About this Recording
8.223228 - STRAUSS II, J.: Edition - Vol. 28
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 Il captivated not only Vienna but also the whole of Europe and America with his abundantly tuneful waltzes, polkas, quadrilles and marches. The appeal of his music bridged all social strata, and his genius was revered by Such masters as Verdi, Brahms and Richard Strauss. The thrice-married “Waltz King” later turned his attention to the composition of Operetta, and completed 16 stage works (among them. Die Fledermaus, Eine Nacht in Venedig and Der Zigeunerbaron) 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.

Freiwillige vor! Marsch (Volunteers to the front! March) o. Op

On 23 March 1881 the Nice Opera House burned down, claiming the lives of ninety-two people. In the light of this disaster, the Austrian Prime Minister, Count Eduard von Taaffe, ordered an examination by the fire police of all theatres in Vienna. The resulting report concluded that the existing building and fire regulations were inadequate and made a number of demands, amongst them: that emergency exits should be marked as such and be fitted with emergency lighting (at that time oil lamps) as well as being left unobstructed during performances; that all doors serving as exits for the audience must open outwards; and that the wire-mesh safety curtain (today made of iron) separating the stage from the auditorium had to be lowered at all times except during rehearsals and performance. With the growing use of gas lighting in theatres throughout Europe from the middle of the nineteenth century there had been a dramatic increase in the number of theatre fires—the tubular gas lighting used on stage, for example, could cause scenery to reach temperatures of 70 degrees centigrade (=158°F)—and the Vienna report contained additional regulations applying specifically to gas lighting, with particular recommendations regarding separate gas mains for the stage and auditorium.

During the examination initiated by Count von Taaffe deficiencies relating to fire safety at Vienna’s Ringtheater were repeatedly highlighted. But before the authorities were able to enforce the required improvements, tragedy struck on the evening of 8 December 1881. As a capacity house at the Ringtheater waited for the curtain to rise on Offenbach’s Opera Hoffmanns Erzählungen (The Tales of Hoffmann)—which the previous night had enjoyed its triumphant German-language première at the theatre, attended by Johann Strauss—the electro-pneumatic ignition failed to ignite the gas burners in the tubular lights immediately and evenly, and when the gas which had escaped suddenly flared it set alight a piece of hanging scenery and the flames quickly spread. The gas was turned off, but without emergency lighting the whole house was plunged into darkness and in the ensuing panic 386 people perished, burned, suffocated or were trampled to death. The first detachment of firemen, each clenching a wet sponge between his teeth, only arrived on the scene a full forty minutes after the alarm was first raised. By this time, all was over.

The very next day, 9 December 1881, saw the launch of the Vienna Voluntary Life-Saving Association (Wiener Freiwillige Rettungsgesellschaft), an organisation founded by three men: the landed proprietor, Count Hans Wilczek, a doctor, Jaromir von Mundy and Count Eduard Lamezan-Salins, the president of an assize court. (Almost a decade earlier, in 1873 and 1874, Count Wilczek had organised the funding of a North Pole Expedition led by Karl Weyprecht and Julius Payer, an undertaking chronicled in Eduard Strauss’s Weyprecht-Payer-Marsch Op.120. The Count’s name lives on also in Wilczek-Land, part of Franz Josef-Land discovered by the two explorers off the east coast of Spitzbergen). The Vienna Voluntary Life-Saving Association became the model for all other organisations of this kind abroad.

Johann Strauss’s march Freiwillige vor came into being some five years after the Ringtheater holocaust. Its first edition, privately printed and in Small format, complete with the composer’s facsimile signature, was prepared as a presentation gift, and details its genesis: “Dedicated to the memory of the first charity ball of the Vienna Voluntary Life-Saving Association on 30 January 1887”. The event took place in the Sofienbad-Saal and the performance was given under Johann’s direction. The march may be compared with the composers earlier Jubelfest-Marsch Op. 396 of 1881 (Volume 15 of this CD series), both works closely resembling one another in their structure and character. A brass fanfare in each heralds an imperial Opening, balanced by a more melodic section. In Freiwillige vor a third, still more dance-like passage follows before a restatement of the august Opening section. The first commercially published edition of the march appeared with the imprint of the Josef Weinberger and Hofbauer publishing house, and with an amended inscription: “Dedicated to the Vienna Voluntary Life-Saving Association”.

