STRAUSS II, J.: Waltzes, Polkas, Marches and Overtures, Vol. 2 (Alfred Walter/ Johannes Wildner/ Ondrej Lenard/ Polish State Philharmonic Orchestra (Katowice)/ Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/ Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra) (Naxos: 8.550337)
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Johann Strauss II (1825 - 1899)
To many theStrauss family has been seen as the epitome of the golden age of Vienna, the city that setEurope dancing, with its waltzes and polkas. As the capital of an Empire that embraced themost musical parts of Europe, Bohemia, Slovakia and Hungary, as well as a good part ofNorthern Italy and the German-speaking peoples closer to hand, Vienna proved the mostfertile ground for music that the world ha$ ever known. One reason for this may lie in theinevitable cross-fertilisation of races and cultures, of which the Strauss family providesan example.
The firstrecorded member of the family was Johann Michael Strauss, a native of the Hungarian townof Ofen, who moved to Vienna in the service of Count Franz von Roggendorff in 1750. Jewishin origin, Johann Michael became a Christian and settled in the city as an upholsterer.
His second child, Franz Strauss, married the daughter of a coachman and worked as a waiterbefore taking the tenancy of a small drinking-house, Zum heiligen Florian, in theLeopoldstadt district of the city .It was here, on 14th March, 1804, that Johann Straussthe elder, founder of the Strauss musical dynasty, was born.
On thedeath of his father in 1816, Johann Strauss was apprenticed by his guardian to abook-binder. Even at this period he earned a living for himself playing the viola in aband run by the somewhat disreputable violinist Michael Pamer. In 1819 he joined a rivalband started by the Pamer violinist Josef Lanner: in 1824 he became second conductor underLanner, and the following year established his own orchestra. He married on 11th July,1825: on 25th October his first son was born and named after his father.
The youngerJohann Strauss, even more prolific and successful than his father, studied music at firstby stealth, until his father abandoned the family in favour of his mistress in 1842. Twoyears later he launched his own dance orchestra and went on to unparallelled success, inwhich he compelled his younger brothers to share, although all three of them had beenoriginally destined for other professions. In 1863 Johann Strauss was appointed ImperialMusic Director for the balls held at court, a position he relinquished in 1871, when hewas succeeded by his youngest brother, Eduard. His career took him abroad, to London,Paris, Budapest and regularly to the Russian Vauxhall at Pavlovsk. For the theatre hewrote a series of operettas, from Indigo and theForty Thieves in 1871 and Die Fledermaus
three years later to the final Goddess of Reason in 1897. By the time of his death in 1899Strauss had written some 500 pieces of music, waltzes, polkas, quadrilles and stage works,evidence of prolific talent and an enormous capacity for work.
Ander schonen blauen Donau - the Blue Danube - must bethe most famous of all Viennese waltzes. It was written in 1867 for the Vienna Men'sChoral Society and originally intended as a purely choral work. Strauss added a hastypiano accompaniment, while Josef Weyl added words to the existing music. The title seemsto have been an afterthought.
Indigound die vierzig Rauber (Indigo and the FortyThieves) was the first of Strauss's operettas, staged at the Theater an der Wien in 1871,and was received with the greatest enthusiasm, although some critics rightly criticizedthe libretto, based on The Arabian Nights. Strauss extracted from the score a number ofdances and a march, which soon won their own independent popularity, which they stillretain.
The waltz Wo die Citronen bl??h'n (Where the lemons bloom)derives its title from the famous song given to the gypsy girl Mignon in Goethe's novel Wilhelm Meister - Do you know the land where thelemon-trees bloom? - an evocation of the warm South. It was written for an Italian tour in1874 with the Langenbach Orchestra, while the Strauss orchestra fulfilled engagements athome under the baton of the youngest of the Strauss brothers, Eduard. Johann Straussconducted the first performance of the new waltz in Turin under the title Bella Italia,later changed for audiences in Vienna. The popular PizzicatoPolka was written in collaboration with his brother Josef in 1870 and firstperformed at Pavlovsk, the pleasure resort outside St. Petersburg, where Strauss hadregular summer engagements.
The Arabian Nights, or AThousand and One Nights, the series of tales told by Sheherazade to delay herthreatened execution, was the source of the operetta Indigo and the Forty Thieves, fromwhich the Tausendundeine Nacht (Thousand andOne Night) Waltz is taken. The later operetta DieFledermaus (The Bat) proved an even richer mine, from which the Quadrille isdrawn.
Fr??hlingsstimmen (The Voices of Spring)originated as a coloratura piece for the German singer Bianca Bianchi and in this form wasfirst performed in Vienna in March 1883. An orchestral version followed, received well inRussia and Italy, before its return to a more enthusiastic Vienna and a variety of othertranscriptions. The Tritsch-Tratsch Polka
is a much earlier work, written in 1858, its title a reference to a satirical publicationof the time, and first performed in Russia, while Morgenblatter(Morning Papers) declares its origin in its title, written for the ViennaWriters' and Journalists' Association Concordia ball in January, 1864.