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8.554520 - STRAUSS II, J.: 100 Most Famous Works, Vol. 4

Johann Strauss II (1825-1899)
100 Most Famous Works Vol. 4

Johann Strauss II, the most famous and enduringly successful nineteenth century light music composer, was born in Vienna on 25 October 1825. Building upon the firm musical foundations laid by his father, Johann Strauss I (1804-1849) and Joseph Lanner (1801-1843), the younger Johann (along with his brothers, Josef and Eduard) achieved so high a development of the classical Viennese waltz that it became as much a feature of the concert hall as of the ballroom. For more than half a century Johann II captivated not only Vienna but also the whole of Europe and America with his abundantly tuneful waltzes, polkas, quadrilles and marches. The appeal of his music bridged all social strata, and his genius was revered by such masters as Verdi, Brahms and Richard Strauss. The thrice-married "Waltz King" later turned his attention to the composition of operetta, and completed 16 stage works (among them Die Fledermaus, Eine Nacht in Venedig and Der Zigeunerbaron) besides more than 500 orchestral compositions - including the most famous of all waltzes, The Blue Danube (1867). Johalm Strauss II died in Vienna on 3 June 1899.

The Marco Polo Strauss Edition, from which these recordings were selected, is a milestone in recording history, presenting, for the first time ever, the entire orchestral output of the "Waltz King". Despite their supremely high standard of musical invention, the majority of the compositions have never before been commercially recorded and have been painstakingly assembled from archives around the world. All performances featured in this series are complete and, wherever possible, the works are played in their original instrumentation as conceived by the "master orchestrator" himself, Johann Strauss II.

[1] Waldmeister (Woodruff) Overture
On 8 December 1895 Strauss personally conducted the first concert performance of the Waldmeister Overture at his brother Eduard's benefit concert with the Strauss Orchestra in the Golden Hall of the Vienna Musikverein. The novelty closed the first half of an interesting programme which also featured music by Ambroise Thomas, Liszt, Benjamin Godard, Robert Schumann, Paderewski, Mascagni, Mendelssohn and Eduard Strauss. The Illustrirtes Wiener Extrablatt (9.12.1895) noted that Strauss's initial attempt to gain the orchestra's attention by tapping the desk with his baton was drowned out by the tempestuous applause which greeted his arrival at the conductor's podium. After an "exemplary" performance of the overture, the tightly-packed house showed its approval through further hurricanes of applause.

The structure and composition of the Waldmeister Overture are simple, yet highly effective, prompting the Illustrirtes Wiener Extrablatt (5.12.1895) to remark: "With its sparkling orchestral ingenuity, even the overture called forth the applause of the house", The dominant theme – with many variations – is the waltz from the Act 2 Finale, to the words "Trau, schau, wem!" ('Take care in whom you trust!'). Particular delight was engendered by the repetition of the drawn-out three-note theme (the "inverted Danube Waltz", mentioned earlier), to which Strauss composed a haunting countermelody for the violins. It was not long before it was rumoured that Johannes Brahms had written this countermelody into the score for his friend Johann Strauss. As Professor Franz Mailer has so charmingly written: "Perhaps Strauss heard this rumour while he was still alive – it has lasted obdurately to the present day. He may have smiled and been proud that the symphonic composer Brahms, whom he admired without envy, should have ascribed to himself [Brahms] what in fact was the invention of Strauss, the erstwhile suburban musician ". Indeed, a calligraphic study of the Waldmeister autograph full score (now in the archives of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde) reveals only the hand of Johann Strauss.

The Allegro introductory bars of the overture are based loosely on ideas in the operetta score, leading into an Andante 3/4 section. There follows a Piú moto, ma non troppo passage, taken from the "Gemässigtes Walzertempo" (moderate waltz tempo) section of the Act 2 Finale (No. 14) sung by the ensemble to the words "Hm, hm, hm, so in der Näh'". After some development a later section in this same ensemble (No. 14), sung first by Pauline with the words "Trau', schau', wem? Freundchen, sei auf der Hut!", provides the Gemässigtes Walzer-Tempo passage in the overture. The Allegro moderato quotes from the third and last orchestral Melodrama in the Act 2 Finale (No. 14), although its staccato second section is nowhere traceable in the operetta's published piano/vocal score. A link passage follows, possibly based on a motif from the Act 2 Ensemble und Arietta (No. 10), while the Andantino presents music from the Act 2 Duet (No. 11) for Botho von Wendt and Freda, sung first by Botho to the words "Bin Dir von Herzen ergeben". In the Allegretto ben moderato a hunting-style wind section, dominated by horns, foreshadows a song from the Act 2 Ensemble und Arietta (No. 10) sung by Botho to the words "Der Jäger nimmt, so wie's geziemt" (Strauss's parody of the 'Hunting Chorus' from Weber's 1821 opera, Der Freischütz?). A11other Gemässigtes Walzer-Tempo linking section (based again on "Hm, hm, hm, so in der Näh"') is followed by a repeat of "Trau', schau', wem? Freundchen, sei a/if der Hut!", and the overture is brought to a scorching conclusion by a recapitulation of the untraceable Vivace staccato passage heard earlier.

