About this Recording
8.223215 - STRAUSS II, J.: Edition - Vol. 15
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.

Alexander-Quadrille Op. 33
During the nineteenth century the vast Austrian Empire frequently showed itself vulnerable to the rising tide of nationalism sweeping through its many, and separate, component member states. Even at the hub of the Empire, in German-speaking Vienna, there were numerous nationalistic communities which, for one reason or another, had made their homes there. Because of the vice-like grip with which the elder Johann Strauss maintained his hold on 'establishment Vienna' and its major centres of entertainment, Johann the Younger looked elsewhere to develop a loyal following for himself. He found it not only in the youth of Vienna, but also within certain of the minority nationalistic groups. Particularly noteworthy and lucrative were the young Musikdirektor's engagements at those festivities organised by the Slavic community up until 1848. On 16 June 1847 for example, in the suburb of Landstrasse, he gave a serenade before the Kaffeehaus Metzl, near the palace of the exiled Serbian Prince Miloš Obrenovic I, founder of the Obrenovic dynasty. For the occasion Johann wrote the Alexander-Quadrille, to which the Prince is said to have contributed one of the folk-tunes. The quadrille was to prove especially serviceable, since it appeared simultaneously from the same publishing house with two different dedications! One edition (with its title page in cyrillic script) bore the name of the ruling Serbian Prince Alexander Karageorgevic (1806-85), son of the founder of the Serb Karageorgevic dynasty, and Strauss performed it for him towards the end of October 1847 during his concert tour to the Balkans. The second dedicatee was the young Rumanian Prince Alexandre Bibescu (1841-1912), later Knight of the Legion of Honour and biographer of the German composer, conductor and critic Berthold Damcke.

Die Jovialen, Walzer (The Jovial Ones. Waltz) Op. 34
A glance at the younger Johann Strauss's calendar for 1846 reveals a preponderance of engagements at the Sträussel-Säle (known colloquially as the 'Sträussl'). This popular dance hall had been opened in 1834 on a plot of land adjacent to the Josefstädter Theater in the Viennese suburb of Josefstadt. Such was the extent to which Johann still found himself in the shadow of his unassailably successful father that, in 1846, the 'Sträussl' was one of only two venues of any repute prepared to offer engagements to the young Kapellmeister and his orchestra. Thus it was here, on 25 November 1846, that Johann conducted the dance music for a ball celebrating the Name Day of St Katharine, and for the event he wrote his waltz Die Jovialen.

Although the work is rarely heard nowadays, one of its themes (Waltz 3B) may strike a familiar note since the composer was to use it again, together with melodies from some of his other previously published waltzes, in his Jubilee Waltz (1872).

Scherz-Polka (Joke Polka) Op. 72
The manner in which the younger Johann Strauss assumed his late father’s mantle of 'Vorgeiger aller Wiener' (First Violin of all the Viennese) was as characteristic of him as it was surprising for the onlooker. Strauss Father had died from scarlet fever on 25 September 1849. That October, after fierce debate, the members of the eider Johann's Strauss Orchestra elected his 23-year-old son its new conductor. Thus, on 7 October 1849, Johann II stood for the first time at the head of his father's orchestra – and presented a concert devoted entirely to music by Strauss Father. Not until the ball festivities in November did the youngster present any new works composed by himself. On 28 November, at the season's first festive ball in the Sperl' dance hall – a venue which had almost become second home for the elder Strauss – the onlooker might have expected Johann II to present a grand new waltz. Instead, the novelty took the form of a small and seemingly unimportant polka, to which moreover he gave the title: Scherz-Polka. Yet, in truth, the piece is painstakingly crafted and calls for the most precise execution.

La Viennoise, Polka.Mazurka (The Viennese Lady, Polka-mazurka) Op. 144
The polka, one of the most popular ballroom dances of the nineteenth century, originated in Bohemia. Johann Raab, a dancing-master who counted among his pupils the future Emperor Franz Josef of Austria, is credited with having introduced the Bohemian polka to Paris in 1840, where it was known as the ‘Polish Dance’. As a variant, the French combined the 2/4 tempo of the Polka with the 3/4 rhythm of the Mazurka, and the elegant hybrid which resulted found enormous favour in Vienna as the Polka-Mazur, or ‘Polka-Mazurka’ when it was danced there during the 1850s. Indeed, such was its success that from Vienna the formerly Bohemian dance made its way back to Prague! Naturally both Strauss brothers, Johann and Josef, were swift to capitalise upon the potential of the new dance, and for a ball organised by his friend, the dancing instructor Franz Rabensteiner (1804-59), at the 'Sperl' dance hall on 23 February 1854, Johann responded to this latest fashion in the ballroom by writing the first of his many polka-mazurkas, La Viennoise.

