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8.223620 - STRAUSS, Josef: Edition - Vol. 18
English 

Josef Strauss (1827–1870)
Edition • Volume 18

 

[1] Armee-Marsch (Army March), Op. 24

On the occasion of the twenty-sixth birthday of Kaiser Franz Joseph, a “Grand military celebration with special festive arrangement, allegorical tableau, military decorations and a symbolic fireworks display by A. Stuwer” took place in the imperial Volksgarten on the new Wiener Ringstrasse. It is easy to understand that the imperial court at this particular time used every occasion to boost the popularity of the young monarch among the population. Almost eight years had already gone by since his ascension to the throne on 2nd December 1848, but the public was still very sceptical of the acts of the young man who showed himself almost exclusively in uniform. Franz Joseph was still far from popular.

For this elaborate celebration in the imperial Volksgarten close to the Hofburg, Josef Strauss composed an Armee-Marsch, which must have been welcome to the Kaiser. But the composer did not dedicate the work to Franz Joseph, but rather to Archduke Wilhelm, born in 1827 and head of the Viennese Hausregiment No. 4 Hoch und Deutschmeister, and inspector of artillery. This position assured the tall, slim archduke a special position in the military hierarchy and was associated with the rank of a field marshal / lieutenant. In addition, in contrast to Franz Joseph, Archduke Wilhelm—who as a friend of music was of course a patron of the Strauss family—was popular with the troops and the population. It was an honour for Josef Strauss to be permitted to dedicate this march to Archduke Wilhelm.

For the original presentation of the Armee-Marsch, the members of the Strauss orchestra joined with the musicians of the Hungarian Regiment No. 58 Archduke Stephan band, directed by the capable orchestra conductor Wilhelm Asboth (1821–1877). A tribute article on the success of the event appeared in the Theater-Zeitung in which it was said that “the Armee-Marsch composed by Josef Strauss specially for this evening was a small masterpiece full of original melodies and piquant instrumentation”.

The work was also performed at the remaining festivals of 1856 and each time won acclaim for the composer. How Josef Strauss, who had passionately and energetically declined to enter military service in 1849, felt at the performances of the Armee-Marsch is not known. One can speculate on this—but Josef Strauss had to adapt himself to the demands which were placed on him at that time as music director in the imperial Volksgarten.

[2] Die Ersten nach den Letzten, Walzer (The First after the Last, Waltz), Ор. 12

After the serious illness of his brother Johann in December 1852, Josef Strauss was forced to give up his career as an engineer and architect and join the family waltz business. On 23rd July 1853, “Pepi” Strauss appeared for the first time at the head of the orchestra, specifically as a substitute (“acting orchestra director”). In August 1853, at the Hernals church celebration, he found himself having to step in for his brother as a composer as well, because Johann had failed to send the dedication waltzes for the Ball in Unger’s Casino from Bad Neuhaus in the Untersteiermark, where he was on holiday. Josef Strauss, who had acquired the necessary skills at his brother’s side, therefore wrote a suitable waltz piece. But he called the work Die Ersten und Letzten (The First and Last). That could only mean: “Once and no more”.

But since Josef Strauss had great success with his composition, which appeared later in print as Op. 1, and he had also to continue to direct at the side of Johann at concerts and balls, he was not able to maintain his resolve. As Josef had to take over the direction of the orchestra alone in May 1854 because Johann went on vacation again, he contributed additional compositions to the repertoire of the orchestra. Among them was a new waltz piece, and “Pepi” Strauss had enough of a sense of humour to call it (with a little irony, but also with resoluteness) Die Ersten nach den Letzten. Exactly when this work was presented for the first time cannot be determined. At the concert in Unger’s Casino in Hernals on 2nd July 1854, Die Ersten nach den Letzten was included in the group of Josef’s “newest compositions”. This means that the brilliant set of waltzes was already known to the public at that time. It can be assumed that Josef Strauss, at about the same time that he took up the baton of the Strauss orchestra, had retracted his resolve of the summer of 1853 and therefore presented his second set of waltzes to the public no later than June 1854.

