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8.554521 - STRAUSS II, J.: 100 Most Famous Works, Vol. 5

Johann Strauss II (1825-1899)
100 Most Famous Works Vol. 5

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] Prinz Methusalem (Prince Methuselah) Overture
The world première of Prinz Methusalem took place on 3 January 1877, auspiciously three years to the day after the Carl-Theater had mounted the sensational first Viennese production of Charles Lecocq's opéra-comique, La Fille de Madame Angot (1872), given under the title Angot, die Tochter der Halle. Johann Strauss himself conducted the first performance of his new operetta, while the breeches title rôle featured the popular Budapest-born soprano Antonie Link (1853-1931), already famous for creating the role of Fatinitza in Suppé's operetta (1876) of that name and later to gain even greater celebrity in the title rôle of another Suppé operetta, Boccaccio (1879). Although Johann had strewn his latest stage work with a plethora of enchanting melodies, it did not find critical acclaim. Nevertheless, due largely to the sterling efforts of performers including Josef Matras (1832-87), Carl Blasel (1831-1922) and Wilhelm Knaack (1829-94), Prinz Methusalem achieved a respectable run of 80 performances.

After an energetic introduction (nowhere traceable in the published piano / vocal score of the operetta, and possibly comprising material discarded from the final version of the stage work), the overture to Prinz Methusalem presents a colourful cross-section of the most memorable themes in the three-act comic operetta. The Andante section is provided by a phrase sung by the night­-watchman in Act 2 (No. 8) to the words "All' ihr Herrn und Frauen lasst euch sag'n", while the Andante grazioso is from a passage sung by Pulcinella in the Act 1 Finale (No. 7), "Von meiner Hochzeit der Schluss". The Allegretto (in 3/8 time) which follows quotes Vulcanio's cavatine ("Du schöner Mai der Liebelei") from the Act 1 Chorus and Ensemble (No. 2). After an Allegro transitional passage modulating from G into F comes the Moderato martial song "Piff! Paff! Puff! Krick! Krack! Rataplan!" from the Act 1 Ensemble (No. 6), sung first by Cyprian but featuring several times during the ensemble. Part of the Act 3 Duet and Chorus (No. 17), to the words "Bum! wohin er tritt" (which later appeared in the vigorous Banditen-Galopp op. 378), provides the Allegro assai passage, while the Allegro moderato following it is untraceable in the operetta's published piano / vocal score. This then modulates into E flat and repeats Pulcinella's "Von meiner Hochzeit der Schluss" used earlier. There follows a reprise of "Piff! Paff! Puff!", but a truncated version adapted to lead into the "Bühnen-Musik" (stage music) fanfare which, in turn, leads into the Maestoso highlight of the overture – the Act 3 'Generalslied' (No. 18, General's Song) sung by Methuselah to the accompaniment of the orchestra together with an off-stage band. This 8-bar phrase is then repeated and modified to lead into an Allegretto section comprising a continuation of the 'Generalslied' ("Millionen Bomben noch einmal", sung by Methuselah and chorus). In typical Strauss style, however, the overture does not end with this stately and imposing march, but instead arpeggio and chromatic figures and an increase in tempo combine to provide the highly effective climax at the close of the overture.

[2] Accelerationen, Walzer (Accelerations, Waltz) OP. 234
"A person who never has any ideas cannot create a waltz – whereas operas and symphonies have in the past been written in these circumstances…".

Eduard Hanslick's keen observation is especially pertinent to the inspired waltz which the younger Johann Strauss wrote for the ball of the student engineers at Vienna University, held in the magnificent Sofienbad-Saal ballroom on St. Valentine's Day 1860. Johann's choice of title for the new waltz – Accelerationen – was one of the more obvious choices from the wide vocabulary of the engineering profession, and in the work's Introduction and opening waltz he effectively portrays the gathering momentum of a powerful machine. The first piano edition of the work, published by Carl Haslinger on 1 June 1860, bears the composer's dedication "to the Gentlemen Students of Engineering at Vienna University" and features a detailed cover illustration portraying the notion of 'acceleration': Zephyrus (the Greek god of the west wind a paddle-steamer, hot-air balloon, steam train and telegraph wires.