Einheitsklänge. Walzer (Sounds of Unity. Waltz), Op. 62

Throughout his life the younger Johann Strauss was in the habit of jotting down musical ideas in a series of sketchbooks, of which the earliest known is housed in The Houghton Library of America’s Harvard University. Recently this volume, covering the period August 1843 to the close of 1851, has been the subject of scholarly research, first in England and later in Vienna. Among the themes identifiable in the sketchbook are two which subsequently appeared as Waltz 2A and Waltz 4A respectively in Johann’s waltz Einheitsklänge of 1849. The two 8-bar sketches (which appear within two lines of each other) are to be found on consecutive pages, the first page being headed, in the composer’s hand, “13 July 1848”. This suggests that these two Einheitsklänge melodies were conceived on the same date, or just after.

The year 1848 was a time of dramatic political development within the Habsburg monarchy, and above all in Vienna. Interest in the Austrian capital was centred on the Reichstag, the imperial parliament, which was meeting in Frankfurt-am-Main and one of whose aims was “German unity”. Johann Strauss Father (1804–49) recognised the changing times and at a summer festival on the Vienna Wasserglacis on 26 July 1848 gave the first performance of his Marsch des einigen Deutschlands (March of the Unified Germany) Op. 227. In autumn 1848 the dream of “German unity” came to an end. The imperial Austrian troops were fighting in Italy against the abolition of the monarchy in two territories, Lombardy and Venetia, both geographically Italiam but under Austrian rule since the fall of Napoléon; they suppressed the revolution in Vienna and finally—together with the army of Tsar Nicholas I—fought against the uprising in the kingdom of Hungary, the aim of which was to free the area east of the river Leitha which formed the border. It was only with some effort that at least the unity of the monarchy was maintained. In December 1848, at Olmütz (=Olomouc) in Moravia, Franz Josef ascended the throne of Austria; his chancellor, Prince Felix Schwarzenberg, Radetzky’s adviser, was firmly determined to secure the unity of the monarchy by every possible means. The political basis for this intention was the new Stadion constitution which was formulated in February 1849 and promulgated—or, more accurately, imposed—on 4 March. (The event was chronicled by Franz von Suppé in his Constitutions-Marsch Op. 41).

It must have been immediately after the new constitution was issued that the young Strauss gave the first performance of his waltz Einheitsklänge (Sounds of Unity). The title had now acquired a secondary meaning, and could be taken as an act of submission to the new order by Johann Strauss, who had been completely on the side of the revolutionaries in the summer of 1848. The first piano edition of the waltz was published on 10 June 1849; six days later the Wiener Allgemeine Theaterzeitung commented laconically in its review of new music publications: “One only has to read through the titles [of Strauss Son’s new compositions] once more, and one will be aware that they contain things which are so appropriate for the present times. We are in favour of the ‘Sounds of Unity’… ”

The orchestral parts for the waltz Einheitsklänge—incidentally, Johann Strauss’s only waltz to be published without an Introduction—were never printed, and the “correct copies” announced by the publisher Mechetti on 24 January 1850 have been lost or, at least, have not to date proved possible to locate. In the absence of the composer’s original scoring for the piece, Arthur Kulling has made the arrangement for this Marco Polo recording. Although the waltz Einheitsklänge soon faded from the Strauss Orchestra’s concert programmes, its opening melody was rescued from oblivion by the composer’s brother, Eduard, who included it in his potpourri Blüthenkranz Johann Strauss’scher Walzer (Garland of Johann Strauss Waltzes) Op. 292, a “Collection of the best loved waltzes from 1844 to the present”, which he selected and arranged in 1894 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of brother Johann’s public début as conductor and composer.

Spleen. Polka-Mazur (Spleen. Polka-mazurka), Op. 197

The German-language Brockhaus lexicon defines “spleen” as “a form of melancholy with hypochondriacal features, generally designated as the English national complaint”. In its 1854 edition the reference work further expounds: “Of a person who applies his physical, mental and financial powers in a way which runs counter to that which would normally be recognised as useful or pleasant, but at the same time shows no trace of mental illness other than unusual equanimity towards life, it is said he has spleen”.

The Spleen Polka-Mazur was one of a batch of new works which Johann Strauss composed for his 1857 concert season at the Vauxhall Pavilion in Pavlovsk, near St Petersburg. In order to save travel costs, the Viennese Waltz King took with him just four members from the Strauss Orchestra, relying for the remainder of his orchestral players on musicians from Berlin, whom he had selected personally. Since F.A. Zimmermann, the viola-player who kept detailed accounts of the programmes performed at Pavlovsk during other years, did not accompany Strauss to Russia in 1857, a date of first performance for the polka-mazurka cannot be precisely determined. The work appears to have been written for one of the composer’s friends in St Petersburg.

