheart, Polka-Mazurka), Op. 379

The polka-mazurka Kriegers Liebchen was one of five separate orchestral dances which Strauss fashioned from themes in his operetta Prinz Methusalem [Première: Carl-Theater, Vienna, 3 January 1877].

Since Johann was in Paris during October 1877 preparing for the opening night of his operetta La Tzigane—a musically and textually reworked version of Die Fledermaus – it fell to the composer’s youngest brother, Eduard, to feature the first performance of Kriegers Liebchen in the programme of his concert in the Vienna Musikverein on 7 October. The polka-mazurka derives its title and its principal melodies from a couplet sung in Act 3 by Sergeant-Major Spadi.

Nordseebilder, Walzer (North Sea Pictures, Waltz), Op. 390

Johann’s waltz Nordseebilder is very much the mature companion-piece to his earlier musical seascape, Wellen und Wogen, Walzer Op. 141 of 1852 (Volume 6). On his doctors’ advice Strauss took holidays by the North Sea during the summers of 1878 and 1879, on both occasions in the company of his second wife, Angelika (1850—1919).

The couple visited the North Frisian island of Föhr, and in 1879 stayed in a small house in Wyk, the island’s capital, where Johann again felt moved to capture the contrasting moods of the North Sea in a musical composition. The result was the waltz Nordseebilder, which Viennese audiences first heard when Eduard Strauss, the composer’s youngest brother, conducted it at his concert in the Musikverein on 16 November 1879. The Fremdenblatt noted enthusiastically of this performance: “The waltz, which strings together the most enticing melodies, was received with great applause and had to be repeated four times.”

Programme notes © 1989 Peter Kemp. The Johann Strauss Society of Great Britain.

(The author is indebted to Professor Franz Mailer for his assistance in the preparation of these notes. If you have enjoyed this recording and are interested in learning more of the Strauss family and their music, please write for free details of the Society to: The Honorary Secretary. The Johann Strauss Society of Great Britain, Flat 12, Bishams Court, Church Hill, Caterham, Surrey CR36SE, England.)


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