About this Recording
8.225339 - STRAUSS I, J.: Edition - Vol. 19
English  German 

Johann Strauss Snr • Edition • Vol. 19

 

[1] Faschings-Possen (Carnival Antics), Walzer (im Ländler-Style) (In the style of a Ländler), Op. 175

On 29th January 1845 Johann Strauss the Elder put on a large celebratory ball with the title “Carnival Tempest” in the Sperl ballroom. In order to ensure that no one would misinterpret this slogan, he added in the press announcement the observation: “…that the designated carnival weather from above would be in no way frightening but would be a surprising little bit of fun offered especially for the ladies present.” By that he meant a shower of bunches of flowers with slips of paper containing epigrams, which was to be staged at a specific time. “For the heightening of pleasure”, reported one reviewer, “Kapellmeister Strauss has written for this celebration new waltzes in Ländler style with the title Carnival Antics which, as was foreseen, should be considered among his best compositions; they formed a magnificent companion piece to The Merry Brothers [see CD 16 / 8.225336]; one could justifiably call them the Merry Sisters.” It is worth remarking that, in his long report on the event, the journalist from a rival newspaper made no reference at all to the new work but did comment on the success of the “latest quadrille” by Strauss. The homegrown waltz, as well as the quadrille, which had been introduced from France, now both had their staunch supporters.

[2] Geheimnisse aus der Wiener Tanzwelt (Secrets from the Viennese Dance World), Walzer, Op. 176

In August 1844 the marriage of Strauss was in such a bad state that his wife Anna filed for divorce. Hard on the heels of this came their eldest son’s preparations to make his début as a dance conductor, something which his father tried as hard as possible to prevent. On 5th September the magistrate decided that the consent of Johann Strauss (the Elder) was not necessary for this to go ahead. In spite of these familiar turmoils, four days later the younger Johann Strauss, apparently unperturbed, stood at the head of his orchestra at the closing event of the season in the Sperl ballroom, which was the dance-hall to be at in Vienna. The event was entitled “Everything is just a rebus”, taking up the prevalent predilection at that time for this picture puzzle. The concert programme even presented the title of the new waltzes in the shape of a puzzle and this strategy was so effective that hordes of people gathered on street corners to try to solve it. What better publicity could there be? Yet that was not enough: during the ball itself two further puzzles were distributed among the crowd; the reward for solving them would be found in the published edition of Strauss’s waltzes and quadrilles. The solution followed in the form of a musical performance by Strauss: Secrets from the Viennese Dance World was the title of the new waltzes, which were taken up enthusiastically; the English national anthem and Joseph Lanner’s Mermaid Dances were the other solutions.

[3] Flora-Quadrille, Op. 177

This Flora Quadrille has nothing to do with the popular Flora Balls which took place every Saturday in the Sperl during the carnival season. The Flora Quadrille dates from the early summer of 1845; at the “Second Extraordinary Industrial Celebration” in the Odeon on 9th June the Flora Quadrille and the set of waltzes Austrian Sounds of Rejoicing (see below), similarly advertised as one of the “most recent compositions”, were the box office draws. The quadrille is dedicated to Constanze Geiger who, shortly before, at the age of just ten, had emerged as a pianist and composer and was being fêted as a child prodigy. She was closely connected with the Strauss family for decades, even after her morganatic marriage to Leopold, Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and her subsequent ennoblement to the title “Baroness of Ruttenstein”. In the Flora Quadrille the Trénis (named after a dance-master named Trenitz, who is supposed to have introduced it around 1800), the usual fourth section of a quadrille, is missing here; the work adheres to an older form of the quadrille which was nevertheless often still danced in 1845.