Strauss departed Pavlovsk at the close of his second “Russian summer”, setting foot on native Viennese soil on the night of 22 October 1857. More than two weeks earlier, on 7 October, the Wiener Allgemeine Theaterzeitung had informed its readers that “Herr Strauss has enlarged his repertoire with the following compositions written in St Petersburg:Souvenir à Nizza, Walzer, dedicated to her Majesty the Empress of Russia; Alexandrine-Polka; Spleen-Polka-Mazurka; Beau monde, Quadrille; Olga-Polka and Telegraphische Depeschen, Walzer”. Four of these novelties featured on the programme of Johann’s afternoon concert in the Volksgarten on Sunday 1 November 1857, marking his first public appearance in Vienna since returning from Russia. Of these works, the Olga-Polka (Op. 196) and the waltz Telegraphische Depeschen (Op. 195) had already been given their Viennese first performances by Josef Strauss on 18 October, leaving Johann to conduct the Viennese premières of the Spleen-Polka-Mazur and the Beau monde Quadrille (Op. 199). During the concert, in which Johann alternated with Josef in conducting the Strauss Orchestra, the audience was also treated to Auber’s overture to Manon Lescaut and a serenade by Haertel, and the even was the subject of a detailed review by Eugene Eiserle in the Wiener Allgemeine Theaterzeitung on 3 November 1857. The journalist wrote of the spontaneous applause and loud cheers which greeted Johann’s appearance on the conductor’s podium, and which delayed by several minutes the start of the proceedings. Eiserle continued: “And now began the concert, which contained four of his latest compositions which originated on the banks of the Neva. Each of these pieces intensified the rejoicing, in particular the wonderful ‘Spleen-Polka-Mazur’, fully in keeping with the style of Chopin, with its brilliant, tender and piquant figures [and] its bold instrumentation, did not fail to excite the most animated mood”. The new work appeared from Carl Haslinger’s publishing house at the beginning of December, and drew from the Theaterzeitung (8.12.1857) the opinion that it was “perhaps one of the most ingenious compositions of our highly gifted Johann Strauss”.

Telegraphische Depeschen. Walzer (Telegraphic Despatches. Waltz), Op. 195

Wilhelm Tatzelt’s engraving for the dark brown title page illustration of Johann Strauss’s waltz Telegraphische Depeschen presents views of two major cities, St Petersburg and Vienna, and the waltz bears the composer’s dedication: “To Herr Jean Promberger in St Petersburg”.

The pianist and composer Johann Promberger (1810–90), who like Strauss himself had adopted the fashionable French form of his Christian name, “Jean”, was the son of a Viennese piano maker and pianist. Since early childhood the dedicatee had lived in St Petersburg, and had been entrusted by Tsar Nicholas I with the establishment of a piano class within the newly-founded Conservatoire in the Russian metropolis. This commission had necessitated Promberger making visits to Vienna. It was during his final stay, in August 1855, that Promberger had met Strauss and had offered to assist him with the organisation of the summer concerts at the Vauxhall Pavilion in Pavlovsk. Their friendship, in which Eduard Strauss was later also involved, lasted until Promberger’s death in 1890. Both Promberger and the St Petersburg-based pianist and composer Theodor Leschetizky (1830–1915) were frequent visitors to Strauss’s official residence in the Vauxhall, and on their visits they used to play for him. While Strauss was in Pavlovsk in 1863 for his eighth successive Summer season, for example, his wife Jetty (who had accompanied him) wrote to Carl Haslinger in Vienna on 8 July (= 26 June, Russian calendar) that “on no day or morning do we get to bed before 4 o’clock, but very often it is 5.30 and a few days ago it was 7 o’clock, because we spent the time in a most poetic and happy way in the company of an excellent musician (the pianist Bromberger [sic!]) with Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert and the like”. In 1886, thirty years after Strauss’s first “Russian summer”, Promberger himself recalled that Strauss’s Pavlovsk domicile, “which could be reached via a modest wooden staircase, and in which a tall man could only stand with his head bowed, was during daytime the meeting place of writers, musicians and virtuosi who, not infrequently after the evening concerts, formed a cheerful circle at Strauss’s and remained there with music, fun and the obligatory champagne until dawn”.

