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8.554524 - STRAUSS II, J.: 100 Most Famous Works, Vol. 8

Johann Strauss II (1825-1899)
100 Most Famous Works Vol. 8

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] Indigo und die vierzig Räuber (Indigo and the Fosty Thieves) Overture
The overture to Indigo und die vierzig Räuber demonstrates that, with his first stage work, Johann Strauss was trying to free himself from the tag of 'Waltz King': not one of the spirited waltz melodies in the operetta features in the overture. However, as Hanslick noted in his first night review (Neue Freie Presse, 12.02.1871): "When in the middle of the overture such a Pied Piper of a polka theme ["Was mag in den Säcken drinne stecken?": later used as theme 1A in Strauss's Im Sturmschritt! Schnellpolka op. 348] suddenly appeared, the unheard of occurred – the galleries, even at this point, broke out into jubilant applause: the people plainly believed themselves to be in the Volksgarten". The unusual pianissimo beginning of the timpani in the Indigo Overture leads first to a march-like Introduction, which then develops into a flowing theme in French Opera comique style, which is dissolved only after some time through the melodious vision of a dream (Moderato assai from the Finale of Act 2, No. 17 in the piano / vocal score). A brisk Allegro transition leads into Fantasca's Allegretto moderato song "Folget Eures Hauptmanns Ruf und Gebot" 'Follow your captain's calling and orders' (No. 9, from the beginning of Act 2), which changes directly into an extensive, and very rhythmical quotation from the closing music (accompanying the text "Was mag in den Säcken drinne stecken?" 'What is hidden inside those sacks?', Act 3 Finale, No. 23). A resumption of the Allegro theme of the overture leads into Alibaba's "Auftrittslied" 'Entrance Song' (Act 1, No. 2). Finally, the effective Act 3 closing music makes a reappearance, leading into the final Stretta.

Johann Strauss himself conducted the overture to Indigo und die vierzig Räuber at the operetta's opening night at the Theater an der Wien on 10 February 1871. The first concert performance of the overture followed just over a week later when Eduard Strauss, the composer's brother, conducted it with the Strauss Orchestra at a promenade concert in the Vienna Musikverein on Sunday 19 February 1871.

[2] ‘s gibt nur a Kaiserstadt, ‘s gibt nur a Wien
(There's only one Vienna!), Polka Op. 291

Johann derived the title of this polka from the refrain of a waltz duet in Aline, a 'Singspiel' (musical comedy) by Adolf Bäuerle; with music by Wenzel Müller, first seen at the Theater in der Leopoldstadt on 9 October 1822. The song, "Was macht denn der Prater", became an immensely popular hit, while its refrain "Ja nur ein' Kaiserstadt, ja nur ein Wien" (Yes, only one Imperial city, yes only one Vienna) became a household phrase. Strauss's polka uses no music from Aline, though into its Finale he appropriately weaves a quotation from the beginning of Haydn's Austrian Hymn. ("Gott erhalte"). Johann conducted the Strauss Orchestra in the first Viennese performance of 'S gibt nur a Kaiserstadt! 'S gibt nur a Wien! on 4 December 1864 at a festival concert in the Volksgarten celebrating the twentieth anniversary of his public début at Dommayer's Casino. Like so many of Johann's compositions dating from the 1860s, however, 'S gibt nur a Kaiserstadt! 'S gibt nur a Wien! was actually unveiled before a Russian audience during one of Johann's highly successful summer concert seasons at Pavlovsk. Strauss featured the polka for the first time on the programme of his penultimate concert at the Vauxhall Pavilion on 8 October 1864 (= 26 September, Russian calendar), performing it under its original title of Vergiß mein nicht (‘Forget me not’).

[3] Nachtfalter, Walzer (Moths, Waltz) Op. 157
In August 1854 Austria formed an alliance with Great Britain and France, who were waging war in the Crimea against Russia in order to protect the Turkish Empire form the Tsar. Austria's action incurred the ire of the Tsar, who now threatened reprisals against the Danube monarchy. Aside from the political situation, a virulent new menace threatened Vienna in autumn 1854, as many fell victim to a cholera epidemic.

