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8.223471 - Locomotiv-Musik 2: A Musical Train Ride
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Railway Music


The beginning of the railway system of Central Europe in the 1840s was a technological breakthrough of the same dimension as computerisation today. The locomotive was the most developed industrial product of the time, a technological wonder that functioned in a way hardly to be understood by emperors and princes, let alone by ordinary people. It is not surprising, therefore, that the locomotive, with its rhythmical engine driven by steam, should have become a source of inspiration for many compositions, although not all “railway music” is descriptive in character. The inauguration of railways, railway balls and railway banquets called for cheerful music which did not necessarily have to sound like a steam-train. Among the works now recorded there are some compositions linked to the railway enterprise only by their titles, as for example the Ankunfts Walzer (“Arrival Waltz”) of Joseph Lanner, a self-taught violinist and composer born in Vienna in 1801. Lanner spent some time as an orchestral player before forming a trio that later grew into an orchestra. He wrote the Arrival Waltz in 1829, before the railway had found its way to Vienna. Even in 1835, when the Dampf Walzer (“Steam Waltz”) was heard for the first time, the steam of Lanner’s new waltz did not come from a steam-engine. Ending in fact in a galop, this waltz was dedicated to August Corti, who owned an open-air coffee-house in the Vienna Volksgarten, suggesting the steam of coffee rather than that of the railway. Lanner, in any case, was no great traveller, only leaving Vienna for short concert-tours and that on relatively rare occasions.

Johann Strauss the elder, a friend, colleague and later rival of Lanner, was a much more assiduous traveller. He began his career in the same way, as a violinist in the orchestra of Michael Pamer, later joining Lanner’s trio, thus transformed into a quartet. After some years as a viola-player and deputy conductor of Lanner’s band, Strauss in 1827 formed an orchestra of his own, touring subsequently throughout Central Europe and as far as the British Isles. It was Lanner and Strauss who gave the final form to the Viennese Waltz, with music that seized the imagination of the world.

The long journeys of Johann Strauss were made by mail-coach. His Reise-Galopp (“Travel Galop”) of 1836 refers to his extended concert-tour of German cities in the previous year. By the time of his Eisenbahn-lust Walzer (“Railway Delight Waltz”) written in the summer of 1836, the railway had become fashionable and building work had started on the first public railway-line in Austria, from Vienna to Breclav. When the waltz was played for the first time in the year of its composition, the public had to content itself with a picture of a British steam-locomotive, which was to be used on the new line. At a second concert, in the following year, the public could actually see for itself the new miracle, on display in the Augarten, one of the largest parks in Vienna. The curious could even see the engine move a few hundred yards, drawn by horses. In the same year the Florisdorf-Wagram line was opened. Almost ten years later, in 1847, Strauss wrote a quadrille for a carnival ball organized by the ball committee of the Kaiser Ferdinands Nordbahn. The piece was called Souvenir de Carneval 1847 and is in the established form of six figures of two parts each. At the time of his early death in 1849 the elder Strauss, conductor of the Imperial Court Balls of Vienna, was one of the most famous composers in the world, although nowadays he may be better remembered for his Radetzky March.

Two other well known composers took notice of the first short railways built under the great Habsburg monarchy. These were Joseph Gungl and Philipp Fahrbach. The latter was born in 1815 into an established musical family in Vienna. At the age of twelve he joined the newly founded Strauss orchestra, where he remained eight years as a flautist and had his first compositions performed. In 1835 he formed a band of his own, an enterprise in which he was so successful that a few years later he was put in charge of music for the Imperial Court Balls, taking turns with Lanner and Strauss. The Locomotiv-Galopp was published in 1838 and was probably inspired by the Florisdorf-Wagram railway.

Apart from Great Britain, the original home of railways and locomotives, Belgium was the first continental country to boast a railway of its own. The Brussels-Mechelns line was opened in 1835. In the same year the Bavarian Nuremberg-Fürth line was inaugurated and on both lines British locomotives of the so called Patentée type were used. The same applied to the first Russian line, covering a distance of 27 kilometres from St. Petersburg to Pavlovsk. This line was opened in 1837 and the following year the “Vauxhall” or station building at the terminus was completed. The summer palace of the Tsar was at Tsarskoye-Selo (now Pushkin), the next to last stop on the line. Close by the Vauxhall in Pavlovsk was the castle of Paul I, the then residence of the Tsar’s brother, the Grand Duke Konstantin. The station building itself was designed as a large pleasure palace, where indoor as well as outdoor concerts could be given, with the restaurant and the salons facing the fine castle grounds. The Tsarskoye-Selo Railway Company had made a considerable effort to attract passengers from the capital and attempts had been made to engage Strauss for a series of Vauxhall concerts, but his other commitments led to the company contenting itself instead with the less distinguished Gungl, Lumbye and Labitzky.