The manuscript of the waltz Telegraphische Depeschen is the oldest extant full score in Strauss’s hand. Its ink-spattered pages bear testimony to the speed with which its composer committed his thoughts to the stave, a fact confirmed by his brother Eduard who wrote in his family autobiography, Erinnerungen (1906), that Johann was the quickest of the three Strauss brothers at instrumentation. Telegraphische Depeschen was composed in Pavlovsk and given its first performance there, under Johann’s direction, on 6 September 1857 (= 25 August, Russian calendar) at his fourth benefit concert in the Vauxhall Pavilion. The Wiener Allgemeine Theaterzeitung (16.10.1857) remarked that the new work caused a sensation with Russian audiences and further announced that Josef Strauss would conduct its first Viennese performance (as well as that of Johann’s Caecilien-Polka) with the Strauss Orchestra during his own benefit concert in the Volksgarten on Sunday 18 October 1857. The newspaper drew particular attention to the Coda section of Telegraphische Depeschen, into which Johann had woven a brief musical quotation from the popular song refrain “Ja nur ein Kaiserstadt, ja nur a Wien” (Yes only one Imperial city, yes only one Vienna), which had originated as a duet in the singspiel (musical comedy) Aline oder Wien in einem anderen Weltteil (1822) by Adolf Bäuerle, with music by Wenzel Müller.

Josef Strauss’s popularity ensured that an unusually large audience was on hand in the Volksgarten to hear him perform the waltz Telegraphische Depeschen, which Johann had sent him from Russia. The critic of the Theaterzeitung (20.10.1857) noted that the high spirits with which the public greeted those works already known to them increased still further when Josef conducted the Viennese premières of Telegraphische Depeschen and the Caecilien-Polka (the latter subsequently published as the Olga-Polka Op. 196). The reviewer continued: “In these two pieces the inexhaustibility of Johann’s melodies is demonstrated in the most splendid way, for these dances form a charming garland of the most original and catchy melodies which have flowed from Strauss’s pen. They were received with enthusiastic applause and many encores were demanded”.

By the time Johann composed his waltz Telegraphische Depeschen, the telegraph was already a part of the daily life of the 19th century. Rapid development of telegraph systems came with the discovery that electric impulses could be used to transmit signals along a wire. The work of early pioneers into the needle telegraph, like Hans Christian Ørsted (1819) and Sir Charles Wheatstone (1837), was superseded with the development of the electromagnet (see Electro-magnetische Polka Op. 110, Volume 19 of this CD series). It was the electromagnet which permitted Samuel Morse to develop the simple operator key which, when depressed, completed an electrical circuit and sent a signal to a distant receiver. In the Introduction to his waltz, Strauss portrays the tapping of the telegraph key and the message flashing along the wires to its destination. The founding in Berlin of the Siemens & Halske Telegraph Construction Company in 1847 rapidly spread telegraph lines across Germany, and within a few years the firm had established its principal manufacturing centres in St Petersburg (1855), London (1858) and Vienna (1879). While Johann was well aware of these advances in telecommunications, his choice of title for the waltz doubtless also chronicled a more personal chapter in his life which had occurred the previous year. Having decided, for purely business reasons, to delay his departure from Russia in autumn 1856, Johann was astonished to learn of reports in the Viennese press that he had recently married in St Petersburg. From the Russian capital, the bachelor Viennese Waltz King vigorously refuted all such claims… by telegraphic despatch!

Concordia. Polka-Mazur (Concordia. Polka-mazurka), Op. 206

The normally rigid protocol which permitted only court festivals to take place within the Hofburg, the winter palace of the Austrian Imperial family, were relaxed for the 1858 Vienna Carnival so that other important ball festivities could also be held there. Two beneficiaries of these new rulings were the engineers of the technical authorities and railways managements, for whose ball Johann Strauss wrote his waltz Spiralen (Op. 209, Volume 25 of this CD series) and, secondly, Vienna’s evangelical community. Strauss’s contribution to the latter’s festivity, a “Protestant Ball” held in the Redoutensaal ballroom of the Hofburg on 10 February 1858, was the polka-mazurka Eintracht (Harmony). The new work appeared again on the programme of Johann Strauss’s benefit ball organised for 15 February 1858 in the “Sperl” dance hall under the motto “The last Carnival Monday in the old Sperl”, a celebration of the old establishment before a change of ownership. The critic of the Wiener Theaterzeitung (17.02.1858) noted that the Strauss brothers, Johann and Josef, “who took it in turns to conduct the orchestra, were indefatigable, and played their latest compositions, each of which had to be repeated”. Only one composition was mentioned by name in the review—Johann’s waltz Jux-Brüder (Op. 208, Volume 24).