The set of waltzes Die Ersten nach den Letzten first appeared in the spring of 1856, and indeed apparently as Josef’s only composition from the summer of 1854. The other early works from these months remained unpublished and are therefore lost. But it is astonishing how perfect this second set of waltzes by the 27-year-old composer was. The real Strauss can already be appreciated, as well as Josef’s personal character.

[3] Sturm-Quadrille (Storm-Quadrille), Op. 3

In the Morgenpost of 19th August 1855, and in the Fremden-Blatt of that same date, it was announced that an afternoon concert would be held in Unger’s Casino in Hernals under the direction of Josef Strauss. (His brother Johann Strauss was in Bad Gastein at the time for a rest cure.) The Sturm-Quadrille by Josef Strauss would be presented for the first time at this concert.

The announcement was surprising in that specifically in the 1850s, stormy galoppades and quadrilles were announced as the high point of Strauss balls. The title page of the piano score, published by C. A. Spina following a rather long delay at the time of the Carnival in 1856, depicts a ball scene. But there is no doubt that the Sturm-Quadrille, the orchestral parts of which were preserved only in the form of copies, was first performed on 19th August 1855. Also announced on 19th August 1855 was an “extraordinary concert” in the Grosse Zeisig for 20th August. No other information was given except “New compositions by Josef Strauss: Tarantel Polka (Tarantella Polka), (Op. 6), Vergissmeinnicht (Forget-me-not), (Op. 2), and Sturm-Quadrille”. In the Theater-Zeitung of 5th September 1855, the group of new works received praise in a review of Josef Strauss’s activity during his brother’s absence. The works, according to the review, “enjoyed a most thunderously approving reception”. The wish, expressed at the same time, that these compositions be published was later fulfilled in February 1856. But by then the very first works of the highly gifted but much too modest Josef Strauss had already disappeared from the orchestra repertoire of the day.

[4] Gurli-Polka, Op. 78

On 29th August 1859, a summer celebration and ball took place on the occasion of the church celebration in Unger’s Casino in the village of Hernals. In the afternoon, the small orchestra of music director Ludwig Morelli held a concert, and in the evening, the Strauss orchestra provided music for dancing. On 31st August 1859, the reporter of the trade newspaper Zwischen-Akt reported that “the church celebration held yesterday in Unger’s Casino enjoyed a very large attendance despite the uncertain weather. Josef Strauss, who directed the ball music, presented two dances composed specifically for this occasion: Waldbleamin, a waltz in the lăndler style, and Gurli Polka française, both of which drew a true storm of applause due to their rich melodies and original instrumentation”.

It is impossible to imagine what moved the composer to give the merry polka intended for the village church celebration the title “Gurli”. At any rate, every guest at the imperial Hofburg Theater was familiar with the name “Gurli”. It had to do with a character in Die Indianer in England (The Indians in England), a comedy by August von Kotzebue. Gurli was the black daughter of the Nabob of Mysore in Bengal (thus Kotzebue confused Indians from India and American Indians, as Johann Strauss, Sr., did in his Indianer Galopp, Op. 111). In this popular work, Gurli was depicted as a naïve child of nature who enchanted and won people over with her simplicity and native charm. But an excess of naïveté has always drawn the ridicule of contemporaries. A bit of a practical joke must have been at play when Josef Strauss chose the title “Gurli” for his small polka.
Kotzebue’s Die Indianer in England was first performed on 12th April 1790 in the imperial Hofburg Theater, with Toni Adamberger in the rôle of Gurli.