Hans Christian Lumbye was born in Copenhagen in 1810 and started his career as a bugler in the Royal Horse Guards. He had his first contact with the music of Strauss and Lanner, played by a touring orchestra, in 1839, and was so fascinated by these new sounds that he decided to form an orchestra of his own on the model of the Strauss orchestra. When the Tivoli opened in 1843 Lumbye was engaged as conductor. The first Danish railway, between Copenhagen and Roskilde, was opened in 1847, and for the occasion Lumbye provided his Kjobenhavns Jernbane-Damp-Galop (“Copenhagen Railway Steam Galop”). In 1850 he conducted the summer concerts at Pavlovsk, succeeding the Hungarian Johann Gungl. The following season the contract for the musical railway station went to the uncle of Johann Gungl, Joseph, an established conductor and composer, born in 1809, who had started his career as an oboist and leader of a military band in Graz, later becoming Imperial Court conductor in Berlin. Joseph Gungl also appeared in 1849 as a conductor in New York. His Eisenbahn-Dampf-Galopp (“Railway Steam Galop”) was written in Graz and probably referred in its title to the Florisdorf-Wagram line.

The most brilliant period of the Tsarskoye-Selo line began after the younger Johann Strauss has assumed responsibility for the concerts in 1856. During eleven five-month seasons Strauss worked in Pavlovsk, taking turns with his younger brothers Josef and Eduard. The Vauxhall, however, was not the first railway station where the younger Strauss had given concerts. Already in 1847, while his father was still at the height of his powers, he had given the first performance of his Wilde Rosen (“Wild Roses”) waltz in the station coffee-house of the Wien-Gloggnitz line. Spiralen (“Spirals”), another waltz, was written for the ball of the Vienna railway engineer son 31st January 1858. The following year another waltz, Reise-Abenteuer (“Travel Adventures”) had its first performance in Pavlovsk. This was written in Russia and the adventures of the titles clearly refer in some way to events on a railway journey, with a dramatic coda. The waltz Accellerationen gives a good illustration of the acceleration of a locomotive or, perhaps, of another machine. The title-page of the piano edition, however, shows a locomotive, although the waltz was written for the students of Vienna University, In the early 1870s excursion trips on the quickly growing network of railways around Vienna became fashionable. In his polka Vergnügungszug (“Pleasure Train”) Strauss uses signals and the puffs of the boiler to give the real feeling of a pleasure trip by train to the public at a carnival ball arranged by the Industrial Society in the Vienna Redoutensaal on 19th January 1864. Josef Strauss, the younger brother of Johann Strauss, also contributed to railway music. At the inauguration of the Vienna-Munich line, the Elisabeth-Bahn, in 1860, a party was given in the Augarten on 15th August and for this Josef Strauss wrote a polka française, Gruss am München (“Greetings to Munich”).

By 1860 the building of railways in Scandinavia was well under way. Sweden and Norway were united and the Norwegians came first with the Christiania (Oslo)—Eidsvoll line in 1854. Two years later the Swedish Örebro-Nora line was completed and in 1868 the state railway between Stockholm and Gothenburg was ready. The builder was Nils Ericsson, who at the inauguration was honoured with a Railway Galop by Jean Meyer, a musician who had been born in Hamburg but who had moved in his youth to Sweden. Meyer worked principally as a violinist and leader of the orchestra of the Stockholm Royal Opera House, but he also composed some music for violin and piano.

Ericsson was a prominent engineer and the brother of John Ericsson, who built the armoured vessel the Monitor for the United States of America. He had also built a locomotive, the Novelty, which was outclassed by Stephenson’s Rocket in 1829.

The opening of the Stockholm-Christiania line in 1871 was celebrated with parties in Sweden and Norway. Traugott Grahl (1802–84) composed a waltz with the title Sveas helsning till Nore (“Greetings from Sweden to Norway”), dedicated to the young people of the two nations. Grahl had emigrated from Germany to Sweden. His real name was Carl Gottfried Grahl and he had become bandmaster of a Swedish regiment, making himself known in his adopted country as an able arranger and composer.

Finland too was not without railways. The country was a Russian Grand Duchy but enjoyed a considerable degree of autonomy. The first Finnish railway ran between Helsingfors (Helsinki) and Tawastehus and was inaugurated on 31st January 1862. The composer Frans Hoyer took the opportunity of celebrating the event with his Jernban-Galopp (“Railway Galop”), dedicated to the Baroness Rokassowsky. The locomotive at the inauguration had the name Lemminkäinen and drew a carriage and a few freight wagons carrying railway material.

The remaining compositions are by Eduard Strauss and Carl Michael Ziehrer. Both were conductors of the Imperial Court Balls in Vienna. Almost all their railway music was written for various balls in Vienna organized by railway officials. The polka Nachtschwalbe (“Night Swallows”) by Ziehrer was originally called Rückwerts fertig! (“Ready in the Rear! ”), the shout of the guard in the last carriage of the train as a signal for departure.

Berth Vestergård
Translation by Johannes Olde

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