ÉMILE WALDTEUFEL (1837 - 1915)
Like Johann Strauss, Emile Waldteufel came from a family of dance musicians. Patriarch, Louis (1801-84) led a highly regarded band, and brother Leon (1832-84) was a respected musician.Emile Waldteufel was born in Strasbourg on 9 December 1837, just seven weeks after the elder Johann Strauss gave his first concert on French soil in that very city. When he was seven, the family moved to Paris for his brother Lon to take up a place as a violin student at the Paris Conservatoire. Emile Waldteufel was to live in Paris for the rest of his life.He in turn studied piano at the Conservatoire with Marmontel from 1853 to 1857, where Massenet was among his classmates.
Meanwhile the family dance orchestra was becoming one of the best known in Paris, increasingly in demand for society balls during Napoleon IIIs Second Empire. In 1865, Waldteufel was appointed court pianist to the Empress Eugnie in succession to Joseph Ascher (composer of Alice, where art thou?), performing at Court functions not only in Paris but also in Biarritz and Compigne. From 1867 the Waldteufel orchestra played at Napoleon IIIs magnificent Court balls at the Tuileries.
After the Franco-Prussian War the orchestra again presided at the Presidential balls at the lyse. Yet, so far only a relatively limited Society audience had known Waldteufel's dances. By the time international fame came he was almost forty. In October 1874 he happened to be playing at a soire attended by the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII. The Prince complimented him on his waltz Manolo and agreed to help launch his music in England. The result was a long-term publishing contract with the London firm of Hopwood & Crew. Since the firm was half-owned by Charles Coote, director of Coote & Tinneys Band, the premier London dance orchestra, this also gave access to the musical programmes of Queen Victorias State Balls at Buckingham Palace. For several years Waldteufels music dominated the programmes there, generating for him worldwide fame as he turned out a string of works that enjoyed huge popularityincluding his best-known work Les Patineurs (The Skaters) in 1882. His French publisher Durand, Schoenewerk was now forced to buy the French rights to these works from Hopwood & Crew. So later did the German firm of Litolff, in whose editions the works sometimes appeared under slightly different German names. In addition, to suit Germanic custom, in 1883 Litolff retrospectively began an opus numbering system. This began at 101 to make arbitrary allowance for early works, and for various reasons many works were numbered out of chronological sequence, thereby providing a source of much confusion ever since.
Waldteufel appeared in London in 1885 and Berlin in 1889, and in 1890 and 1891 he conducted at the Paris Opra Balls. His orchestra continued to provide dance music for Presidential Balls, as well as for other Society functions, until 1899, when he retired. He continued to compose, but his style was by then outdated. He died in Paris on 12th February 1915 at the age of 77. His wife, a former singer Clestine Dufau, whom he married in 1873 and who bore him two sons and a daughter, had died the previous year.
Waldteufel was recognised as a good-natured person, with a ready sense of humourcharacteristics that are readily perceivable in his music. Unlike the music of Johann Strauss, Waldteufels perhaps scales no great architectural heights, but rather seeks to enchant by the grace and charm of his melodies and their gentle harmonies. By comparison with Strausss very masculine creations, there is undoubtedly more of a feminine feel about Waldteufels waltzes. Unlike Strauss, he conducted with a baton rather than a violin bow, and he composed at the piano, his works being orchestrated later. The standard Waldteufel orchestration was for strings, double woodwind, two cornets, four horns, three trombones and ophicleide (or tuba), plus timpani and percussion.