[2] Mephistos Höllenrufe, Walzer (Mephistopheles' Cries from Hell) Op. 101
Mephistos Höllenrufe is the evocative title Johann Strauss gave to the waltz he composed in autumn 1851 for a "Grand Promenade Festival with Fireworks and Music" in the Vienna Volksgarten, which took place on 12 October 1851 under the title "The Journey into the Lake of Fire". (The title is a quotation from Revelations 20:10 – "And the devil [Mephistopheles in mediaeval mythology] … was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever").

The Mephistos Höllenrufe waltz, composed especially for this festival, combined elements of old Viennese dance music with that new zest which Strauss could claim as his own contribution to the further development of the waltz. Such academic observations, however, escaped the notice of the critics, the reporter for the Wiener Allgemeine Theaterzeitung (14.10.1851) merely commenting that the work "received such a favourable reception, on account of its effective and original melodies and brilliant instrumentation, that it had to be repeated three times". Particularly colourful, and fully in keeping with the work's ominous title, are the Introduction and Waltz 2A – the dainty, upwardly-­ascending tune of the latter being suddenly interrupted, and then answered by a sinister chromatic descending passage. It is interesting to note that several of the waltz themes (1C, 2A, 3A, 3B, 4A, 4B, 5A, 5B) in Mephistos Höllenrue are to be found in close proximity to one another in the earliest-known of Johann's musical 'sketchbooks' (now housed in Harvard University's Houghton Library) and were probably notated during the first half of 1851.

[3] Kreuzfidel Polka française (Pleased as Punch! French polka) Op. 301
Although the usually reliable Josef Strauss noted in his diary that Johann conducted the first Viennese performance of Kreuzfidel at a benefit concert in the Volksgarten on 12 November 1865, it is clear from announcements in the press that Johann restricted his novelties on this occasion to the waltz Hofballtänze (op. 298), the polka française Die Zeitlose (op. 302) and the Bal champêtre Quadrille (op. 303). In fact, the composer conducted the Viennese première of the new piece at a Volksgarten concert featuring all three Strauss brothers on 19 November 1865, the day after the publishing house of C. A. Spina had issued it under the title Kreuzfidel!

The Kreuzfidel polka was in Johann's luggage when he sailed for the World's Peace Jubilee and International Musical Festival in Boston, U.S.A., during the summer the 1872. The work appears to have been performed only once, at of Johann's afternoon concert in the immense Coliseum building on 3 July (designated "Horace Greeley Day" after the contender for the presidency). The composer had evidently recovered from a bout of rheumatism in the right shoulder which had plagued him earlier that week, and the reporter for the New York Tribune (4.07.1872), displaying a lack of familiarity with the German language, noted: "Strauss was more himself in conducting 'Wine, Women and song', and in the encore, the 'Polka Krahls Fidal"'.

[4] Du und Du, Walzer (Thou and thou) Op. 367
Shortly after the première of Die Fledermaus [Theater an der Wien, 5 April 1874] Johann Strauss left Vienna on a concert tour of Italy, the lengthy preparations for which had left him very little time for composing the customary dance pieces from this, his latest operetta. A review in the Fremdenblatter newspaper (5.08.1874), of a concert conducted by Eduard Strauss, Johann's youngest brother, is therefore of the greatest interest. "The two novelties 'Augensprache, Polka Française', and the 'Fledermaus-Walzer' – both Composed by Eduard Strauss – which had their first performance last Sunday [2 August 1874] in schwender's 'Neue Welt', enjoyed tremendous success. Both novelties had to be repeated no less than six times".

Johann's own Du und Du, Waltz on themes from the operetta 'Die Fledermaus' was published later that year. The waltz takes its title, and one of its melodies, from the famous Dui-du chorus "Brüderlein, Brüderlein und schwesterlein" (Act 2). Other melodies, from this number are also featured, as well as music from "Ha, welch ein Fest!" (Act 2), "Genung damit, genung" (Act 2), "Mit mir so spät in Tête-á-tête" (Act 1), and Adele's Laughing Song, "Mein Herr Marquis" (Act 2).

