About this Recording
8.223563 - STRAUSS, Josef: Edition - Vol. 3
English  German 

Josef Strauss (1827–1870)
Edition • Volume 3

 

[1] Avantgarde. Marsch (Avant-garde. March), Op. 14

On 23 April 1856, Josef Strauss made his first public appearance before an orchestra, violin in hand, at the small pub that was a favourite of the brothers Strauss, the Großer Zeisig in Burgglacis (today Burggasse 2). Johann Strauss had left for Pavlovsk near St. Petersburg, and “Pepi” was left to single-handedly uphold the position of the Strauss Orchestra in the waltz business in Vienna during the summer season. As if in an effort to encourage himself, Josef Strauss presented the Avantgarde-Marsch, a rhythmic piece strictly patterned after the imperial military marches. The piece was obviously a success, since during the following weeks and months it reappeared in the orchestra’s programmes. When “Pepi” presented the piece at the end of April during the opening of the summer season in Ungers Casino, the Theaterzeitung reported: “Due to vehement requests by the audience, Josef Strauss had to repeat the very successful Avantgarde-Marsch”.

Well, “Pepi” never did win the title of “March King” (for which several military orchestra conductors were vying at the end of the century). But the AvantgardeMarsch was nonetheless the first success in a long series of interesting and fast marches penned by the sensitive and not at all bellicose Josef Strauss.

[2] Mai-Rosen. Walzer (May Rose. Waltz), Op. 34

During the first years of his career as an orchestra conductor and composer, Josef Strauss read from time to time in the newspapers that he seemed to be following in Joseph Lanner’s footsteps with his waltzes. “Pepi” must have been pleased with this idea, since among Vienna music fans the memory of the blond violinist, who died much too young in 1843, was still very vivid. To be compared to him and measured against his success represented both recognition and a challenge for “Pepi” Strauss. Certainly, there is a certain affinity between the two Viennese musicians: young Josef Strauss, too, had written several light-hearted melodies in three-quarter time, but in his early works there was also room for a touch of melancholy. “Pepi” was quite an individual, a fact which he proved in the sometimes truly “Lanner-like” yet still totally original waltz scores which he wrote in the spring of 1857 for a May Festival in the Volksgarten. But Josef the conductor must have thought that the new waltz by Josef the composer needed a special rehearsal, and therefore he included it—as noted in his records and those of horn player Franz Sabay—in the programme of the Sunday concert held at Ungers Casino in Hernals on 10 May 1857. Two days later, in the Volksgarten, the waltz was officially “premièred” and greatly admired.

[3] Caprice. Quadrille (Caprice. Quadrille), Op. 65

During the carnival season of 1859, Carl Haslinger published two Quadrilles by Josef Strauss, which obviously dated back to 1858, since they were not included in the dance programme for the carnival of 1859. These were the Lanciers-Quadrille and the Caprice-Quadrille. Since in Vienna the Lanciers-Quadrille was only being taught by dancing master Schwott, it may be assumed that the latter work and possibly also the Caprice-Quadrille were composed for a private function. The Theaterzeitung edition of 2 March 1859 provides an interesting report in which the publication of the two Quadrilles by the Haslinger Publishing Company is mentioned. It states: “Josef Strauss’s Lanciers- and ‘Caprice-Quadrille’ are two wonderful dance pieces with original, lovely melodies set to an effective arrangement. Both are the favourite dances this season of Vienna’s dance aficionados and they are also meeting with increased acceptance and popularity in private circles, as is true of all the dance compositions of the brothers Strauss”.