On 28 February the Strauss brothers presented their benefit concert in the Vienna Volksgarten, an event which took the form of a “Carnival Revue” of all the dances they had composed for that year’s recently ended Vienna Carnival. Before an audience of some two thousand, the Strauss Orchestra Opened the soirée with Adam’s Falstaff Overture before playing their way through ten carnival compositions by Johann and six by Josef. The reporter for the Wiener Theaterzeitung (3.03.1858) noted: “Johann Strauss played his waltzes ‘Souvenir de Nizza’, ‘Vibrationen’, ‘Extravaganten’, ‘Cycloiden’, ‘Spiralen’ and ‘Juxbrüder’, as well as the ‘Helenen-Polka’, ‘L’Enfantillage’-Polka française, “Eintracht-Polka-Mazur and Künstler-Quadrille”. Each of these compositions, whose individual beauty one was able to perceive here better than in the ballroom, had to be repeated by tempestuous demand. Johann Strauss was particularly successful with his dances during this carnival, for each of them surpassed the other in tuneful content and piquant instrumentation”.

So pronounced is the Russian flavour of the Eintracht Polka-Mazur that one must inevitably wonder if it was perhaps conceived during Johann’s 1857 concert season at Pavlovsk, near St Petersburg, though not completed until after his return to Vienna. An alternative explanation for its undoubted Russian influence may have been Strauss’s preoccupation with his imminent departure in May 1858 for his third “Russian Summer” at Pavlovsk. The polka-mazurka appeared from the Haslinger publishing house on 23 May that year, but with its title changed to Concordia.

Tête-à-Tête-Quadrille (Cosy chat Quadrille), Op. 109

In the wake of the 1848 Revolution the annual Vienna Carnival had lost its characteristic carefree atmosphere and, although the 1852 festivities saw a partial return to the usual joie de vivre, the continuing enforcement of martial law acted as a damper on the mood of the greater populace.

For his part, Johann Strauss was as indefatigable as ever and performed with his orchestra the music at all of the great representation balls, without exception, and at many of those of the corporations. As previously, he did not restrict his activities to the confines of the Austrian capital; on 20 January 1852 Die Presse announced that Strauss and his orchestra had been engaged to perform on 4 February in Bratislava—then still part of the Habsburg Empire. The same paper gave full details in its issue of 25 January: “Charity ball in aid of the Widows and orphans of the artists in Bratislava. A committee of artists there has taken on the fine calling of the organisation of this festival in the most selfless way. On the occasion of the same in the brilliantly lit and newly decorated municipal Redoutensaal, Herr Johann Strauss will conduct in person, with his orchestra from Vienna, and will also give there the first performance of a quadrille specially composed for this festival”. On 27 January 1852 the Pressburger Zeitung announced that the programme of music which Johann and the Strauss Orchestra would play at the Bratislava ‘Artists’ Ball’ included the waltz Fünf Paragraphe aus dem Walzer-Codex (Op. 105), the Vivatl-Quadrille (Op. 103) and a dance piece “composed especially for this ball”, the Souvenir à Pressbourg Quadrille. Two days after the festivity the Pressburger Zeitung remarked that it “was unquestionably the most splendid of this carnival season, for it enjoyed an exceedingly numerous attendance which included Bratislava’s most eminent personalities”.

The first Viennese performance of the new work appears to have taken place on 17 February 1852 at Johann’s benefit ball in the ‘Sperl’ dance hall, When the composer conducted the Strauss Orchestra in what the Wiener Allgemeine Theaterzeitung (22.01.1852) merely advertised as “a new quadrille”. In the absence of the usual terminology heralding a première performance—“Zum ersten Male” (For the first time)—we may safely assume that the “new quadrille” had enjoyed its first performance on an earlier occasion. From this, and in the noticeable absence of any further press notices Concerning the work, one may conclude that Johann’s “new quadrille” was that first played in Bratislava as the Souvenir à Pressbourg Quadrille and subsequently published by Carl Haslinger on 22 September 1852 as the Tête-à-Tête-Quadrille Op.109.

Lebenswecker. Walzer (Life’s Awakener. Waltz), Op. 232

The passage of twenty years separates Joseph Lanner’s Waltz Die Lebenswecker Op.104 of 1836 from the younger Johann Strauss’s similarly entitled waltz Lebenswecker. Both works honour the medical profession, the earlier being dedicated to “The Gentlemen Practising Physicians” whilst the latter was Strauss’s dedication to the “Gentlemen Students of Medicine at Vienna University” on the occasion of their ball held in the Sofienbad-Saal on 24 January 1860.