Bijouterie-Quadrille (Trinkets Quadrille) Op. 169
At the beginning of 1855, the year before Johann Strauss commenced his long series of summer concert seasons in Russia, the conductor/composer was suddenly plagued with doubts as to whether his brother Josef was the best choice to deputise for him in Vienna at the head of the family orchestra. In February Johann permitted his 20-year-old youngest brother, Eduard, to make his public début as harpist with the Orchestra, with the clear intention that he, rather than Josef, should act as 'interim conductor' during Johann's absences abroad. The position was made even clearer when Johann elected to secure all that year's Carnival engagements for himself rather than share them with Josef. Thus Johann dominated the ballrooms of Vienna with new compositions during the busy 1855 Carnival, but some months were to elapse after the close of the festivities before the composer presented the public with further musical novelties. The first of these, the Bijouterie-Quadrille, found its composer in sparkling form when he conducted its première at Unger's Casino in the suburb of Hernals on 4 June.

Libellen, Walzer (Spirit Levels, Waltz) Op. 180
Such is the aerial lightness conveyed in the opening bars of this entrancing waltz that one may be forgiven for translating Libellen as 'Dragonflies'. Yet while the composer may well have momentarily pictured the beating of the delicate insects' wings, it is in the dedication of the waltz that an alternative meaning of the title is revealed. Johann wrote his Libellen Walzer for the Carnival ball of the technical students at Vienna University, held in the Sofienbad-Saal on 29 January 1856. The title refers specifically to the bubble ('air space' or 'air bell') found in a spirit level, where the bubble within a vial is used to gauge the precise horizontal or vertical alignment of a surface. The title page engraving on the first piano edition of Libellen portrays a number of instruments symbolic of the technical engineering profession. The illustration also depicts three draped female figures to lend yet a third meaning to the word 'Libellen' – water nymphs.

Perhaps noteworthy is the remarkable thematic similarity between Waltz 5B of Strauss's Libellen Walzer and Waltz 1B of his waltz Wiener Bonbons (op. 307) written a decade later. Yet, considering the composer's prodigious output in three-quarter time alone, the real significance of this observation is surely the extraordinary lack of frequency with which such comparisons can be made.

Bijoux-Polka française (Jewels, French polka) Op. 242
During Johann Strauss's 1860 summer concert season in Russia, news reached Vienna in August of a colossal scandal involving the popular Musikdirektor. It was reported that during a masked ball in Pavlovsk Strauss suddenly "went missing", whereupon the incensed public began wrecking the building, breaking windows and destroying the fixtures and furnishings. Strauss vehemently denied this rumour in the St. Petersburger Zeitung, but even in Vienna, where this publication was also available, it was apparent that the facts were indeed as stated. Much later Johann admitted to Eduard Hanslick that only the intervention of members of the Tsar's Court and his own influential friends enabled him to escape the expulsion order which had already been prepared.

Aside from this sensation, the remainder of Johann's 1860 'Russian summer' followed the pattern established during his four previous concert seasons, with the composer presenting a number of novelties written especially for his audiences at the Vauxhall Pavilion in Pavlovsk. Among these works was the Bijoux-Polka française, whose title reflected the vogue for the French language in mid-19th-century Russia. Strauss returned to Vienna at the end of October, but only gradually introduced his native audiences to the new pieces he had written for Russia. Thus it was not until 2 December that year that Strauss conducted the first Viennese performance of the Bijoux-Polka française at an open-air concert in the Volksgarten.

Wahlstimmen, Walzer (Votes, Waltz) Op. 250
During the 1850s the far from cohesive Habsburg Empire sustained a number of savage body blows: the Crimean War (1853-6) isolated her in Europe and alienated her from Russia, while the Italian War (1859) highlighted her military weakness and persuaded the Austrian government to seek an urgent reconciliation with Hungary over the vexed question of the preservation of the Hungarian constitution. The broad aim of the 'October Diploma' of 20 October 1860 was the rearrangement of the political organisation within the Austrian Empire, by providing a federal system of government along constitutional lines. In the event, it served only to increase tension between the various nationalities of the empire and was rejected, principally by Hungary. The diploma was eventually withdrawn by the Austrian government in April 1861.

The 'October Diploma' allowed the provincial diets to choose their own representative for the federal council, and it was this process of regional voting to which Johann Strauss alluded in the title of the newly-composed Wahlstimmen Walzer, dedicated to the law students of Vienna University on the occasion of their ball held in the Sofienbad-Saal on 28 January 1861. Later that year the waltz enjoyed several successful performances at Pavlovsk during the composer's sixth summer season of concerts in Russia.

Lob der Frauen, Polka-Mazurka (In Praise of Women, Polka-mazurka) Op. 315
As Prussia strove for leadership of the German nation in the 19th century it brought her into conflict with Austria, and hostilities became increasingly inevitable between the two great powers. The struggle to extend their respective territories, and Austria's desire to annex to her own dominions the province of Schleswig-Holstein, were the immediate causes of the Austro- Prussian War of 1866.