[5] Brennende Liebe, Polka Mazur (Burning Love, Polka mazurka), Op. 129

In the summer of 1862, at the request of his mother Anna, Josef Strauss had to travel to Russia as quickly as possible to relieve his brother Johann as director of the concerts in Vauxhall in Pavlovsk, near St Petersburg. Jean had sent word that he was ill, and after Josef’s arrival, he returned immediately to Vienna to marry singer Jetty Treffz in St Stephan’s Cathedral. Josef was not at all enthusiastic about being drafted to Russia, but he tried to make the best of the situation. He was able to fend for himself well enough, but in the end he was not able to displace his popular brother in the public’s favour.

Only the titles of the compositions which he presented on his first appearance in Vienna—on 9th November in the Zum Sperl establishment—give an indication of Josef’s frame of mind upon his return to his native city. Josef Strauss called his new set of waltzes Freuden-Grüsse (Best Wishes), Op. 128, and also included a polka mazurka entitled Brennende Liebe. The illustrator of the title page attributed the polka mazurka, which is evocative and melancholic in the first part, to the series of works by Josef Strauss named after flowers. He drew three champion blooms, a flower known popularly and in poetry as “Burning Love”. But the artist did not look closely enough at Josef’s composition before designing the title-page. He would have noticed the description doloroso in the second motif of the first part of the piano excerpt. Whilst the concept painful’ did not have anything to do with the flower, it had very much to do with the composer’s feelings. Burning love had consumed “Pepi” Strauss because in Pavlovsk he had had to endure a separation of great distance from his beloved wife Caroline. With the polka mazurka Brennende Liebe he now disclosed to her his tender affection and the pain he had suffered on account of the separation.

[6] Normen, Waltzer (Standards, Waltz), Op. 139

Josef Strauss gave the impressive title Normen to the waltz that he composed for the justice ball in the Sofiensaal on 27th January 1863, dedicating it to “Vienna’s University Law Students”. It would be interesting to know exactly when Josef Strauss actually learned that his brother Johann was able to provide only one dedication piece for the numerous society balls to be held during the Carnival season of 1863, because doctors had forbidden him from composing owing to the danger of suffering a breakdown. Only for the first representative ball of Carnival 1863, the ball of the Concordia Journalists and Writers Association, did Johann Strauss contribute the expected dedication piece, the waltz Leitartikel, Op. 273 (Editorial). Josef Strauss was placed in the position of having to contribute all of the other dedications—apparently in a great rush. In any case, that was a great feat, for Johann did not announce the doctors’ orders until the beginning of January 1863. He did not leave his brother very much time, but the shorter the span of time available to Josef Strauss to come up with the eight ball dedication works in all for the 1863 Carnival season, the more remarkable his stand-in service becomes.

The waltz Normen, in any case, does not show any signs of having been rushed. The melodies are carefully balanced against each other; a steady flow of always new ideas sets the character of the work. Normen are basic rules of a legal system in human society. Yet this waltz is more than a ‘standard’ dance composition. The fantasy of its composer elevates it above the mere adherence to a proper form. It was “Pepi”’s genius that enabled him to raise the standard to the special with his inspired ideas. In their ball reports, journalists did not go into the special quality of this waltz. They only recorded its original performance at the Justice Ball on 27th January 1863 and merely added the formula, which had already become standard, that the work “had to be repeated”.

[7] Rudolfsheimer, Polka (Rudolfsheim, Polka), Op. 152

The rapid building-up of the area outside of the Mariahilfer Line resulted in the Vienna suburbs of Braunhirschen, Reindorf, and Rustendorf becoming a self-contained settlement area in the late 1850’s. Therefore, at the urging of the mayor of Braunhirschen, Benedikt Schallinger, these communities joined together to form a single town. On 4th December 1863, this consolidation was formally completed. The new town was given the name Rudolfsheim in honour of the then fifteen-year-old crown prince. Today, the fifteenth district of Vienna bears this name.

In December 1863, there were quite naturally extensive celebrations of the creation of Rudolfsheim in the most important establishment of the area, Schwender’s. As Karl Schwender was giving invitations to a private ball in his establishment, Josef Strauss came up with a lively, playful polka. The name of the work could only be the Rudolfsheimer Polka. The publisher C. A. Spina was able to issue the instantly popular work by 20th January 1864. The polka continues to hold its place in the programmes of Viennese music to this day.