The work, clearly a spontaneous idea on the part of the composer, is the subject of an anecdote to be found in such landmarks of Strauss literature as the biographies by Rudolph Freiherr von Procházka (1900), Erich Wilhelm Engel (1911) and Ernst Decsey (1922). According to the story, in the early hours of 14 February 1860 an exhausted Johann was relaxing with a glass of wine after conducting for a night-long ball at the Sofienbad-Saal. A committee member from the Engineers' Ball approached him, enquiring whether he had completed the waltz he had promised them for their dance festivity that very evening. Realising he had entirely overlooked the matter, Strauss took just half an hour to note down the waltz on the back of a menu. When this tale later came to Johann's attention during the 1890s, he dismissed it. Although he (and Josef Strauss) had certainly spent the entire night of 13/14 February 1860 in the Sofienbad-Saal jointly conducting their 'Monster Ball', and while Johann was the swiftest of the three Strauss brothers at orchestration, he said, quite reasonably. "It may well be that I somewhere noted down the basic idea for the work, perhaps even on the back of a menu, but even I could not write down a waltz in the twinkling of an eye".

The waltz Accelerationen subsequently became part of the Strauss Orchestra's standard repertoire, and rightfully maintains its place in Viennese concerts to the present day. Much later its success even led to the publication of a version for male voice chorus: entitled "Zeit ist Geld!" (‘Time is Money!’), this was an arrangement by Victor Keldorfer (1873-1959) with words by Dr. Gustav Mayer. A footnote in this edition, published by Schlesingersche Buch- & Musikhandlung of Berlin, perpetuates the anecdote of the work's creation. In 1940, the Accelerations Waltz surfaced anew – almost complete, but for the omission of waltz sections 4A and 5A – in Antal Dorati's pastiche ballet, Graduation Ball, where it accompanies the opening dance sequence, 'Introduction and Assembly of Girls'.

[3] Leichtes Blut, Polka schnell (Light of Heart, Quick Polka) Op. 319
With the 1867 Vienna Carnival over, the three Strauss brothers made preparations to present a 'Revue' of all the dance pieces they had composed for that year's festivities – a practice which had by now become a tradition. Although they had written a record 24 new works – 5 by Johann, 11 by Josef, and 8 by Eduard – Johann was conscious that his own carnival offerings (which included the Blue Danube and Artist's Life Waltzes) lacked a quick Polka, a dance with which Josef Strauss had recently enjoyed much success. With all speed Johann crafted a Quick polka of his own, giving it the title Leichtes Blut, which he presented for the first time, alongside that year's carnival novelties, at a benefit concert in the Vienna Volksgarten on 10 March 1867.

[4] Freuet euch des Lebens, Waltz (Enjoy your life, Waltz) Op. 340
Johann Strauss dedicated his waltz Freuet euch des Lebens to Vienna's influential Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde (Society of the Friends of Music), and conducted its first performance at the inaugural ball in the Golden Hall of the Society's recently opened Musikverein building on 15 January 1870. Just ten days earlier the Austrian Emperor himself, Franz Josef I, had ceremonially laid the keystone of this magnificent edifice, begun in 1867 to Theophil Hansen's designs.

All three Strauss brothers, Johann, Josef and Eduard, provided dedication compositions for the opening ball, but it is Johann's waltz which has retained the greatest popularity. Its title echoes one of Johann's own maxims: "Enjoy your life, and only complain when there is something genuine to complain about".

[5] Auf der Jagd, Schnell-Polka (At the Hunt, Quick polka) Op. 373
Generally speaking, the separate dances and marches which Johann Strauss habitually arranged from the scores of his various operettas bore titles which were connected, in some way, to the stage works from which their melodies were culled. Frequently the first piano editions of these compositions bore on their covers attractive portrayals of scenes or characters from the respective operettas. For these reasons alone the quick polka Auf der Jagd, based on melodies from Strauss's operetta Cagliostro in Wien (‘Cagliostro in Vienna’), remains something of a curiosity.

The first performance of Auf der Jagd took place during late autumn 1875, probably with the composer's brother Eduard conducting the Strauss Orchestra. According to one authority, the late Professor Fritz Racek, the première of the polka took place in the Vienna Volksgarten on 5 October 1875, though it has not proved possible to substantiate this claim.

[6] Donauweibchen, Walzer (Nymph of the Danube, Waltz) Op. 427
On 17 December 1887 Vienna's Theater an der Wien opened its doors to the première of Johann Strauss's three-act stage work, Simplicius. Based on Der abenteuerliche Simplicissimus (1669), a famous Grimmelshausen novel set at the time of the Thirty Years War, Johann's 'serious operetta' met with little success despite being brimful with attractive melodies. The opening night was disrupted when one of the cast's feather plumes caught fire on a stage gaslight, and an audience stampede was only averted when the quick-witted Strauss signalled for a repeat of the show's hit number, the Hermit's last Act waltz romance. "Ich denke gern zurück". Not surprisingly, Johann's spirited orchestral waltz Donauweibchen, based on themes from the operetta, features music form this number for its opening waltz tune. The title stems from the refrain of the Act 3 quartet, and refers to the legendary maiden who brings fortune to the Danube's fisheermen. Johann's Donauweibchen Walzer was first played on 8 January 1888 at one of Eduard Strauss's Sunday concerts in the Musikverein.