[4] Die Naive. Polka française (The Naive Woman. French Polka), Op. 77

In the early summer of 1859, the conductors in Vienna had a difficult time attracting audiences to their concerts. Life in the imperial city on the Danube was practically paralysed by the tragic events on the battlefield of northern Italy, where the troops of the Danubian Monarchy were defeated by the allied troops of the French and Italians. The Theaterzeitung reported on 9 July 1859 that Josef Strauss nonetheless succeeded in kindling the interest of numerous people for his concerts in the imperial Volksgarten and in Ungers Casino. The series of compositions by “Pepi” Strauss started with a simple French Polka, Die Naive, which was to première on 15 June and which probably was, in fact, presented on that day, since on 20 July, for the St. Anne Festival in Ungers Casino, a second piece (the Elfen-Polka, Op. 74) was announced as the new work. The Polka Die Naive remained part of the programme throughout the summer. It must have been well-received by audiences, but was later completely forgotten.

[5] Die Lachtaube. Polka-Mazurka (The Ring-necked, or Laughing Dove. Polka-mazurka), Op. 117

During the carnival of 1862, Josef Strauss performed his new Polka-mazurka Die Lachtaube for the very first time. From his notes and those of horn player Franz Sabay, we know that Josef Strauss chose the costume ball in the Theater an der Wien for this première. It took place on 19 February 1862 in the crowded theatre on the shores of the Vienna River. There was so much going on the night of the ball, that the première went virtually unnoticed. The Polka-mazurka had been advertised for the costume ball on 22 January 1862 in the Sofiensaal, but it seems that Josef Strauss did not find an opportunity to actually present the work at that time. The giggling sounds made by this dove – hence its German name – which is raised as a pet in numerous regions of Europe, can supposedly be heard, especially in the trio of the melody. The piano score of the work, whose cover illustration features a “laughing dove”, became available on 1 May 1862. The Lachtaube was part of the Strauss Orchestra’s repertoire for only one summer; the following season the work was placed in the archives.

[6] Associationen. Walzer (Associations. Waltz), Op. 143

During the carnival of 1863, Josef Strauss had to fill in for his sick brother Johann, and he quickly composed all the new pieces for the trade balls. “Pepi” was apparently able to accomplish this enormous task without too much trouble, since even at the Industrialists Ball on 21 January 1863, held at the imperial Redoutensaal of the Hofburg, he was able to present the dedication waltz. The work was entitled Associationen; since it was the dedication piece for the Industrialists Ball, this title referred to business contacts rather than the association of thoughts and ideas. The reporter who covered the ball was able to state that the piece had received enthusiastic applause and had to be repeated. The score of the Associationen waltz was not published until the fall of 1863.

[7] Sport. Polka schnell (Sport. Quick polka), Op. 170

Around the middle of the nineteenth century, the first ice skaters appeared on the frozen rivers and lakes and then, swept along by the athletic movement in Germany, the physical fitness craze quickly took hold in the Danubian Monarchy. When Josef Strauss, on 9 October 1864, during his farewell concert prior to leaving for a guest performance in Breslau, presented the new Sport-Polka schnell for the first time in the Dianasaal, all the established sports were experiencing rapid growth in Vienna. Only the men’s running competition had been cancelled since 1848: the long-distance run in the Prater Hauptallee was considered a “human torture” and consequently banned.

Looking at the piano score of the Sport-Polka, it can be deduced that Josef Strauss once again had had his favourite sport, horse racing, in mind. The front cover shows a jockey with a female partner in a whirlwind dance—and that is precisely how fast the Sport-Polka is. It belongs among the lively compositions of the otherwise extremely reserved and rather shy “Pepi” Strauss.

[8] Flick und Flock. Quadrille (Flick and Flock. Quadrille), Op. 187

The comic ballet Flick und Flock by Paul Taglioni, with music by Peter Ludwig Hertel, premièred on 4 October 1865 in the Vienna Kärtnerthortheater. But even before this première, some of the prettiest melodies of this work could be heard in the Volksgarten in the form of the Flick und Flock-Quadrille by Josef Strauss. The Strauss Orchestra surprised its audience with this new work during a benefit concert on 1 October 1865. It was not difficult for “Pepi” Strauss to find the motifs for this Quadrille: the ballet had already premiered in Milan on 15 February 1862 and had made its way to Vienna via Berlin. Detailed reports about the success of the ballet Flick und Flock in Italy and Germany had also stirred interest in the coming attraction in Vienna, wherefore the Flick und Flock-Quadrille by Josef Strauss was greeted by a curious audience when it was played for the first time. Both Vienna performances were very successful: the rendition of the Quadrille on 1 October 1865 in the Volksgarten, and the première of the ballet on 4 October of the same year. Just like the ballet, the Flick und Flock-Quadrille was part of the repertoire for a long time.