[8] Die Libelle, Polka Mazur (The Dragonfly, Polka mazurka), Op. 204

This character piece in the rhythm of a polka mazurka, Die Libelle, which reproduces the whirring wing beats of the acrobatic insect skimming above the surface of our rivers and lakes, is brilliant evidence of composer Josef Strauss’s closeness to nature. During his stay in Trumauan der Triesting in Lower Austria as a young architect and on his hikes through the magnificent landscapes of his home, he may have often watched the graceful play of dragonflies on the banks, providing him with the inspiration for this tone poem. That “Pepi” Strauss wrote down his impression in the summer of 1866 can be attributed to two reasons. At that time a ballet by Friedrich von Flotow, chaming but with music of little significance, was being performed in the small Hammonie-Theater in the village. The ballet was the subject of enthusiastic discussion. But above all, the sad events of the summer, particularly the defeat of the Northern Army at Königgrätz, Bohemia, in the war against the Kingdom of Prussia, gave the musician sufficient free time to resume with increased intensity his travels in the surrounding area and to collect new impressions.

The original production of the polka mazurka Die Libelle took place on 21st October 1866, in the imperial Volksgarten. On 22nd October, the Neue Fremden-Blatt reported that “last evening in the Hall of the Volksgarten, Mr. Josef Strauss drew great applause with the new polka mazurka Die Libelle. The delightful polka had to be played four times in succession”. By 3rd September 1866, C. A. Spina had already published the piano score of the polka mazurka. Why Josef Strauss was not quick to present the new work in concert can at least be surmised. Up to the Autumn of 1866, the interest of the Viennese public in concerts and theatre productions was not too great. Only gradually did the shock of the defeat at Königgrätz dissipate, but in October the time seemed to have come for Josef Strauss to present his masterwork to music lovers. As the report in the Neue Fremden-Blatt shows, this assessment was correct. This is a composition of timeless beauty.

[9] Aquarellen-Walzer (Watercolours, Waltz), Op. 258

For the ball of the Hesperus Artists’ Association which took place on 1st February 1869, Josef Strauss composed the waltz Aquarellen and dedicated it to the ball committee. On the following evening, the Vienna Men’s Choral Society presented, in the same hall, the waltz Wein, Weib und Gesang, Op. 333 (Wine, Women and Song), by Johann Strauss. The two masterworks signalled the artistic competition between the brothers Johann and Josef Strauss which flared up around 1864 and in which there was only one winner: the public. As much as Johann Strauss for the most part was happy over the successes of his brother and acknowledged the value of these compositions, there were also times in which the dashing, happy-go-lucky “Schani” could not bear to look on as ball-goers, and especially the listeners in the representative concerts of the Strauss orchestra in the imperial Volksgarten and in the halls of the Gartenbaugesellschaft on the Ringstrasse, feted his younger brother and eagerly acclaimed his genius. Then, for a time, Johann Strauss promoted youngest brother Eduard over Josef. Josef, however, was basically good-natured and despite his sensitiveness was never seriously offended. It was only after the premature death of Josef that Johann Strauss proclaimed that “Pepi” was the most talented of all the members of the Strauss family.

The Aquarellen waltz shows the full scope of his talent. When journalist Siegmund Schlesinger wrote that in his lifetime, Josef Strauss gave the appearance of being “dashing, with such Viennese high spirits when it comes to gaiety,” he could have been thinking, for example, of the first part of this work. For Aquarellen starts out strong, with verve and energy such as even Johann Strauss himself had rarely achieved—that was indeed “dashing, with such Viennese high spirits when it comes to gaiety”. But Siegmund Schlesinger wrote further: “so artistically dreamy when it come to (his) music”.

