About this Recording
8.225343 - STRAUSS I, J.: Edition - Vol. 23
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Johann Strauss Snr • Edition • Vol 23


[1] Fortuna-Polka (Fortune Polka), Op 219. 1848 was a leap year and on 29 February a Carnival celebration with the motto “Countless joys on an extra day” was held in the Sofienbad Room. As an extra incentive a lottery was organized, promising fabulous winnings. In response to this Johann Strauss the Elder, who was entrusted with providing the music for the ball, composed a Fortune Polka, named after the Roman goddess of luck. But there was a serious backdrop to the scheme. In response to an increasingly noticeable trend a third of the proceeds from the lottery were to be donated to charitable causes. But such symptomatic cures could no longer cope with the financial and social problems of the time. The fact that a small privileged social class amused itself at noisy celebrations, while a steadily growing part of the population was dependent on alms, was to prove all too quickly to be a political tinderbox.

[2] Wiener Kreuzer-Polka (Viennese Kreutzer Polka), Op 220. In the middle of the nineteenth century the fight against poverty was founded mostly on private initiatives. Among these was the Viennese Kreutzer Society which had been set up in February 1847. Respectable Viennese citizens had got together and agreed to pay into the bank a weekly amount of one kreutzer* and the proceeds were to be allocated to the needy. On 1 March 1848 Strauss, who was a member of the charity’s committee, put on a benefit ball in the Sperl on behalf of the Viennese Kreutzer Society. In spite of huge publicity in the press attendance and revenue from the event fell short of expectations. This state of affairs was blamed on the bad weather and on rival attractions, with which Strauss too, incidentally, concurred. The Viennese Kreutzer Polka which Strauss had written specially for the occasion was praised unanimously and had to be repeated three times: “If this charming and melodious polka is worth a kreutzer then these kreutzers would soon reach a high price, which in our giddy economic times would not be impossible. But if this polka were to be judged on its true worth then it should be called a ducat or bank-note polka!”

[3] Österreichischer Nationalgarde-Marsch (Austrian National Guard March), Op 221. On 13 March 1848 in Vienna the insurgency against the old order broke out. The revolutionaries had their dead to mourn, yet for the time being they could hold their ground. For that reason the national guards, which comprised armed citizens, workers and students, looked after them. At first the uprising was directed only against the hated regime of Metternich and not against the Emperor and his family. Strauss performed his Austrian National Guard March for the first time in the Volksgarten right in front of the imperial residence and following tumultuous applause from the listeners it had to be repeated three times. In order not to heighten the atmosphere Strauss played the national anthem, with its text loyal to the Emperor, straight afterwards, to which the public sang along wholeheartedly. But when the printed edition of the march appeared only eight days after its first performance Strauss dispensed with his credit on the title-page as imperial-royal court ball music director, a title which he had hitherto held with pride. In May he relinquished his post as Kapellmeister of the First Viennese Civilian Regiment and took on a similar position with the National Guard of the Stuben and Carinthian District.

[4] Aeaciden, Walzer (Aiakos Waltzes), Op 222. Owing to the absence from Vienna of his eldest son, who was resident with his own orchestra in Bucharest, Strauss the Elder was the undisputed musical force of the lengthy Carnival of 1848. According to one apparently reliable newspaper report Strauss presided over no fewer than 120 balls, which amounted to an average of two appearances every day! There was also an impressive crop of compositions: five waltzes, a quadrille and two polkas were first performed between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday. In the case of the corporate balls held for the lawyers, engineers and doctors there was, as it were, an unwritten law that the director of the music for these balls should arrive with a new work written specially for the occasion. Strauss was approached for all three corporate balls in 1848 and for the lawyers, who held their dance celebration in January, he wrote a set of waltzes called Aiakos. The name refers to the descendants of Aiakos who in Greek mythology served alongside Minos and Rhadamanthus as the third judge of the underworld.