[9] Gnomen. Polka française (Gnomes. French Polka), Op. 217

On 20 February, Josef Strauss selected a costume ball in the Sofiensaal as the occasion for the première of a merry character piece set to a polka rhythm. His Gnomen-Polka by no means conjures up mysterious goblins, but depicts a gang of dwarfs hard at work. They are hammering away, just like in Richard Wagner’s Nibelungen—especially in the prelude Das Rheingold. It is perfectly feasible to compare the characters in Richard Wagner’s Nibelungen to the gnomes of Josef Strauss’s composition. Of course, the Strauss polka depicts a happier existence than that in the Nibelungenheim, but both pieces conjure up the work environment, except that Wagner uses the stage, while Josef Strauss uses the ballroom.

The character piece must have been composed by the beginning of carnival in 1867, since the polka was already available in music stores just three days after its première in the Sofiensaal. The cover illustration depicts a jolly gnome raising a wine glass in a toast.

[10] Ernst und Humor. Walzer (In a Serious and a Light Vein. Waltz), Op. 254

In the summer of 1868, Josef Strauss composed the waltz Ernst und Humor. Once the big festival of the riflemen in Vienna’s Prater was over, the conductor, suffering again from his brain ailment, had a little time to undertake a more difficult task. The waltz was planned for the first promenade concert in the flower halls of the Gartenbaugesellschaft (Garden Society) at the Ringstraße in Vienna. It had its première, as planned, at said event on 11 October 1868.

At that time, “Pepi” Strauss started to give his compositions intentionally optimistic titles. Faced with drastically increasing health problems, he found in his work an outlet for his belief in the future and in the enjoyment of life. One of the first works he wrote in this new state of mind was the waltz Ernst und Humor. Thus, it is a transitional composition reflecting his recuperative transformation in Bad Fusch, from depression and collapse in the summer of 1867, to the optimism of carnival in 1869, when he created the waltz Mein Lebenslauf is Lieb und Lust, Op. 263 and the polka Frohsinn, Op. 264. The change in moods is characterised by the introduction (serious) and the five waltz parts (alternatingly light-hearted and reflective). The coda repeats the optimistic motifs and provides for a happy ending. The work was part of the repertoire of the Strauss Orchestra for the whole concert season, but it slowly gave way to the novelties of the carnival season of 1869.

[11] Ohne Sorgen! Polka schnell (Without a Care! Quickpolka) Op. 271

In 1869, Johann and Josef Strauss spent the summer season together in Pavlovsk, near St. Petersburg. Johann was determined not to travel to Russia again in the following years, and he hoped that his brother “Pepi” would take over conducting the concerts at the Vaux Hall in Pavlovsk and thus be gainfully employed. As the season wore on, the chances that Josef Strauss would replace his brother before Russian audiences grew slimmer. For it so happened that the illness that “Pepi” had had since childhood suddenly became more manifest. On 10 September, Josef Strauss wrote to his wife Caroline: “I do not look good, my cheeks are hollower, I have lost my hair, I am becoming dull on the whole, I have no motivation to work”.

A little later, however, Josef Strauss must have overcome his fears about what the future might bring. He wrote a lively fast-paced polka entitled Ohne Sorgen! What is remarkable about this frolicsome, cheerful work is the distress out of which it arose. Josef Strauss wanted to be thrilled and uplifted with optimism. He managed it, too, in the quick polka performed for the first time in Pavlovsk on 22 September (10 September according to the Russian calendar) 1869, which must have made the musician laugh, as it he was in fact “Without a Care!” in the world.

Franz Mailer
English translation by Dr. Luis de la Vega Professional Translating Services


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