Thus, events inside and outside Vienna during the second half of that year so distracted its peoples that the centres of entertainment in the Austrian Capital were hard pressed to entice audiences through their doors. Even Johann Strauss's waltz Nachtfalter, composed for a parish festival ball at Unger's Casino in the suburb of Hernals on 28 August failed to attract the attention it deserved, though it later proved immensely popular with Russian in Pavlovsk. Particularly winsome are the Introduction and opening waltz number, suggesting first the whirring wings and then the circling flight of the moth. Franz Liszt, too was aware of the work's charms, and was observed at some festive occasion most earnestly entreating his daughter Cosima to play Nachtfalter with him as a piano duet.

[4] Postillon D'Amour, Polka Française
(Love's Messenger, French polka) Op.317

Devotees of the posthumous Johann Strauss operetta Wiener Blut (‘Vienna Blood’, 1899) will recognise the opening melodies of the composer's French polka PostilIon d'amour from Act 1 of the stage work: calling to the housemaid, Anna, the Count's personal valet, Josef, emerges on-stage singing "Ich such' jetzt da, ich such' jetzt dort" (No. 1A), which is based on themes 1A and 1B of the orchestral polka. In constructing this aria, the arranger of Wiener Blut, Adolf Müller junior (1839-1901), turned to an orchestral polka which the Waltz King had composed at the height of his creative powers more than three decades earlier, in 1867.

Overshadowed by the events of summer 1866, when the army of the Danube Monarchy had been decisively defeated at Königgrätz by the might of Prussian military forces, the Vienna Carnival of 1867 had opened in lacklustre mood. For their part, the three Strauss brothers strove magnificently to overcome this public malaise, and for 10 March 1867 announced their annual "Carnival Revue" of all the compositions they had written for that year's carnival festivities. The tally of newly composed dances was impressive: from a total of twenty-five works on the programme, Johann contributed five, Josef eleven and Eduard eight. Not content with this already enormous offering, both Johann and Eduard had supplemented their cache of dances with brand new compositions – Johann's bonus works being the quick polka Leichtes Blut (op. 319) and the French polka Postillon d'amour (op. 317), the latter almost certainly having being composed expressly for his forthcoming concerts at the Paris World Exhibition. It seems, however, that there was insufficient time during the concert to perform all the advertised pieces, the more so since (according to the Neues Fremdenblatt, 11.03.1867) "everything had to be repeated", and Postillon d'amour remained unbaptised. The work is next announced as being on the programme of a concert in the Volksgarten on 17 March 1867, given by the Strauss Orchestra under Johann, Josef and Eduard Strauss, although there is no specific mention of this being the polka's first performance. Perplexingly, however, we learn from the notes of the usually reliable Franz Sabay, a horn-­player with the Strauss Orchestra, that Postillon d'amour received its première at the orchestra's concert in the Volksgarten on 24 March 1867. The situation grows still more confused with the disclosure in Josef Strauss's diary that the polka was first played by the Strauss Orchestra under Johann's direction at a concert in the Volksgarten on 31 March 1867. Since, however, Josef also gives the same date for the première of the polka Leichtes Blut (see above), it seems he may have been mistaken. Johann's publisher, C.A.Spina, delivered the first piano edition of Postillon d'amour (with a cover illustration portraying a love letter and Cupid's bow and quiver of arrows) to the music dealers on 1 May 1867, and its orchestral edition a few days later, on 7 May 1867.

[5] Nordseebilder, Walzer (North Sea Pictures) Op. 390
Johann's waltz Nordseebilder is very much the mature companion-piece to his earlier musical "seascape", Wellen und Wogen, Walzer Op. 141 of 1852.