[5] Tausend und eine nacht (Thousand and one nights) Intermezzo
Johann Strauss launched his career as a theatre composer at Vienna's Theater an der Wien on 10 February 1871 with the three-act Indigo und die vierzig Räuber (Indigo and the Forty Thieves), described on the playbill as a "comic operetta". Though most assuredly a triumph for its composer, from the outset the stage work suffered from what the critic Eduard Hanslick (Neu Freie Press, 12.02.1871) termed the "pathetic action and offensively empty dialogue" of its libretto, which he correctly forecast "is bound seriously to impair the success of the operetta everywhere". The first night playbill named the theatre's director, Maximillian Steiner (1830-80), as librettist of the piece, although this credit masked the participation of several collaborators on this re-working of an Arabian Nights tale – swiftly earning the operetta the sobriquet "Indigo and the Forty Librettists".

Undeniably, the melodic richness of Johann Strauss's score deserved a long­-lasting marriage to a more fitting and agreeable text. Thus, over the ensuing years repeated attempts were made to forge a permanent partnership between the music and a host of new libretti. The earliest of these revisions admittedly met with a degree of success when the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris staged La Reine Indigo (Queen Indigo: text by Adolphe D. Jaime and Victor Wilder) from 27 April 1875. This version, which also included musical interpolations from other Strauss operettas, was then partnered with a libretto by Josef Braun to produce Königin Indigo (Queen Indigo) and produced at the Theater an der Wien from 9 October 1877. It was a failure, achieving just 15 performances. There was disappointment, too, for King Indigo (text: F.C. Burnand), seen at London's Royal Alhambra Theatre from 24 October 1876 and, very much later, Nacht am Bosporus (Night on the Bosphorus: arranged by Ernst Schliepe), staged in 1938.

The most felicitous of these attempts at tailoring music to text occurred in 1906. That year Gabor Steiner (1858-1944), younger son of theatre-director Maximilian Steiner, commissioned the experienced librettists Leo Stein (real name: Leo Rosenstein, 1861-1921) and Karl Lindau (real name: Karl Gemperle, 1853-1914) to create an entirely new version of Indigo for the establishment he ran in Vienna's Prater, the 'Venedig in Wien' (Venice in Vienna). Steiner further entrusted his resident conductor, Ernst Reiterer (1851-1921), with the adaptation of Strauss's Indigo music for the new theatre piece. Besides Venetian-style canals and palaces, 'Venidig in Wien' also boasted a Sommertheater (Summer Theatre), and it was here on the evening of 15 June 1906 that Kapellmeister Fritz Redl conducted "with youthful fire and invigorating verve" the first performance of the 'new' Johann Strauss operetta, Tausend und eine Nacht. The following day, 16 June, the Wiener Zeitung stated in its Wiener Abendpost supplement: "To the 'Pied Piper's' tunes of the old 'Indigo und die vierzig Räuber', Messrs Karl Lindau and Leo Stein have now provided a new, much better libretto, an oriental operetta of dream interpretation, a sumptuous ballet spectacular with songs". Under the new title of Tausend und eine Nacht, the work won the favour of the public and has achieved lasting success. One particular number in Reiterer's score found a special place in the hearts of the public, and rapidly became a favourite in concert repertoire around the world. This was the Intermezzo (No. 6 1/2 in the piano / vocal score), heard between the operetta's Prologue and Act 1 as Prince Suleiman, lost in his hashish-­induced dreams aboard a barque, listens as 'Scheherazade' tells him a story. In crafting the Intermezzo, Reiterer cleverly combined two contrasting themes from Strauss's score for Indigo: the melancholy theme of the chorus "Du schlummersaft mit Zauberkraft, in Träumerei'n wiege uns ein"'. Oh sleeping draught with magic powers, cradle us into dreamland' (Act 2 Finale, No. 17 – also quoted in the Indigo Overture) and the Andante con moto melody from Fantasca's Act 2 (No. 10) ballad, "Geschmiedet fest an starre Felsenwand"'.Firmly fixed to the bare cliff wall'. By effective use of repetition, crescendo and rich instrumentation, Reiterer extracted the maximum effect from Strauss's music to create the hauntingly beautiful Intermezzo – an orchestral work which has retained its popularity right up to the present day.

[6] Kuss-Waltzer (Kiss Waltz) Op. 400
After the death of his first wife, Jetty Treffz, in April 1878, Johann waited just seven weeks before remarrying. His new bride was Angelika Dittrich (1850-1919), a blue-eyed 28 year-old Prussian actress, but the marriage was ill-starred and the couple were granted a divorce by consent in late 1882.

Among the operettas Johann created during their brief time together was Der lustige Krieg (The Merry War) of 1881, whose popularity in Strauss's lifetime was surpassed only by Die Fledermaus (1874) and Der Zigeunerbaron (1885). Of the ten separate orchestral numbers which Johann concocted from its melodies the Kuss-Walzer retains a special significance, for it bears a poignant dedication "to his beloved wife Angelika". It was Eduard Strauss who first conducted this waltz, as the opening dance piece at the Court Ball held on 10 January 1882. The Kuss-Walzer is, in fact, an orchestral treatment of the operetta's 'hit' number, the Marchese Sebastiani's Act 2 aria, "Nur für Natur", with an added section taken form the Act 2 Finale ("Herr Herzog").