The Strauss Orchestra’s receipt book for 1860 reveals the phenomenal and insatiable demand for the services of the brothers Johann and Josef during the Vienna Carnival months of January and February. The Medical Students’ Ball, for example, was only one of three festivities on 24 January at which the Strauss Orchestra performed. Yet, despite the increasing musical prominence of Josef Strauss, it was Johann’s violin which held sway over the dance-loving Viennese and to which they most wanted to dance. Such pressures on the 34-year-old composer / conductor had already brought him to the point of physical and mental collapse during the early 1850s and, indeed, had been the reason for Josef abandoning his own burgeoning career as an engineer to relieve his older brother as conductor of the family orchestra. With Josef’s subsequent decision to turn his attentions to pursuing a full time musical profession, Johann was able to make personal, if brief, appearances at Several different venues on the same day. This practice led to articles in some of the journals, like that in the Wiener Theaterzeitung on 27 January 1860, headed: “Johann Strauss a Mythical Person”. The paper suggested that a visitor to Vienna might well be frustrated in his quest of seeing the waltz composer conduct in person, as announced on numerous advertising placards, and eventually be led to enquire: “Does such a person really exist… or does this name denote merely a beautiful being from fairyland? Does Vienna have a Johann Strauss who is always only on paper, or has it one of flesh and blood?”. “Yes”, the journal discloses, “it does have one, but the most fortunate people, Who otherwise see everything which ordinary mortal people do not see, Sunday’s children, scarcely ever catch sight of him. On Fasching [= Carnival Sundays Johann Strauss travels like a demon with a good fiaker [= cabbie from one establishment to another; he has to be everywhere and so he is nowhere. Now he conducts an orchestra here, then there, and so it is that One has to seek for a long time before finding him”.

It is difficult to be precise concerning what Johann Strauss had in mind when he chose to christen his waltz Lebenswecker—“Life’s Awakener”. The artist who illustrated the title page of the work’s first piano edition, however, was in no doubt: it was the noble vine, whose leaves and fruit feature prominently, whilst a recumbent cherub imbibes liberally from an upturned wine bottle!

Unter Donner Und Blitz. Schnell-Polka (Thunder and Lightning. Guick polka), Op. 324

“Esteemed Sirs! I have the honour of placing before the honoured Committee the title of ‘Sternschnuppe’ for a composition, specifically a ‘Schnellpolka’, intended for the Hesperus Ball. Yours respectfully, Johann Strauss”.

Thus runs the text of an undated letter to the Vienna Artists’ Association, “Hesperus”, written on behalf of the composer by his wife, Jetty, but signed by Strauss himself. Research suggests that this correspondence dates from 18 January 1868. On 6 February that year the Neues Wiener Tagblatt announced: “For the Hesperus Ball, which takes place on Sunday 16th of this month in the Dianasaal, Messrs Johann, Josef and Eduard Strauss have promised 3 novelties with the titles: ‘Sternschnuppe’, ‘Extempore’ and ‘Freie Gedanken’.” This is the very last mention of Johann’s Schnell-Polka Sternschnuppe (Shooting Star), and it raises some interesting questions.

The Hesperus Ball took place, as announced, on 16 February 1868 in the Dianabad-Saal, with the brothers Johann, Josef and Eduard taking it in turns to conduct the Strauss Orchestra. Although the Viennese press reported on the festivity, none detailed the music played. Ten days later, on 26 February, the Viennese press carried advertisements for the traditional “Carnival Revue” of all the compositions written for that year’s Vienna Carnival by the Strauss brothers, organised for 1 March in the Blumensäle (Floral Halls) of the k.k. Gartenbaugesellschaft (Imperial-Royal Horticultural Association). Adopting the long-established procedure, the announcement chronicles the balls at which the various works were first presented, but in the 1868 list no details appear beside Johann’s carnival compositions. As might be expected, alongside the entries for Josef’s Extempore, Polka française (Op. 241) and Eduard’s waltz Freie Gedanken (Op. 39) appears “Hesperus Ball”. Moreover, under Johann’s list of contributions one searches in vain for any mention of Sternschnuppe. Of the total 20 new dances featured on the programme of the 1868 “Revue”, given as a benefit concert for Josef and Eduard Strauss and with the participation of Johann, 10 were contributed by Josef, 7 by Eduard and only 3 by Johann. Specifically the Waltz King’s tally comprises the waltz Die Publicisten (Op. 321, actually written for the Concordia Ball on 4 February), the polka-mazurka Ein Herz, ein Sinn (Op. 323, for the Citizens Ball on 11 February) and a quick polka entitled—Unter Donner und Blitz. (In some newspapers the work is identified as Unter Blitz und Donner.) As to the identity of this last-mentioned work, not until the appearance of press announcements for a “Ladies’ Night”, hosted by the Hesperus in the Blumensäle on Saturday 7 March 1868, and attended by some 1,100 guests, does a solution to the mystery present itself. In brackets, alongside the eighth item on the concert programme—Unter Donner und Blitz, Polka schnell—appears the supplementary information: “Hesperus”, clearly indicating that the piece had been performed at an earlier festivity of the Association. Since in early 1868 there were no balls or concerts to which this reference could apply other than the ball on 16 February, one must conclude that this dance composition was played for the first time at the Hesperus Ball in the Dianabad-Saal. Yet this conclusion provides only a partial solution, for known contemporary press sources cannot confirm whether the polka was heard at its première as Unter Donner und Blitz, Sternschnuppe or even Unter Blitz und Donner (as Josef and Eduard refer to the piece in their handwritten programme for the Hesperus “Ladies’ Night”). For his part, however, Josef Strauss noted in his diary among the new works being first performed at the Hesperus Ball: “Unter Donner und Blitz”.

