About this Recording
8.223211 - STRAUSS II, J.: Edition - Vol. 11
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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 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.

Herrmann-Polka, Op. 91

Karl Compars Herrmann (1816–87), like his father, was a conjurer and illusionist, and one of the most entertaining personalities of the era. From an early age he dubbed himself “Professor” and, together with his father and older brother, took their act throughout the civilised world, including visits to the United States of America and central Asia. Johann Strauss struck up an immediate friendship with “Professor Herrmann” when the conjurer visited Vienna in 1851, and it was for him that the composer wrote his amusing polka, dedicated “to his friend Herrmann”. When Strauss gave the premiere of the work at the Sperl dance hall on 14 June 1851, Compars Herrmann was astonishing audiences at Vienna’s Carl-Theater with his feats of prestidigitation, some of which are still performed today. A native of the kingdom of Hanover, Herrmann took Austrian citizenship in 1865.

Klange aus der Walachei, Walzer (Echoes from Wallachia, Waltz), Op. 50

Johann Strauss Father’s seemingly unassailable position in Vienna’s musical life left few opportunities for his eldest son to secure many worthwhile engagements for himself within the city. Accordingly, Johann II frequently looked outside the Austrian capital for his livelihood during the years following his debut in 1844 until his father’s death in September 1849. In the autumn of 1847, for example, he embarked on an arduous six-month tour with his orchestra, which took them through the lands of the vast Habsburg Empire and into the Balkans. At the end of December they reached Bucharest in Wallachia (today, Romania) where Strauss gave several balls and concerts. The folk music of these other nations left their impressions on him, and is clearly discernible in the waltz Klange aus der Walachei, which he conducted for the first time in Bucharest on 6 January 1848. At this public concert Strauss wore his uniform as Kapellmeister of the 2nd Vienna Citizens’ Regiment, the same as that worn during his much-publicised demonstration against the Austrian General-Consul there.

Revolutions-Marsch (Revolution March), Op. 54

When the flames of the European revolution flared in Vienna on 13 March 1848, the younger Johann Strauss was still in Bucharest with his orchestra. A further violent upsurge in May coincided with the younger Strauss’s return to his native city, whereupon he swiftly made his position clear; whereas his father sided with the established monarchy, his own sympathies lay with the students and revolutionaries. For them he wrote a number of aptly-named compositions, including a stirring Revolutions-Marsch whose first piano edition shows the work’s title enfurled in the revolutionary banner. It is no “Viennese” march, however, but betrays instead the hallmarks of a march written in the Hungarian style. Strauss may have performed the Revolutions-Marsch (originally called the Siegesmarsch der Revolution) during his orchestral tour, though it was not introduced to Viennese audiences until the end of May or early June 1848.

Haute-volee-Polka (High Society Polka), Op. 155

The elegant Haute-volee-Polka dates from the latter half of 1854 when the population of Vienna—not the least those honoured in the title of the work—were more preoccupied with events in the Crimea and, nearer home, with a raging cholera epidemic in the capital, than with the latest dance composition from the fertile mind of Johann Strauss. First performed at an Imperial Festival in the Volksgarten on 17 August 1854, Haute-volee was one of a number of Johann’s new dance pieces dating from this period which passed comparatively unnoticed at the time.

Glossen, Walzer (Marginal Notes, Waltz), Op. 163

Glossen was the title of the waltz Johann dedicated to the students of law at Vienna University on the occasion of their ball held in the elegant surroundings of the Sofienbad-Saal on 30 January 1855, and attended by some 1,200 to 1,500 guests. The work’s title refers to explanatory notes appearing in the margins of draft statutes, prior to their becoming law.

Just under a fortnight later, on 11 February, the Sofienbad-Saal also witnessed the first performance of the Glosseri Walzer for the general public, when Johann performed it at his benefit ball there. The work has a special place in the musical history of the Strauss family: for this performance Johann scored the work for accompaniment by two harps, and allowed his youngest brother, Eduard (1835–1916), to make his public debut with the Strauss Orchestra as virtuoso performer on one of the instruments. Though an excellent harpist, it was as conductor of the family orchestra that Eduard was to distinguish himself in later years.

Handels-Elite-Quadrille (Mercantile Elite, Quadrille), Op. 166

Hermes, or Mercury, the winged messenger of the gods and patron of travellers, merchants and thieves, speedsacross land and sea in the illustration which adorns the cover of the first piano edition of Strauss’s Handels-Elite-Quadrille. In his hand he holds a bulging money-bag, while below him are pictured more earthly forms of commercial transportation: a sailing ship and steam train. Johann wrote his quadrille for the “Handels-Elite Ball”—organised for the elite of Vienna’s mercantile life—held at the “Sperl” dance hall on 31 January 1855.