[4] Österreichische Jubelklänge (Austrian Sounds of Rejoicing), Walzer, Op. 179

The third Viennese Trade and Industry Exhibition opened on 15th May 1845, and attracted a huge international public. The ever-enterprising Strauss took advantage of the occasion to put on a series of five balls in the Odeon, the largest ballroom in Europe. The first of these celebrations was supposed to take place on 19th May. “There was extra lighting in the room, with more than 6000 candles, the food-garden was opened, and there was some impressive outdoor lighting.” But the weather did not play along, so that the event had to be postponed for six days. But after that everything ran to the full satisfaction of the guests, apart from the waiters’ service. Philipp Fahrbach, at the head of the band of the “Hoch- und Deutschmeister” Infantry Regiment, provided the musical entertainment in the garden while in the ballroom Strauss, directing an enlarged orchestra, struck up the dance music. The music specially composed for this celebration, a set of waltzes, Austrian Sounds of Rejoicing, received the usual positive reception. “If good thoughts were rewarded with gold”, remarked one reviewer, “then Strauss’s musical ideas would be dubbed an absolute goldmine.” At that time royalties for musical works were still completely unknown.

[5] Stradella-Quadrille, Op. 178

With his opera Alessandro Stradella Friedrich von Flotow registered the greatest success of his career up to that time. After the work had been hugely successful on the stages of Hamburg and Berlin there was an unseemly scramble by the Kärntnertor-Theater and the Theater an der Wien to present the first performance of it in Vienna. The Theater an der Wien emerged victorious and on 30th August 1845 its incoming director opened the newly-restored house with a production of Alessandro Stradella. Incidentally, the prima donna rôle was sung by Henriette von Treffz who was later to become the wife of Johann Strauss the Younger, a twist of fate of which he would certainly have been unaware at that time. Meanwhile, as early as 3rd September, his father was presenting his own Stradella Quadrille, based on themes from the opera, in the context of a benefit concert given for Vienna’s hospitals for children on the Wasser-Glacis, the area which is now the Stadtpark. “The performance of the work was greeted with tumultuous applause by the huge clientele and had to be encored”, announced one newspaper reporter. Subsequently, other composers, including Carl Czerny, Anton Diabelli and Tobias Haslinger, tried to capitalize on the operatic novelty by arranging its favourite melodies into potpourris.

[6] Sommernachts-Träume (Summer Night’s Dreams), Walzer, Op. 180

Was it perhaps this début in a competitive situation of Johann Strauss the Younger that brought the elder Strauss, always as busy as a bee, to new heights of productivity? On 17th June 1845, in the context of “an extraordinary celebratory soirée” in the royal-imperial Volksgarten, he presented his set of waltzes, Summer Night’s Dreams, the fifth new work to be written in as many weeks. That the quality of the creations from Strauss was not compromised by their quantity was attested to by both the public and the press alike: “Strauss’s new waltzes, entitled Summer Night’s Dreams, and given for the first time, received an enthusiastic, yet deserved, reception and had to be encored three times. The waltzes are pure Strauss—there can be no higher praise than that. The last of them is so singable and popular that an echo of it must come to us in our dreams.” Even Robert Schumann was highly impressed by this waltz; in his characteristically expressive metaphors he spoke of: “Rhapsodizing in A flat major, to the flowers of evening, to the shapes of twilight, and to the memories of youth long past.” Whether or not Strauss was aware of this praise from such an unexpected quarter is not known.

[7] Heitere Lebensbilder (Merry Pictures of Life), Walzer, Op. 181

In the spring of 1845 the highest flood waters of the Elbe, the “Saxon Deluge”, wreaked devastating damage along the course of the river. Even northern Bohemia was seriously affected. Among the countless relief efforts for the flood victims was a benefit concert arranged by Strauss which took place on 10th July on the Wasser-Glacis. The reviewer could not remember having heard “…such hurricane-like applause, such unbridled enthusiasm, as when Strauss presented his new waltzes, entitled Merry Pictures of Life; their melodic richness, their surprising originality and their rhythmic drive demonstrated yet again that Strauss possesses complete mastery of the waltz, that in his own genre he stands alone, complete and unrivalled. In fact it is indisputable that, with every new set by this Croesus of the waltz, one is tempted to consider it the best. The delighted public, who couldn’t get enough of these waltz-songs, so rich in humour, mobbed their brilliant creator so that even avenues were blocked, and were so enthusiastic that Strauss had to repeat them five times and was able to save himself from a sixth repetition only by playing instead the Marianka Polka.”