[7] Scherz-Polka (Joke Polka) Op. 72
The manner in which the younger Johann Strauss assumed his late father's mantle of 'Vorgeiger aller Wiener' (First Violin of all the Viennese) was as characteristic of him as it was surprising for the onlooker. Strauss Father had died from scarlet fever on 25 September 1849. That October, after fierce debate, the members of the elder Johann's Strauss Orchestra elected his 23-year-old son its new conductor. Thus, on 7 October 1849, Johann II stood for the first time at the head of his father's orchestra – and presented a concert devoted entirely to music by Strauss Father. Not until the ball festivities in November did the youngster present any new works composed by himself. On 28 November, at the season's first festive ball in the 'Sperl' dance hall – a venue which had almost become second home for the elder Strauss – the onlooker might have expected Johann II to present a grand new waltz. Instead, the novelty took the form of a small and seemingly unimportant polka, to which moreover he gave the title: Scherz-Polka. Yet, in truth, the piece is painstakingly crafted and calls for the most precise execution.

[8] An der schönen blauen Donau, Walzer
(By the beautiful blue Danube, Waltz) Op. 314
It is interesting to reflect that Johann Strauss II's An der schönen blauen Donau (‘By the beautiful Blue Danube’), the most famous of all orchestral waltzes, was conceived and first performed as a showpiece for male voice choir. The work was Johann's first choral waltz, written as a commission for the Wiener Männergesang-Verein (Vienna Men's Choral Association) with whom he was to enjoy a close association over the years, creating for the choir a total of six choral master waltzes, two polkas and a march.

Strauss began sketching themes for the waltz, which would eventually bear the title An der schönen blauen Donau, in autumn 1866, and originally submitted to the Association a four-part unaccompanied chorus comprising just four waltz sections and a brief Coda, but without Introduction. A hastily written piano accompaniment followed soon afterwards, and then a fifth waltz section. The orchestral accompaniment, together with the distinctive Introduction, was provided only shortly before the first performance which took place at Vienna's Dianabad-Saal ballroom during the Association's "Faschings-Liedertafel" (Carnival Programme of Songs) on 15 February 1867. In the absence of the composer, who was appearing with the Strauss Orchestra at the Imperial Court on the night of the première, the members of the Wiener Mannergesang-Verein were conducted by their chorus-master, Rudolf Weinwurm, and accompanied by the orchestra of the 'Georg V, König von Hannover' Infantry Regiment No. 42, which was temporarily stationed in Vienna. The original, satirical, text had been furnished by the Association's own 'house poet', Josef Weyl (1821-95), although a new text was added in 1890 by Franz von Gernerth (1821-1900) which was more suited to non-­carnival occasions and commenced with the now familiar words: "Donau so blau…" (Danube so blue...)

The Viennese were treated to the first purely orchestral rendition of An der schnen blauen Donau – complete with Introduction and full-length Coda – on Sunday 10 March 1867 in the Volksgarten at the Strauss Orchestra's annual "Carnival Revue", which took the form a "Benefit Concert by Josef and Eduard Strauss, with the participation of Johann Strauss, Imperial-Royal Court Ball Music Director". This date is further confirmed by an entry in Josef Strauss's diary. Johann himself conducted this performance of his waltz, which featured as the third item on a programme presenting no less than twenty-four novelties composed for that year's carnival celebrations by the three Strauss brothers. Perhaps surprisingly, in view of the unanimous praise lavished by the Viennese press upon the choral première of the work, the orchestral version of An der schönen blauen Donau did not attract special attention from the critics, the Neues Fremden-Blatt (11.03.1867) merely noting that "every piece met with the most undivided applause, which now and then increased to tempestuous enthusiasm, and everything had to be repeated. The three brothers celebrated in this concert the greatest triumph in the sphere of Viennese dance music".

[9] Russische Marsch – Fantasie (Russian March Fantasy) Op.353
Johann Strauss incurred an expensive lawsuit when he declined an invitation to give a further season of concerts in Pavlovsk in summer 1872, and chose instead a more lucrative conducting engagement at the World's Peace Jubilee and International Musical Festival in Boston, U. S. A.

Strauss had, in fact, given his agreement in principle to the management of the Russian Tsarskoye-Selo Railway Company, though the exact dates had never been finalised, and had begun preparing new compositions for what would have been his twelfth 'Russian Summer'. Among these works was the Russische Marsch-Fantasic, which his publisher, C. A. Spina, advertised during August 1872 and which the composer's youngest brother, Eduard, first played to the Veinnese public at a concert in Schwender's 'Neue Welt' establishment in Hietzing on 12 September that year.

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