[7] Bitte schön! Polka française (If you please! French polka) Op. 372
In Act 1 of Johann Strauss's operetta Cagliostro in Wien (‘Cagliostro in Vienna’), the infamous 18th-century trickster, Alessandro Cagliostro, has amazed a crowd of Viennese townsfolk by apparently restoring life to a corpse. Early in Act 2, six ugly old women besiege Cagliostro's laboratory, and in a charming sextet (No. 9) implore the miracle worker to rejuvenate them with his patent elixir: "Bitte schön, bitte schön, o mach' uns jung, mach' uns schön, wir bitten schön!" (“If you please, if you please, oh make us young, make us beautiful, we beg you!”) It is this sextet (which had to be repeated at the première and which the Fremden-Blatt of 3 March 1875 called "a tripping polka of thrilling effect") which not only provides the title for Strauss's orchestral polka on melodies from the operetta – Bitte schön! – but also the material for its first two themes (1A and 1B). The music comprising the Trio section, however, cannot be traced in the score of the operetta, indicating either that its source was cut from the final version of the stage work or, most unusually, that Strauss may have composed it anew for the orchestral dance.

To date it has not proved possible to establish the date of the first performance of the polka Bitte schön!. Following the première of Cagliostro in Wien at Vienna's Theater an der Wien on 27 February 1875, Johann set off for Paris to supervise rehearsals of La Reine Indigo – the French adaptation of his first operetta, Indigo und die vierzig Räuber – and he may not have found time to arrange the new polka until after his return to Vienna that May. It may be safely assumed that the Strauss Orchestra included the new Polka française in the programmes of its summer concerts, probably conducted by Eduard Strauss. The military bands, as ever, were swift to take Johann's latest dances into their repertoire, and Bitte schön! was no exception. Although Friedrich Schreiber's publishing house did not advertise the printed editions of the polka until November 1875, they must have been available before then, because on 8 September 1875 Josef Hellmesberger junior (1855-1907) conducted a performance of Bitte schön! with the Tonkünstlerkapelle, an ensemble comprising theatre musicians, at Elterlein's Casino (formerly known as Unger's Casino) in the Viennese suburb of Hernals.

[8] Wein, Weib und Gesang! Walzer
(Wine, Woman and Song! Waltz) Op.333
Wein, Weib und Gesang! – a particular favourite with Richard Wagner – was given its first performance by the Wiener Männergesang-Verein at their carnival-time 'Narrenabend' (‘Fools' Evening’) held in the Dianabad-Saal, Vienna, on 2 February 1869. The Strauss Orchestra provided the accompaniment, and although the composer did not conduct the première of his new waltz, he was present among the audience, dressed as a pilgrim, while the members of the chorus were attired as negro slaves! Such was the enormous success of the première that Strauss was called for after the Introduction and each successive waltz section, whereupon he mounted the rostrum and 'blessed" his admiring public. The new waltz was dedicated "in friendship to Johann Ritter von Herbeck (1831-77), Imperial Royal Court Conductor", who had served the Association as chorus-master from 1856 to 1866 and who had recently been decorated with the 'Knight's Cross of the Order of Emperor Franz Josef, but this carnival performance was conducted by Herbeck's successor as chorus-master, Rudolf Weinwurm. Wein, Weib und Gesang! met with unanimous praise from the press, the general view being summarised by the Vorstadt-Zeitung (4.02.1869) which felt it "belongs to the best that the composer has written for a long time". In similar vein, the Neues Wiener Tagblatt (4.02.1869) opined: "The waltz will make its way in life and will become just as popular as the piece 'An der schönen blauen Donau'. The Introduction is a little musical masterwork... That the waltz had to be repeated by demand goes without saying".

