WALDTEUFEL: Famous Waltzes (Alfred Walter/ Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra) (Naxos: 8.553956)
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Like Johann Strauss, Emile Waldteufel came from a family of dancemusicians, being preceded in the business by his father Louis (1801-84) andbrother Leon (1832-84). Despite their Germanic surname, the family were French.
This is explained by their German ancestry and the fact that they hailed fromAlsace, which despite strong German traditions had been fully integrated intoFrance since 1793.
Emile Waldteufel was born in Strasbourg on 9th December 1837, just sevenweeks after the elder Johann Strauss gave his first concert on French soil inthat very city. When he was seven the family moved to Paris for his brotherLeon to take up a place as a violin student at the Paris Conservatoire. EmileWaldteufel was to live in Paris for the rest of his life, and he in turnstudied piano at the Conservatoire from 1853 to 1857, his classmates thereincluding Jules Massenet.
Meanwhile the family dance orchestra was becoming one of the best-knownin Paris, increasingly in demand for Society balls during Napoleon III's SecondEmpire. In 1865 Emile was appointed court pianist to the Empress Eugenie insuccession to Joseph Ascher (composer of 'Alice, where art thou?'), performingat Court functions not only in Paris but in Biarritz and Compi?¿gne. From 1867the Waldteufel orchestra played at Napoleon III's magnificent Court balls atthe Tuileries.
After the Franco-Prussian War the orchestra again presided at thePresidential balls at the ?ëlysee. Yet so far Emile Waldteufel's dances had beenknown only to a relatively limited Society audience. By the time internationalfame came he was almost forty. In October 1874 he happened to be playing at asoiree attended by the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII. The Princecomplimented him on his waltz Manolo and agreed to help launch his musicin London. The result was a long-term publishing contract with the London firmof Hopwood & Crew. Since the firm was half-owned by Charles Coote, directorof Coote & Tinney's Band, the premier London dance orchestra, this alsogave access to the musical programmes of Queen Victoria's State Balls atBuckingham Palace. For several years Emile Waldteufel's music dominated theprogrammes there, generating him world-wide fame as he turned out a string ofworks that enjoyed huge popularity - including his best-known work LesPatineurs ('The Skaters') in 1882. His French publisher Durand, Schoenewerkwas 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 sometimesappeared under slightly different German names. In addition, to suit Germaniccustom, in 1883 Litolff retrospectively began an opus numbering system. Thisbegan at 101 to make arbitrary allowance for early works, and for variousreasons many works were numbered out of chronological sequence, therebyproviding a source of much confusion ever since.
Waldteufel appeared in London in 1885 and Berlin in 1889, and in 1890and 1891 he conducted at the Paris Opera Balls. His orchestra continued toprovide dance music for Presidential Balls, as well as for other Societyfunctions, until 1899, when he retired. He continued to compose, but his stylewas by then outdated. He died in Paris on 12th February 1915 at the age of 77.
His wife, a former singer Celestine Dufau, whom he married in 1873 and who borehim two sons and a daughter, had died the previous year.
Waldteufel was recognised as a good-natured person, with a ready senseof humour - characteristics that are readily perceivable in his music. Unlikethe music of Johann Strauss, Waldteufel's perhaps scales no great architecturalheights, but rather seeks to enchant by the grace and charm of his melodies andtheir gentle harmonies. By comparison with Strauss's very masculine creations,there is undoubtedly more of a feminine feel about Waldteufel's waltzes. UnlikeStrauss, he conducted with a baton rather than a violin bow, and he composed atthe piano, his works being orchestrated later. The standard Waldteufel orchestrationwas for strings, double woodwind, two cornets, four horns, three trombones andophicleide (or tuba), plus timpani and percussion.
After Waldteufel's death his music continued to hold a place in theaffections of ordinary music-lovers alongside that of Johann Strauss. Theconductor of these recordings, Alfred Walter, recalls having a lot ofWaldteufel's music at his childhood home in Southern Bohemia - not only forpiano but also in arrangements for piano trio which were played in his musicalfamily. If in recent decades Emile Waldteufel's music has been overshadowed bythat of the Strausses, it is with correspondingly greater freshness that we areable to rediscover its grace and charm today.
Unfortunately Paris newspapers did not report the titles of dancesplayed at Society balls. Thus the best available dating of Emile Waldteufel'sworks comes from publication records and dates of registration with the Frenchcopyright collecting agency S.A.C.E.M. In the following notes, the originalFrench titles are given, together with English translations and the titlesunder which the works were published in Germany.
 Les Patineurs ('The Skaters' / 'Die Schlittschuhlaufer'), Valse, Op.
In years before increasing urbanisation and industrialisation createdany thought of global warming, ponds and rivers iced over far more commonlythan today. Ice-skating was a popular pastime, and the Cercle des Patineurs inthe Bois de Boulogne was a popular Parisian meeting place. The winter of1879-80 was especially severe, and on 10th December 1879 Paris experienced atemperature of -25.6??C - the lowest ever recorded there. The Seine froze overcompletely, and omnibuses and carriages had to operate on runners. It wasagainst this background that, some two years later, Emile Waldteufel composedhis most famous waltz, Les Patineurs. Of them ail it is the one with themost obvious programmatic content. The introduction, anticipating the maintheme, offers a sense of the sharpness and glitter of a wintry scene, with theflute and answering violin glissandi helping to give the impression of skaterstrying out the ice. The main theme in turn presents a readily recognisablepicture of skaters gliding around, after which they build up their confidenceand try some daring leaps and falls. Then a sleigh, complete with sleigh-bells,arrives to complete the wintry scene. Waldteufel delivered the waltz to Hopwood& Crew on 27th July 1882, and it was published by them on 30th October1882. He dedicated it to his friend Ernest Coquelin (1848-1909), the younger oftwo celebrated actor brothers of the Comedie Fran?ºaise.
 Tr?¿s jolie ('Very Pretty' / 'Ganz allerliebst'), Valse, Op. 159(1878)
Yet another of the very finest Waldteufel waltzes from the years of hisgreat international success, Tr?¿s jolie develops quite splendidly, withthe cumulative effect of the inflections of rhythm and dynamics building up anirresistible climactic sweep. Note especially the third waltz section, in whichthe violins flirt deliciously with the trombones, and the broadening of melodyin the fourth waltz section, where dotted minims make up 29 of 30 consecutivebars of the 32-bar trio. The work carries a dedication to Vicomtesse Leonie deChabrol.
 Estudiantina, Valse, Op. 191 (1883)
Besides his original compositions, Emile Waldteufel made many dancearrangements from currently popular songs and stage works. Thus it was that thepublisher Enoch commissioned him to arrange a set of waltzes around