This observation also applies to the Aquarellen waltz, for following the furious beginning, Josef Strauss tones down the orchestra and paints lyrical scenes with a refinement reminiscent of chamber music and the reserve of an aristocrat. As few other compositions, this waltz shows the range of artistic expression that Josef Strauss had at his command. It reveals the richness of his emotion and the nobility of his soul.

[10] Colosseum-Quadrille, Op. 175

In 1835, waiter Karl Schwender (1806–1866), an immigrant from Germany, hired a cow-stall on the land belonging to the palace Arnstein in front of the Mariahilfer Line (Braunhirschen Grund). Schwender at first operated a coffee-house that very quickly attracted a large clientèle from the surrounding settlements that would later become districts of Rudolfsheim. He was a born entrepreneur. In order also to bring in guests from the centre of town into his expanded establishment, Schwender acquired a carriage concession in 1850 and his carriages swarmed out into the outlying districts. Beginning in 1849, Schwender also benefitted from an open-air Summer theatre in which the ensemble of the Theater an der Wien played. The theatre did not last long, but his coffee-house flourished. Soon the Strauss orchestra was also performing in his establishment.

Karl Schwender expanded his operations systematically. In January of the year 1865, the able businessman merged the facilities, which had been expanded again with additional structures, calling the business from this time on “Schwender’s Colosseum”. The opulent establishment opened on 8th January 1865 with a Colosseum Ball Celebration and a huge masked ball. In the new “Flower Hall, Josef and Edward Strauss, at the helm of an expanded orchestra, provided ball music. On this occasion, Josef Strauss presented his Colosseum-Quadrille, especially composed for the evening, with a military orchestra participating along with the Strauss orchestra. This band then moved over into the “Pracht Hall” and there performed dance music for the remainder of the night. In the ‘Concert Hall’, another complete regimental band performed, and in the “Alpine Cottage”, Styrian singers performed with guitar, zither, and violin accompaniment. In the “Salon Theatre”, tableaux vivants, performed by thirty ladies “in charming costumes” alternated with the Volkssänger-Gesellschaft Uhl (Folksong Association of Uhl), mechanical / optical light and shadow pictures, and gymnastic productions. The “omnibuses” of the establishment travelled the whole night through to Stephansplatz and back. For the price of one gulden, one could enjoy this extensive selection. Naturally there was a mass attendance on the opening evening. Whether in the tumult of these events the dedication composition by Josef Strauss attracted general notice is not recorded. This lively, most original Colosseum-Quadrille would have been quite worthy of admiration.

[11] Im Fluge, Polka (schnell) (In Flight, Quickpolka), Op. 230

The quick polka Im Fluge carries the listener to the summer of the year 1867. Johann Straus had just held a concert at the edge of the World’s Fair in Paris with sensational success, taking both the aristocracy and the public of the French metropolis by storm. Afterward, Jean played in London for the great number of visitors to the promenade concerts at Covent Garden, again with great success. The new waltz Ander schönen blauen Donau (The Blue Danube) was one of the box-office draws of his programmes.

In Vienna, the brothers Josef and Edward Strauss were practically the sole rulers in the field of dance and entertainment music. Only the excellent military bands could hold their ground in competition with the Strauss orchestra. One of these regimental bands won the distinguished first prize in an international competition in Paris for European military bands. Upon its return to Vienna, the successful band was of course appropriately cheered and celebrated but it, too, did not represent any serious competition as long as the brothers Strauss were thrilling listeners with each of their new compositions. Josef Strauss, especially, seemed simply to pull new pieces out of his sleeve. The merry, lilting quick polka Im Fluge, which makes one think of weightless, gliding swallows, was heard for the first time in the imperial Volksgarten on 24th July 1867. It was the eighth new composition that Josef Strauss presented since the end of the Carnival season of 1867. At that time, the Viennese public was being offered a wealth of melodies as had never before been witnessed in music history.

Franz Mailer
Translation: Dr. Luis de la Vega, Professional Translating Services, Miami, Florida, U.S.A.


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