In advancing the Sternschnuppe theory, the late Professor Dr Fritz Racek draws support for his argument from a comparison between the pianoforte first edition of the polka (announced on 10.03.1868) and the orchestral performing material (announced in August 1868). He notes “several uncertainties in the orchestral parts, as well as many deviations from the previously published piano edition”, and concludes “that after the first performance, Strauss carried out alterations to the score copy [now lost] which the engraver did not interpret properly”. Professor Racek asserts that these “alterations” were connected with the intensification of the dramatic content of the work, required by the change of title. Certainly, a comparison between the published piano and orchestral first editions highlights some interesting differences, principally in the dynamic markings and in the addition of accents which greatly enhance both the dramatic and descriptive effects of the orchestral version. Racek’s belief is that the first piano edition is based primarily on Strauss’s original autograph score which, in turn, he believes to have been first performed under the title Sternschnuppe. If Racek is correct in his assumption, and there are indications that he is, then clearly Johann must at the last moment have altered the essential character of the composition along with the title. Beyond doubt, whilst both thunder and lightning are imitated in the music, there is little suggestive of a shooting star.

Illustrationen. Walzer (Illustrations. Waltz), Op. 331

With the rapid expansion of publishing, the nineteenth century was an age in which the art of the illustrator flourished in literature, the arts and in the dissemination of news. The Strauss family and their contemporaries in the world of music also benefited from the skills of artists and engravers, many of them anonymous, whose imaginative and often exquisite designs adorned the piano editions of their compositions, so helping to enhance over-the-counter Sales of the sheet music. Just such an attractive piece of artwork embellishes the cover of Johann Strauss’s waltz Illustrationen, published by C.A. Spina on 2 February 1869—a week after the composer had conducted the work’s première. This appropriately entitled waltz dedication was written by Strauss for the annual ball of the Vienna Journalists’ and Authors’ Association, ‘Concordia’, held in the Sofienbad-Saal on 26 January 1869.

The Association’s 1869 festivity was the subject of a lengthy report in the Fremden-Blatt newspaper of 28 January. “The most sparkling dance festival which this year’s carnival season has so far brought was without doubt the Concordia Ball, and we do not believe that any other ball will be able to challenge it for the victor’s laurels. Having enjoyed extraordinary popularity for years, demand for tickets this year for this festival was much more vigorous, and more than three thousand guilders net profit will accrue to the support fund for needy writers and journalists, for whose benefit the Concordia Ball takes place each year”. This glittering event attracted not only writers and artists, but also industrialists, bankers, diplomats, politicians and representatives from the theatrical world. The Mayor of Vienna, Dr Felder, and the Director of Police, Privy Councillor von Strobach, were also among the guests, and for the very first time members of the Imperial family attended the Concordia Ball—the Archdukes Albrecht and Wilhelm, together with the Prince of Wasa and Duke Ernst II of Coburg. The Fremden-Blatt noted that the Sofienbad-Saal itself “was transformed into a living garden and the imposing room, lit as bright as day, was richly decorated with flowering plants and ornamental statues”. So far as the musical entertainment was concerned, Johann and his brothers, Josef and Eduard—each of whom had composed a dedication for the event—took it in turns to Conduct the Strauss Orchestra. The Fremden-Blatt continued: “The Ball Committee had been careful to ensure that the room did not become excessively overcrowded, and so the people who were fond of dancing could abandon themselves in the most relaxed manner to the pleasure of the dance. The enchanting sounds of the Strauss Orchestra also played their part… Court Ball Music Director Johann Strauss brought a new waltz: ‘Illustrationen’, encores of which were noisily called for; Josef Strauss contributed a polka française: ‘Concordia’, which was received with equal applause, and Eduard Strauss a new polka-mazurka: Vom Tage’, which met with the most favourable response”.