[8] Die Landjunker (The Country Squires), Walzer (im Ländler-Stil) (In the style of a Ländler), Op. 182

When Strauss was at the height of his fame the premières of his new works were almost always covered extensively in the newspapers. This would normally have happened with the set of waltzes The Country Squires and that it did not might be explained by the fact that the venue of its first performance, Unger’s Casino in Hernals, was not considered to be among the top rank of pleasure establishments in and around the capital city. Yet Unger’s Casino had at its disposal the largest inn-garden in Vienna and was often visited by famous foreign guests such as Giacomo Meyerbeer, Hector Berlioz and Franz Liszt. Unger’s Casino was to play a fateful rôle in the life of the Strauss family: Johann Strauss (the Elder) made his last-ever appearance there while his son Josef began his musical career in the same place. During the summer season of 1845 Strauss (the Elder) appeared there every Sunday. On 31st August there took place: “…a large celebration and ball, with impressive illuminations in the garden and festive decorations in the ballroom”, at which The Country Squires was given its first performance. The work subsequently appeared, like all of Strauss’s waltzes at that time, in no fewer than eleven different arrangements.

[9] Amoretten-Quadrille (Cupids’ Quadrille), Op. 183

The name of the wife of Emperor Ferdinand of Austria was Maria Anna, and this coincidence gave added meaning to Anna Day, which from time immemorial was a special event in Vienna’s calendar of festivities. As in previous years Strauss performed at the event in 1845, on 25th July, on this occasion in the elegant Volksgarten, very close to the Hofburg. “Countless numbers of select people, Strauss waltzes, magnificent arrangements, Corti’s delicate ice creams—these are the ingredients which are so much in vogue these days at the celebrations in the Volksgarten and which proved so spectacularly successful this time. Strauss produced a new quadrille which has no name but which included so much. All of Strauss’s hallmarks are there: an abundance of melody, musical piquancy, sparkling instrumentation, originality of invention, an irresistible momentum and characterization. All are to be found in this marvellous quadrille, whose Eté, Pantalon and Finale are electric and concede nothing to the famous Musard Quadrilles. The Volksgarten crowd applauded so enthusiastically that these magnificent pieces were played again twice.“ It was only later that Strauss gave the work its title—Cupids’ Quadrille; the reasons for this delay can only be guessed at.

[10] Concordia-Tänze (Concordia Dances), Walzer, Op. 184

The new set of waltzes, which Strauss introduced at the Lawyers’ Ball on 12th January 1846 in the Redouten rooms, bore the highly meaningful title, Concordia Dances, so called in honour of the ancient Roman goddess of harmony. But in the life of the Strauss family there was anything but harmony. The judicial divorce proceedings between Johann and Anna degenerated into a War of the Roses, and from a career perspective Johann began to sense the competitiveness of his son. Although the younger Johann could not seriously undermine his father’s position, the newspapers, for which out of reverence the private lives of the greatest stars were considered off-limits, gratefully seized upon the artistic rivalry within the family. Johann Strauss the Elder, who certainly did not want to be dubbed in society with the label “Father” and who saw the public perception of his uniqueness under threat, knew how to find a solution. Five days before the première of his Concordia Dances he had applied to be appointed to the title, created specially for him, of “Imperial-Royal Director of Music for Balls”. Incidentally, once again Robert Schumann showed himself to be enthusiastic about the new work which, like all of Strauss’s waltzes at that time, appeared in eleven arrangements. He called them, poetically: “Real foot-waltzes, to which everything surges and jumps—locks of hair, eyes, lips, arms and feet.


Thomas Aigner
English translation by David Stevens


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