On his doctors' advice Strauss took holidays by the North Sea during the summers of 1878 and 1879, on both occasions in the company of his second wife, Angelika (1850-1919). The couple visited the North Frisian island of Föhr, and in 1879 stayed in a small house in Wyk, the island's capital, where Johann again felt moved to capture the contrasting moods of the North Sea in a musical composition. The result was the waltz Nordseebilder, which Viennese audiences first heard when Eduard Strauss, the composer's youngest brother, conducted it at his concert in the Musikverein on 16 November 1879. The Fremdenblatt noted enthusiastically of this performance: "The waltz, which strings together the most enticing melodies, was received with great applause and had to be repeated four times."

[6] Freikugeln, Polka schnell (Magic Bullets, Quick polka) Op. 326
In July 1868 Vienna played host to the 3rd German Federal Shooting Contest, which attracted no less than ten thousand entrants from many parts of the world. Numerous associated celebrations were organised in the capital, while on the green expanse of the Vienna Prater a special 'Festhalle' (‘Festival Hall’) was constructed. It was here, on the evening of 27 July, that the Strauss Orchestra, under the direction of Josef and Eduard Strauss, gave a concert attended by an audience of some ten to twelve thousand. When Johann Strauss himself made a guest appearance to conduct his waltz By the beautiful blue Danube, written just one year earlier and dubbed by the shooting contestants the "Marseillaise of the Festival" he was greeted with jubilation and each section of the composition was received with thunderous applause. From a letter written by Eduard Strauss it is clear that the Strauss brothers had intended to include as an encore item an aptly-named novelty by Johann – the quick polka Freikugeln. The title of this effervescent work harks back to Carl Maria von Weber's romantic opera Der Freischütz (1821) and refers to the huntsman's 'magic bullets' which always find their mark. Press reviews do not mention the work being played, but Franz Sabay, a horn-player in the Strauss Orchestra, confirms in his diary that the new polka certainly was performed at the event.

Freikugeln was given its first 'public' performance the following night, 28 July 1868, at a "Viennese Music Festival with Fireworks" in the Volksgarten. During the second half of the programme the Strauss Orchestra, directed alternately by the brothers Johann, Josef and Eduard, joined forces with the Duke of Württemberg, Baron Reischach and Archduke Ferdinand d'Este regimental bands to present – apart from Johann's new quick – polka Meyerbeer's Schillermarsch, Johann's waltz G'schichten aus dem Wienerwald (op. 325), Josef's Schützen-Marsch (op. 250) and the Schützen-Quadrille written jointly by all three Strauss brothers.

The electrifying effect the Freikugeln-Polka had on its Viennese audiences was repeated four years later in America when, on 28 June 1872, Johann conducted it as an encore item at the Boston World's Peace Jubilee and International Musical Festival. His audience there comprised some 20-25,000 people in the immense Coliseum building – which dwarfed even the Prater 'Festhalle' – and "The Grand Orchestra" under Johann's direction numbered 809 instrumentalists, including 200 first violins!

[7] Seid Umschlungen, Millionen. Walzer
(Be embraced, ye millions. Waltz) Op. 443

"Brahms must be honoured with a dedication, by a waltz of my composition. In due course I want to present him with this waltz, popular, yet spicy and peppered, without sacrificing the purpose of a waltz... He must, however, be told nothing about it!" Thus wrote Johann Strauss on 25 November 1891, in a letter to the Berlin-based Fritz Simrock, publisher of his forthcoming full-scale opera, Ritter Pásmán [Première: Hofoperntheater, Vienna. 1 January 1892].