Pappacoda-Polka française (Pappacoda. French polka), Op. 412

Hailed by the critic of the Vienna Morgen-Post (10.10.1883) as “so catchy that one wants to hear it again and again and again”, the music of Johann Strauss’s ninth Operetta, Eine Nacht in Venedig (A Night in Venice), afforded its composer the opportunity to arrange no less than six separate orchestral dance pieces from its melodies. Amongst these numbers is the Pappacoda-Polka française which takes its name from the comic figure of Pappacoda, the macaroni cook in Strauss’s Operetta, which was first staged in Vienna at the Theater an der Wien on 9 October 1883 following its inauspicious world première in Berlin on 3 October that year.

Although one might reasonably have expected Strauss to have incorporated into his Pappacoda-Polka the refrain from the young comic’s Act 1 (No.1) couplet, “Drum sei glücklich, sei selig Venezia! Pappacoda, Pappacoda, Pappacoda ist da!”, he felt instead that the character of the music was better suited to the quick polka he crafted from themes in the Operetta, So angstlich sind wir nicht! (Op. 413, Volume 24 of this CD series), where it may be heard in the main section. Two sources comprise the principal section of the Pappacoda-Polka: theme 1A owes its origins to the Act 3 (No.16) “Spottlied” (satirical song) for Annina and ladies’ chorus, “Ein Herzog, reich und mächtig”, while theme 1B is based on a phrase sung by Caramello in his Act 1 (No.4) entrance song to the words “Ich leb’ dort wie im Himmel”. The entire Trio section of the polka derives from Pappacoda’s solo in the Act 2 Finale (No. 13), “Take, take, tak, erst hack’ ich fein”.

In the confusion and excitement following the double première of Eine Nacht in Venedig in Berlin and, just six days later, in Vienna, the first performance of the Pappacoda-Polka française passed unnoticed by the music reviewers. It must, however, have been played for the first time at one of the Strauss concerts in the capital immediately following the Viennese première of Strauss’s Operetta on 9 October 1883, since the printed edition of the polka was announced on 5 December of that year.

Frisch in’s Feld! Marsch (Into Battle! March), Op. 398

In common with the Lustige Krieg-Marsch Op.397 (Volume 29 of this CD series), the march Frisch in’s Feld! is constructed from melodies in Johann Strauss’s eighth Operetta, Der lustige Krieg (The Merry War), which enjoyed a hugely successful première at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien on 25 November 1881.

Like its companion piece, Frisch in’s Feld! belongs to the most spirited of the composer’s marches. In reality, the joyful exuberance of the piece was in marked contrast to the growing crisis in Strauss’s domestic life. The ageing maestro’s 31-year-old Prussian actress wife, Angelika (Lili’) Dittrich, frustrated in her theatrical ambitions and finding her marriage to the composer stultifying, had begun an affair with Franz Steiner, the young director of the Theater an der Wien, and the marriage culminated in divorce at the close of 1882.

The first performance of the march Frisch in’s Feld! was given by the composer’s brother, Eduard, who conducted the work with the Strauss Orchestra at his Sunday concert in the Golden Hall of the Musikverein building on 6 January 1882. Nine days later, on 15 January, the march was heard again in the Musikverein, this time during a benefit concert for Eduard Strauss at which Johann also participated. The reporter for the Fremden-Blatt newspaper wrote on 16 January 1882 that “as an encore item the composer [Johann] then presented another march, which is fashioned from the beginning of the 2nd Act of “Lustige Krieg”. This description is sufficient to identify the encore piece as Frisch in’s Felds, for its main section indeed derives from Princess Artemisia’s Act 2 (No.8) aria “Commandirt, instruirt hab’ ich manche Compagnie”, continuing “Den Feind, den möcht ich seh’n”. (This latter section of the aria also appears as theme 2B in the Trio of Johann’s Entweder-Oder Schnell-Polka Op. 403, featured on Volume 18 of this series). The thematic material for the Trio section of Frischin’s Feld! is to be found in the Act 1 (No.1) chorus “Keinen Kampf, keinen Sieg bracht bisher dieser Krieg”, repeated with different text in the Act 1 (No.7) choral Finale, “Das Signal ruft zum Streit”.

The first piano edition of the Frisch ins Feld! Marsch was issued by the Cranz publishing house with Strauss’s respectful dedication to the Duke Adolf of Nassau Infantry Regiment No.15, and the unit’s name is also worked into a banner within the ornamental title page illustration. In their book, Die Österreichische Militärmusik (Austrian Military Music, 1976), Emil Rameis and Eugen Brixel merely state: “The regiment received a dedication from Johann Strauss upon the occasion of its moving into the Vienna garrison”. No reason is given and no explanation appeared in the Viennese press of 1882.

Programme notes © 1992 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.)

Close the window