STRAUSS Jr. J.: Edition Vol.49
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The Johann Strauss Edition
Edition : Volume 49
Johann Strauss II, the most famous and enduringly successfulof 19th-century light music composers, was born in Vienna on 25 October 1825. Building upon the firm musical foundations laid by his father, JohannStrauss I (1804-1849) and Joseph Lanner (1801-1843), the younger Johann (alongwith his brothers, Josef and Eduard) achieved so high a development of theclassical Viennese waltz that it became as much a feature of the concert hallas of the ballroom. For more than half a century Johann II captivated not only Viennabut also the whole of Europe and America with his abundantly tuneful waltzes,polkas, quadrilles and marches. The appeal of his music bridged all socialstrata, and his genius was revered by such masters as Verdi, Brahms and RichardStrauss. The thrice-married 'Waltz King' later turned his attention to thecomposition of operetta, and completed 16 stage works (among them DieFledermaus, Eine Nacht in Venedig and Der Zigeunerbaron) besidesmore than 500 orchestral compositions - including the most famous of allwaltzes, The Blue Danube (1867). Johann Strauss II died in Vienna on 3June 1899.
The Marco Polo Strauss Edition is a milestone in recordinghistory, presenting, for the first time ever, the entire orchestral output ofthe 'Waltz King'. Despite their supremely high standard of musical invention,the majority of the compositions have never before been commercially recordedand have been painstakingly assembled from archives around the world. Allperformances featured in this series are complete and, wherever possible, theworks are played in their original instrumentation as conceived by the 'masterorchestrator' himself, Johann Strauss II.
 OVERTURE: DERLUSTIGE KRIEG (The Merry War)
Throughout much of 1881 Vienna's pressmen enjoyed a fieldday recording the various musical projects upon which Johann Strauss wasreported to be working. By no means did all these projects come to fruition:for example, in April he was reported to have promised a ballet score for theHof-Operntheater and in March he was understood to have started composing anoperetta by the French librettist Néolès Alfred Hennequin (1842-87). On 16February 1881, however, the Fremden-Blatt accurately stated that the highlysuccessful librettist "firm" of F. Zell (real name: Camillo Walzel,1829-95) and Richard Genée (1823-95) had drafted a new libretto for thecomposer. Indeed, Strauss had begun work on Zell and Genée's latest offeringimmediately after the 150th jubilee performance of Die Fledermaus at theTheater an der Wien on 8 February 1881, an event which the eminent conductorand composer Hans von Bülow (1830-94) had attended as Johann's special guest.
As is clear from a report in the Fremden-Blatt on 2July 1881, Strauss made rapid progress with the new operetta, the title ofwhich had been revealed in May to be Der lustige Krieg (The Merry War).
At a gathering on 30 June 1881 at Johann's country retreat inSchonau-bei-Leobersdorf, Lower Austria, the composer was joined by FranzSteiner (1855-1920), Director of the Theater an der Wien, and the twolibrettists. Zell passed around the complete libretto, while Strauss astonishedhis guests by announcing that he had already composed two acts of the operetta.
It was thereupon agreed that Der lustige Krieg would be presented as thetheatre's main attraction during its next season, probably around December1881. Only a month after its initial report the Fremden-Blatt (3.08.1881)announced that work on the operetta had progressed so swiftly that it was hopedto present it during November 1881.
Rehearsals for Der lustige Krieg commenced on 31October, and the curtain of the Theater an der Wien duly rose on the premiereof the new three-act Strauss operetta on Friday 25 November 1881. Theperformance and the work exceeded all expectation, and there was universalpraise for the cast which included Therese von Braunecker-Schäfer (asArtemisia), Caroline Finaly (Violetta), Alexander Girardi (Marchese FilippoSebastiani), Ferdinand Schütz (Umberto Spinola) and Felix Schweighofer(Balthasar Groot). The stage work is set in and around the garrisonedMediterranean city of Massa during the first half of the 18th century, andconcerns a dispute between two states. The 'war' between them is played out asa game of love between, on the one side, the widowed Countess Violetta and, onthe other side, the commander-in-chief of the Genoese army, Colonel UmbertoSpinola. To add to the carefree atmosphere of this unwarlike and highly improbabletale, there is no bloodshed among the opposing troops of Massa-Carrara andGenoa, for there is no actual fighting in this "merry war".
Johannes Brahms (1833-97), who attended the dress rehearsalon 24 November, enthused to the composer and critic Richard Heuberger(1850-1914) about "all kinds of fine stuff" to be heard in Derlustige Krieg, though strangely he could not detect one 'hit' in the score.
(Quoted from Richard Heuberger: Erinnerungen an Johannes Brahms. Editedby Kurt Hofmann, Tutzing 1976). The reporter for the Fremden-Blatt newspaper(26.11.1881), however, expressed no such reservations, and plundered hislexicon for pertinent martial terms: "'The war' [= Der Krieg] towhich Johann Strauss has supplied the merry [= lustige] music, ended witha thoroughly splendid victory and a complete triumph for the celebrated,popular Viennese maestro. On this occasion the composer has selected the surestweapons from the arsenal of his invention and imagination, has sent into battlea legion of charming melodies and has totally captivated the public with them.
The public, however, was awarded a victory prize in the memory of the superbmusic which will this season dominate the concert- and ball room, theprogrammes of the military bands, and will be played and sung in all possiblearrangements wherever a piano is to be found ... The operetta was receivedenthusiastically. Johann Strauss was greeted by a long-lasting storm ofapplause, which was repeated during the overture when the first waltz [theAct 1 Quintet, "Kommen und geh'n, ohne zu seh'n"] resounded, andat the end of it".
As a light-hearted aside, the evening edition of the sameday's Fremden-Blatt (26.11.1881) reported that the "KungFu" penny-in-the-slot machine in the Silbersaal (Silver Hall) of theVienna Musikverein had been asked the question: "How many times will'Der lustige Krieg' be given?". The device had replied: "84 times!".
It was wrong: the first run of Der lustige Krieg ended on 15February 1882, after 69 performances.
The Andantino maestoso passage which commences theoverture to Der lustige Krieg comes from the final ensemble in the Act 3Trio (No. 18) for Violetta, Marchese Sebastiani and Umberto, "SüsseFriedensglocken, Himmelsmelodie", heard at the eventual union ofVioletta and Umberto. For the Allegro, which presents the accompanimentto Artemisia's words "Com