It had been Johannes Brahms (1833-97) who had prompted the contract between Strauss and Simrock, his own publisher, when he challenged the latter in April 1889 "to arrange a tie-up with him". Simrock had accepted, and for the next three years acted as Johann's sole publisher (opp. 437- 445). In the event, Ritter Pásmán proved an unequivocal failure. Strauss was deeply upset, the more so since Brahms, who earlier had shown such an interest in the undertaking, had found serious fault with the compositional form of the opera. Through the dedication of a master waltz to Brahms, however, Johann felt that he could somewhat redress the balance with his friend. Long before the waltz was composed, Strauss had settled upon its title – Seid umschlungen, Millionen – and had even asked Simrock to ensure "a very attractive title page" bearing the words: "Dedicated in friendship to Herr Dr Brahms". The title of the waltz was borrowed from Friedrich Schiller's "Ode an die Freude" (‘Ode to Joy’) – and had been suggested to Johann by his friend Julius Stettenheim, who had requested a waltz of that title for a journalists' ball to be held in Berlin in early 1892. Instead, Strauss chose to use the title for a waltz he had promised Princess Pauline Metternich-Sándor for her grand 'International Exhibition of Music and Theatre', scheduled to open on the Vienna Prater on 7 May 1892. However, when Johann learned that the new waltz would be performed by the Exhibition Orchestra, rather than under his own direction, he preferred to incur the Princess's wrath by conducting the première of Seid umschlungen, Millionen himself at the Strauss Orchestra's final concert that season, held in the magnificent surroundings of the Great Hall of the Musikverein on 27 March 1892 – a full six weeks before the official opening of the Exhibition. Brahms, by this time aware he was dedicatee of the new work, was present at this first performance and the previous day showed his appreciation by addressing his visiting card to the Strauss home, with the message: "Tomorrow, your most happy and proud listener!" The waltz occasioned rapturous applause and Brahms notified Simrock: "The third time the whole audience was playing along". Underlining his high regard for Brahms, Strauss took the unusual step of personally arranging the piano edition of Seid umschlungen, Millionen – a task normally undertaken by employees of the music publisher – and as such Simrock was able to put the waltz (inscribed merely: "Dedicated to Johannes Brahms") on sale in April 1892. Surprisingly, in Vienna the composition was slow to attract the public's favour. Johann wrote to his brother Eduard: "The Millionenwalzer does not bring the business which Simrock anticipated. Fourteen days ago he told me that he had sold only 6,000 copies. Certainly a very modest result. Of course, the waltz appeared only two and a half months ago". For his part, Eduard took the new work with him on his summer concert tour of Germany, and at the end of May could advise Johann: "Your Millionenwalzer is causing a sensation everywhere; I am playing it in every concert". In the event, the 'Millionenwalzer' even found a place at the International Exhibition when Eduard and the Strauss Orchestra performed it there on 13 September 1892.

[8] Annen-Polka Op. 117
It is ironic that a work as delicate as Johann's Annen-Polka should have received its first performance in the garden of an establishment on the Vienna Prater called 'Zum wilden Mann' (The Wild Man). The polka was occasioned by the Name Day celebrations for St Anna on 26 July 1852 – one of the most popular red-letter days in the Viennese calendar – although Johann presented his new work two days earlier, on 24 July, at an open-air festival. One press reporter commented: "Johann Strauss has given a lovely present to all the Annas, Ninas, Nanys, Nettchens etc, etc, with his latest polka, which he has entitled' Annen Polka' in their honour. It pleased so much because of its charming, melodious and inviting dance tunes, that again and again there were demands for it to be repeated".

[9] Morgenblätter, Walzer (Morning Papers, Waltz) Op. 279
During the course of a working visit to Vienna in late autumn 1863, Jacques Offenbach (1819-80) presented the Vienna Authors' and Journalists' Association, 'Concordia', with an un-named waltz dedication for their ball in the Sofienbad-Saal to be held on 12 January of the following year. Since the Strauss Orchestra was engaged for the 'Concordia' Ball, Johann was also obliged to provide a dedication composition of his own. Aware of Offenbach's involvement, he likewise left it to the Association to provide an appropriate name for his waltz. When the committee chose to entitle Offenbach's work Abendblätter (Evening Papers) and Strauss's Morgenblätter (Morning Papers) an element of friendly rivalry was assured on the evening of the ball. Offenbach, however, was not present at the festivity, and Johann conducted the premières of both waltzes. In the event, the first night press did not pronounce in favour of either work, but subsequent performances of the excellent Abendblätter found little favour in Vienna, whereas Morgenblätter has retained its popularity in orchestral repertoire.