Despite earlier victories during the campaign, the Danube Monarchy's military defeat at Königgrätz (now Sadowa) on 3 July 1866 was both sudden and bitter. As a consequence, Austria lost her political dominance in Europe, and in the wake of her humiliating overthrow a shroud of depression spread across her peoples. This disconsolate mood also suffused the following year's Vienna Carnival, and the composers of dance music were faced with the unenviable challenge of instilling an atmosphere of gaiety into the festivities. How magnificently Johann Strauss responded to this situation may be seen from his compositions for the 1867 Carnival: the waltzes By the beautiful Blue Danube Op. 314, Artist's Life Op. 316 and Telegrams Op. 318, and the polkas Postillon d'amour Op. 317, and Leichtes Blut Op. 319. To this list belongs also the polka-mazurka Lob der Frauen, which Johann and the Strauss Orchestra first presented to an enthusiastic audience in the Vienna Volksgarten on 17 February 1867. The cover of the first piano edition of this gallantly-entitled work bears a motto from Schiller's poem Würde der Frauen. In translation this reads: "Honour women, they plait and weave heavenly roses into earthly life".

Jubelfest-Marsch (Joyous Festival March) Op. 396
An atmosphere of excited anticipation, which had been mounting in Vienna for weeks, reached its peak on 10 May 1881. On this day the sole heir to the vast Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Emperor's son, Crown Prince Rudolf (1858-89), married Princess Stephanie of Belgium (1864-1945) at a ceremony in the Augustinerkirche. A year earlier one hundred and ninety-nine members of the Wiener Männergesang-Verein (Vienna Men's Choral Association) had travelled to Belgium, and at the chateau in Laeken had serenaded the young couple and the Belgian royal family.

As might have been expected, both Johann Strauss and his brother Eduard were in the forefront of those paying homage to the royal newlyweds – Eduard with his waltz Schleier und Krone Op. 200, and Johann with two choral numbers: the waltz Myrthenblüthen Op. 395 (Volume 10) and the grandiose Jubelfest-Marsch Op. 396. Johann himself conducted the first performance of this latter work in the Theater an der Wien on 10 May 1881 – the actual day of the wedding festivities – as a 'curtain-raiser' to the theatre's evening performance of the fairy-tale Der Weihnachtsbaum, by Vanloo, Leterrier and Mortier. Although Richard Genée, co-librettist of several Strauss operettas, equipped the march with a text for male voice choir, this première featured orchestra alone. Another purely orchestral performance of the march, scheduled to take place that afternoon in the Volksgarten with the Strauss Orchestra under Eduard, had to be postponed until 13 May because of inclement weather.

The work, which the composer dedicated "in deepest reverence" to "his Imperial and Royal Highness the Most Serene Archduke Crown Prince Rudolf", is performed on this recording in its version for orchestra alone.

Kaiser-Jubiläum, Jubelwalzer (Imperial Jubilee, Waltz of Rejoicing) Op. 434
On 2 December 1848 at Olmütz (now Olomouc in Czechoslovakia) the 18-year old Franz Josef I (1830-1916) was proclaimed Emperor of Austria, after the October Revolution had forced the abdication of his uncle, the Emperor Ferdinand. The following May, after the establishment of a new centralised constitution, the youthful monarch made his triumphant and jubilant procession into Vienna.

Forty years later, on 2 December 1888, Emperor Franz Josef made it known that he wished the fortieth anniversary of his accession to be "celebrated throughout Austria, and in the majority of the Austrian colonies abroad, through acts of humanity and charitable foundations". Splendid and numerous were the nation’s festivities honouring their ruler, although official celebrations were withheld out of respect for the death of the Empress Elisabeth's father. For Johann Strauss the occasion of his Emperor’s jubilee was sufficient incentive for him to create one of the great waltzes of his mature period which, like, for example, Sinnen und Minnen (Op. 435) and Kaiser-Walzer (Op. 437), displays a richness of orchestral writing less evident in his earlier works. The composer himself conducted the Strauss Orchestra in the first performance of the Kaiser-Jubiläum Jubelwalzer at the brother Eduard’s benefit concert in the Musikverein on the very day of the imperial celebrations, 2 December 1888.

Programme notes © 1989 Peter Kemp. The Johann Strauss Socie!y of Great Britain.

The author is indebted to Professor Franz Mailer for his assistance in the preparation of these notes.

Czechoslovak 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.

For Marco Polo the orchestra has made the first compact disc recordings of rare works by Granville Bantock and Joachim Raff. Writing on the last of these, one critic praised the orchestra for its competence comparable to that of the major orchestras of Vienna and Prague, and for its willingness to undertake repertoire of this kind without condescension. The orchestra has contributed several successful volumes to the complete compact disc Johann Strauss II and for Naxos has recorded a varied repertoire.

Johannes Wildner
Johannes Wildner was born in the Austrian resort of Mürzzuschlag in 1956 and studied violin and conducting, taking his diploma at the Vienna Musilhochschule and proceeding to a doctorate in musicology. A member of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Johannes Wildner has toured widely as leader of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra Johann Strauss Ensemble and of the Vienna Mozart Academy. As a conductor he has directed the Orchestra Sinfonica dell'Emilia Romagna Arturo Toscanini, the Budapest State Opera Orchestra, the Silesian Philharmonic and the Malmö Symphony Orchestra. He conducted performances of the Vienna Volksoper in the autumn of 1989 and has been invited to Japan, China, Denmark, Sweden, Poland and Italy.

Close the window