As a purely orchestral number, the waltz Wein, Weib und Gesang! appeared for the first time on the programme of a "Grand Promenade Concert" given on 16 March 1869 by the Strauss Orchestra under the joint direction of Johann, Josef and Eduard Strauss in Pest, where the three brothers had travelled for two concert engagements at the Redoutensaal. Not until Easter Monday, 29 March, did Vienna hear the orchestral version of Wein, Weib und Gesang! This performance, a "Promenlade Concert given by Josef and Eduard Strauss in aid of the Home for the Blind and the City Crèche, with the participation of Johann Strauss", took place in the decorative Blumen-Säle der Wiener Gartenbaugesellschaft (Floral Halls of the Vienna Horticultural Society), and marked the penultimate appearance of Johann and Josef Strauss before they departed for their summer season of concerts in Russia. Before long the delights of Wein, Weib und Gesang! were gaining it admirers elsewhere in Europe and beyond, and on 20 July 1869 the first American performance took place in New York with Theodore Thomas conducting his own orchestra, an ensemble which later became the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

[9] Lob der Frauen, Polka-Mazurka (In Praise of Women, Polka-mazurka) Op.315
As Prussia strove for leadership of the German nation in the 19th century, it brought her into conflict with Austria, and hostilities became increasingly inevitable between the two great powers. The struggle to extend their respective territories, and Austria's desire to annex to her own dominions the province of Schleswig-Holstein, were the immediate causes of the Austro-Prussian War of 1866.

Despite earlier victories during the campaign, the Danube Monarchy's military defeat at Königgrätz (now Sadowa) on 3 July 1866 was both sudden and bitter. As a consequence, Austria lost her political dominance in Europe, and in the wake of her humiliating overthrow a shroud of depression spread across her peoples. This disconsolate mood also suffused the following year's Vienna Carnival, and the composers of dance music were faced with the unenviable challenge of instilling an atmosphere of gaiety into the festivities. How magnificently Johann Strauss responded to this situation may be seen from his compositions for the 1867 Carnival: the waltzes By the beautiful blue Danube Op. 314, Artist's Life Op. 316 and Telegrams Op. 318, and the polkas Postillon d'amour Op. 317, and Leichtcs Blut Op. 319. To this list belongs also the polka-mazurka Lob der Frauen, which Johann and the Strauss Orchestra first presented to an enthusiastic audience in the Vienna Volksgarten on 17 February 1867. The cover of the first piano edition of this gallantly-entitled work bears a motto from Schiller's poem Würde der Frauen. In translation this reads: "Honour women, they plait and weave heavenly roses into earthly life".

[10] Napoleon-Marsch (Napoleon March) Op. 156
In the autumn of 1854 Johann Strauss came to a political decision: he composed a march and dedicated it "in deepest reverence to his Majesty Napoléon III [1808-73], Emperor of France [1852-70]". By this action he took sides in a dispute which, against the background of the Crimean War, had split the population of the Danube monarchy and, above all, of the Imperial capital Vienna into two camps. What had led to this disharmony?

Concerned about hegemony in the Balkans and the region around the Bosphorus, Russian troops marched into Moldavia in July 1853, whereupon Turkey, which then had sovereignty over this region, declared war on the Tsar's empire. Russia had tried to win the Danube monarchy's support for its policy: Tsar Nicholas I travelled to Olmütz (today Olomouc, Czechoslovakia) and begged the young Austrian Emperor Franz Josef to intervene in the dispute on the side of Russia. The generals of the Imperial-Royal army were prepared to go along with this request, but the politicians – to some extent under the influence of the elderly Prince Metternich – opposed it, because the British and French were uniting against Russia's action. An ambassadors' conference meeting in Vienna, at which diplomats from Austria, Prussia, Britain and France took part, ended on 9 April 1854 with the signing of a protocol guaranteeing Turkish territory. Russia, Austria's ally for more than a century, would subsequently never forgive the Habsburg monarchy for what it considered ingratitude for Russian intervention to quell the Hungarian uprising of 1849.

As has already been said, the diplomats of the Danube monarchy took the side of the Allies, and this opinion was shared by the majority of the Viennese population, including the 28-year-old Johann Strauss. When – in spite of the raging cholera epidemic – the 'French Party' organised a "Napoléon Festival" for 12 October 1854 at Karl Schwender's casino in the suburb of Rudolfsheim (today, the 15th District of Vienna), the Morgen-Post (12.10.1854) announced that on this occasion Johann would conduct the Strauss Orchestra in the first performance of a specially composed Napoleons-Fest-Marsch (Napoléon Festival March). Three days after the celebration, on 15 October, the Wiener Neuigkeits-Blatt published a short report on the proceedings: "Vienna, 14.10.-The popularity which Schwender's premises have achieved manifested itself again at the grand festival which took place the day before yesterday, which was attended by the élite of society. The 'Napoleon-Marsch' by Johann Strauss pleased, and had to be repeated three times". That November it was announced in the Viennese press that "his Majesty, the Emperor Napoléon III, has been pleased to accept the dedication of the 'Napoléon March' composed by Johann Strauss". For his part, the French monarch expressed his gratitude to the young Viennese 'Musikdirektor' by arranging for him to be presented with a golden pearl-topped pin.

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