[5] Marsch der Studenten-Legion (March of the Legion of Students), Op 223. Although Strauss the Elder, unlike his sons, never applied himself to academic studies and at most came into contact with students only at the balls for the lawyers, engineers and doctors, but he took pleasure in dedicating a march to this spearhead of the revolutionary movement. The Academic Legion had been formed as a volunteer corps within the civilian national guard in the first days of the coup d’état; it came by its particular military importance with the so-called Storm Petition in May (a protest by students and workers in May 1848). The March of the Legion of Students was first performed earlier, however, at the latest by 30 April during an evening entertainment in Unger’s Casino in Hernals. In the second section of the Trio Strauss quotes the well-known student song Fuchslied “Was kommt dort von der Höh” (Fox Song: What is coming from up there?) in the horns, trumpets and piccolo. In those days splendid new stanzas were improvised, in which the unpopular representatives of the old order were lampooned. The disguised quotation in the march did not fully satisfy the public; Strauss was obliged also to repeat the Fuchslied in its complete original form.

[6] Amphion-Klänge (Amphion Melodies), Walzer, Op 224. On 31 January 1848 the engineers held their annual Carnival ball in the place to be in the city—the Sophienbad Hall. For this celebration Strauss, who had to provide the music, wrote a set of waltzes with the title Amphion Melodies. Amphion and Zethus were the twin sons of Zeus and Antiope, the daughter of the king of Thebes; they were also called the “Theban dioscuri”. Their temperaments were totally different. The physical power of the athletic Zethus proved advantageous in the building of the city wall, while even the largest stones submitted to the lute-playing of the musical Amphion and slid into place in the wall by themselves. This bridging of the gap between music and technology was completely understood by the listeners of the time. One chronicler prophesied that the new waltzes would indeed set in motion “…no stones, but many dancers”. Judging by the enthusiastic reception accorded the work in subsequent performances in the Volksgarten one can assume that this observer was not mistaken.

[7] Aether-Träume (Ether-Dreams), Walzer, Op 225. According to one popular Viennese daily newspaper Strauss was supposed to compose a new quadrille for the Doctors’ Ball of 1848. But the popularity of this dance was already waning and the medics, apparently wishing for parity with the lawyers and engineers, wanted to have a set of waltzes for their own ball. The performance of the waltzes took place in the Sophienbad Hall on 8 February, a week after the Engineers’ Ball and, according to commentators, it came off brilliantly. The new Doctors’ Ball Dances received a “noisy reception”. The work would only later be given its final title of Ether-Dreams. Viennese doctors had begun experimenting with ether as an anaesthetic at the beginning of 1847. By practising on themselves, doctors were able to demonstrate the numbing effect of the medicine before they deployed it on patients, with the extraction of teeth and other operations. At the beginning of March 1848 there was a famous case of a deaf and dumb boy who regained his hearing and speech following an operation during which ether was used. One newspaper editor was clearly impressed: “The effects of ether are magnificently undreamt-of and have wide-ranging ramifications.” Was it this observation which provided the impetus for the decision to give the set of waltzes its new title?

[8] Freiheits-Marsch (Freedom March), Op 226. The date and the circumstances of the first performance of the Freedom March have not been handed down to posterity. What is certain is that it has some connection with the revolutionary events of 1848. In writings about Strauss it is pointed out repeatedly that the introduction of the march corresponds to the song Ein freies Leben führen wir (We lead a free life). In fact these words—from a poem of 1781 by Friedrich Schiller described originally as a Räuberlied (Robbers’ Song)—provide the underlay for the opening bars of the work. Whether that was a mere coincidence or was intended by Strauss remains anybody’s guess. One could just as easily sing to this music the selfsame Gaudeamus igitur, the beginning of the age-old student song, to whose melody Schiller’s Raüberlied was sung. But the question remains why Strauss, had he wanted this association, quoted only the rhythm but not the corresponding melody of this piece in a period when censorship had been abolished.