Patrioten-Polka (Patriots Polka), Op. 274

Johann’s state of mental and physical exhaustion in January 1863 led his doctors to impose a total ban on his composing for the duration of the forthcoming Vienna Carnival, although he continued to appear as conductor. However, when he was at last awarded the honorary title of “k. k. Hofball-Musikdirektor” (Director of Music for the Imperial-Royal Court Balls) that February, Strauss chose to break the ban. Together with his publisher, Carl Haslinger, he organised a charitable “Grand Patriotic Festival” in the Sofienbad-Saal on 19 March 1863 for the benefit of the Private Assistance Fund of the local Military Hospital”. For this festivity, which acknowledged not only the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Nations at Leipzig but also the current tide of nationalism sweeping through the Habsburg Empire, Johann wrote his Patrioten-Polka.

Aus den Bergen, Walzer (From the Mountains, Waltz), Op. 292

“After a long time a new waltz from Johann Strauss has appeared which is distinguished by noble and graceful character, and further distinguished by extraordinarily masterful instrumentation”. Such was the critical acclaim accorded the waltz Aus den Bergen, following its first Viennese performance on 4 December 1864 at a benefit concert in the Volksgarten, belatedly celebrating the twentieth anniversary of Johann’s debut at Dommayer’s casino. The composer had, in fact, written this ambitious work for his 1864 concert season in Pavlovsk, and shortly before his return had conducted its premiere there (entitled In den Bergen) on 2 October(= 20 September, Russian calendar).

Aus den Bergen appeared in print the same year, bearing a dedication to the music critic Dr Eduard Hanslick (1825–1904) who, a decade earlier, had vociferously condemned Strauss for writing “waltz requiems” in which he emulated Wagnerian-style instrumentation.

Die Afrikanerin, Quadrille (The African Woman, Quadrille), Op. 299

Die Afrikanerin, the last of three quadrilles which Johann Strauss.based on the music of Meyerbeer’s operas, was first heard in the Vienna Volksgarten on 7 July 1865 during a musical novelty festival with fireworks. The performance, conducted by Josef Strauss, the composer’s younger brother, featured the Strauss Orchestra, possibly augmented by the band of the Freiherr von Rossbach Infantry Regiment which was also involved in the festivities. Meyerbeer’s opera, L’Africaine, had received its world premiere ten weeks earlier, on 28 April, at the Paris Opera, and as early as 26 June the Strauss Orchestra had presented concert performances of excerpts from the work in the Volksgarten. Not until 27 February 1866, in the Wiener Hoftheater (near the Karntnerthor), was a full production of the opera (under its German title: Die Afrikanerin) mounted in Vienna.

Waldine, Polka-Mazurka, Op. 385

Strauss’s Waldine, Polka-Mazurka takes its name from one of the female characters in the composer’s operetta, Blindekuh (Blind Man’s Buff), first seen at the Theater an der Wien, Vienna, on 18 December 1878. The stage work proved the least successful of Johann’s fifteen original operettas, and was withdrawn after just 16 performances.

The polka-mazurka Waldine was the last, and least successful, of the five orchestral dance numbers Johann arranged on melodies from Blindekuh, and it was not given its first performance until 7 December 1879—almost a year after the operetta’s première—when Eduard Strauss conducted it during his Sunday concert in the Musikverein, Vienna.

Donauweibchen, Walzer (Nymph of the Danube, Waltz), Op. 427

On 17 December 1887 Vienna’s Theater an der Wien opened its doors to the premiere of Johann Strauss’s three-act stage work, Simplicius. Based on Der abenteuerliche Simplicissimus (1669), a famous Grimmelshausen novel set at the time of the Thirty Years War, Johann’s “serious operetta” met with little success despite being brimful with attractive melodies. The opening night was disrupted when one of the cast’s feather plumes caught fire on a stage gaslight, and an audience stampede was only averted when the quick-witted Strauss signalled for a repeat of the show’s hit number, the Hermit’s last act waltz romance: “lch denke gern zurück”. Not surprisingly, Johann’s spirited orchestral waltz Donauweibchen, based on themes from the operetta, features music form this number for its opening waltz tune. The title stems from the refrain of the Act 3 quartet, and refers to the legendary maiden who brings fortune to the Danube’s fishermen. Johann’s Donauweibchen Walzer was first played on 8 January 1888 at one of Eduard Strauss’s Sunday concerts in the Musikverein.

Frisch Heran! Schnell-Polka (Come on in! Quick polka), Op. 386

Despite being immersed in the composition of his operetta, Das Spitzentuch der Konigin [Première: Theater an der Wien, Vienna. 1 October 1880], Johann Strauss still found time during the 1880 Vienna Carnival to compose a dedication work for the ball of the Vienna Journalists’ and Authors’ Association, “Concordia”. Thework, an exhilarating quick polka entitled Frisch heranl, was conducted at the “Concordia” ball in the Sofienbad-Saal on 2 February 1880, not by the composer but by his brother Eduard.

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 CR3 6SE, England.)

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