[10] Tik-Tak, Polka schnell (Tick-Tock, Quick Polka) Op. 365
In order to maximise sales of their sheet-music, it was common practice for nineteenth-and twentieth-century operetta composers to arrange tunes from their stageworks as individual orchestral dances and marches. The Tik-Tak Polka was one of six such numbers which Johann Strauss arranged on melodies from his third operetta, Die Fledermaus (1874). The polka was heard for the first time at a concert in the Vienna Volksgarten on 11 September 1874.

The Tik-Tak Polka takes its title and its principal theme from the Act 2 Watch Duet for Rosalinde and von Eisenstein, and also features snatches from "Kein Verzeih'n! Der Eisenstein" (Act 3), "Wie fliehen schnell die Stunden fort!" (Act 2) and Adele's Act 3 aria "Spiel ich die Unschuld vom Lande".

[11] Russischer Marsch (Russian March) Op. 426
The Russischer Marsch, one of Johann Strauss's 'characteristic marches', belongs to that group of new compositions with which the Viennese maestro charmed audiences attending his series of charity concerts in St. Petersburg in 1886. This trip to Russia, made at the invitation of the 'Russian Society of the Red Cross' and a children's charity, was to be Johann's final visit there, and came after a lapse of seventeen years since his last concert engagement at nearby Pavlovsk (1869). There had been many changes during the intervening years, and after the assassination of Tsar Alexander II by Nihilists in 1881, the autocratic power had passed into the hands of his son, Alexander III (1845-94). The court society which surrounded the new Tsar may have known little of life in Russia thirty years earlier, but was well aware of Strauss's reputation as the darling of the public, and as a favourite of the Imperial family, through his triumphant 'Russian summers' at Pavlovsk during the years 1856-65. The appearance of the Viennese maestro in St. Petersburg in 1886 once again occasioned an outbreak of 'Strauss fever', with shops offering pictures, busts and statuettes of the conductor / composer, while one enterprising manufacturer even produced "Strauss Cigarettes" with Johann's likeness on the packet.

The venue for the 1886 charity concerts was the vast riding school of the Horse Guards Regiment in St. Petersburg, and the 80-strong orchestra of the Imperial Russian Opera had been provided for the concerts. While Professor K. Siecke was charged with the conducting of the symphonic portions of each programme, Johann conducted only his own compositions. The majority of the works he performed were those which had proved popular in Pavlovsk during the 1850s and 1860s, but these were supplemented by more recent works like the Brautschau-Polka (op. 417) and Schatz-Walzer (op. 418), both based on themes from his latest operetta success, Der Zigeunerbaron (The Gypsy Baron, 1885). In addition, Johann composed four new works especially for his 1886 Russian visit – 2 waltzes, a polka and a march. It was at his third concert, on 29 April 1886 (= 17 April, Russian calendar), that he unveiled his Marche des Gardes á Cheval (March of the Horse Guards), written as a tribute to the Tsar's bodyguard in whose riding school the concerts took place.

Although the Marche des Gardes á Cheval is without doubt "uniquely interesting", as the critic of the St. Petersburger Zeitung opined of this and the polka-mazurka Mon salut (= An der Wolga op. 425), its title does not really suit the character of the piece. Far from being a 'cavalry march', in the style of the Grossfürsten-Marsch (op. 107) or the Caroussel-Marsch (op. 133) for example, this work is more descriptive of heavily-laden Russian foot-soldiers trudging wearily through the snow, even to the extent of the diminuendo at the end of the piece as the column of soldiers disappears into the distance. Thus, much more apposite was the name with which the march was rechristened for audiences in Vienna when Johann conducted its first performance there as an encore item during Eduard Strauss's benefit concert in the Musikverein on 7 November 1886: the Russischer Marsch. This was also the title under which August Cranz published the work, together with the composer’s dedication to "his Majesty Alexander III, Emperor of Russia etc. etc".

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