[9] Marsch des einigen Deutschlands (March of the United Germany), Op 227. The revolution of 1848 had its origins not only in economic and socio-political grievances but was also carried along on an upsurge of national feeling. This led to separatist movements in the non-German speaking parts of the Hapsburg Empire, while the German-speaking population of Austria dreamed of admission to a German nation state—albeit one under Austrian leadership. A step in this direction was achieved when the German National Assembly met in Frankfurt am Main on 18 May 1848 and chose the Austrian Archduke Johann as its regent. This kind of spirit seemingly prompted Strauss to compose his March of the United Germany. It was scarcely a hundred years later that the wording of the march prompted the National Socialists to misuse the work’s title for their own propaganda purposes. The earliest recorded performance of the work took place on 26 July 1848 on the Wasserglacis, an area roughly where the Stadtpark is today, as part of a large benefit gala put on by Strauss.

[10] Radetzky-Marsch (1. Fassung) (Radetzky March (First Version)), Op 228. In spite of all the revolutionary sentiments of the time the German-speaking population of Austria was not ready to cede the national self-determination, which it assumed for itself, to the other peoples of the Hapsburg Empire. There was great rejoicing in Vienna when news spread of Field Marshall Radetzky’s victory in upper Italy. On 31 August on the Wasserglacis there took place a “…victory celebration in honour of the brave army in Italy and in support of the wounded soldiers” on which occasion Strauss’s specially-composed Radetzky March was heard for the first time. The official celebration area was not particularly well visited but crowds of people clustered all along the barriers. This work, today the most famous by Johann Strauss the Elder, brought the composer not only happiness. During his final tour in 1849, which took him to Prague and Germany and on to England, Strauss began to sense that people regarded the Radetzky March as an affirmation of political reaction, while some sympathized, partly privately, partly openly, with the Italians and Hungarians who were hungry for freedom. This recording goes back to the original version of the march, which dispenses with the drumroll, is more transparent in its orchestration and in the trio deviates slightly from the widelyknown version.

[11] Quadrille im militarischen Style (Quadrille in the Military Style), Op 229. Much was expected of the Civilian-Officers’ Ball which was scheduled to take place on 23 February 1848 in the Redouten Rooms of the royal-imperial Hofburg. The estimate of the amounts of money rumoured to have been spent on expenses for paperhanging and on floral decorations caused surprise. Naturally the involvement of Strauss, who at that time still held the post of Kapellmeister of the First Viennese Civilian Regiment, added to the allure of the celebration. Although “only” 2600 entrance tickets were issued, 3000 people gathered there, which resulted in a considerable crush. The new quadrille, which Strauss performed for the first time at this ball, received the usual praise. It must have been called Quadrille in the Military Style on the occasion of a later performance or even of its publication, since the early newspaper reports made absolutely no reference to this title. In the second section of the finale the hunting chorus from Conradin Kreutzer’s opera Das Nachtlager von Granada is quoted in the horns and trumpets. Of course this work was first heard in Vienna in 1834 but in the following decades it enjoyed unbroken popularity.

[12] Sorgenbrecher (Stress Relievers), Walzer, Op 230. Towards the end of the long Carnival season of 1848 the ballrooms became full, as if the people of Vienna, in a premonition of what was to come, sought to swap, at least for a short time, the real world for a universe of unbridled gaiety. In the process the proprietor of the Sophienbad Room, Franz Morawetz, made a special name for himself as the provider of such celebrations. It was in the Sophienbad Room, on 21 February that Strauss put on his benefit ball, in association with the opening of the new Winter Garden. How thoughtful Strauss and Morawetz were in the planning of the event can be seen from the fact that they even took great care for the comfortable arrival and departure of their guests by organizing, for a fixed charge, a continuous service of cabs from the city centre out to the Sophienbad, which was in the Landstrasse suburb. The new set of waltzes was called Stress Relievers, which corresponded completely with the spirit of the time. It was given its first performance there and was the highlight of the glittering celebratory ball. One reviewer found the waltzes to be: “…real stress relievers; at least all who heard these melodious, sweeping, brilliantly orchestrated waltzes will certainly have forgotten the travails of the day.” A colleague concludes: “Frenzied cheering—innumerable encores.”

Thomas Aigner
English translation by David Steven

*A small copper coin.

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