Great Waltzes

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Great Waltzes


Incommon with many other dances in their day, the waltz too was considered bysome to be dangerous both for health and for morals. Derived from the Germandance, the popular Deutsche, which had made its way from village toball-room by the last quarter of the eighteenth century, the waltz itself,under that name, was popular enough by the turn of the century. Medicalobjectionsarose because of the speed of execution of this whirling dance, while moralobjections arose from the close proximity of the partners as they danced.

Others found the new dance a beneficial form of exercise and claimed that itspractice was completely innocent.


The waltz is, of course, closely associated with Vienna and with theso-called Waltz King Johann Strauss, who, like his father before him, was aleading composer of the dance and a leading performer of the music with hisdance- orchestra. Johann Strauss the elder established his own orchestra in1825, the year of his son Johann's birth, but planned a different future forhis three sons, who all turned eventually to music and the dance-orchestra inspite of their father's intentions. The Emperor Waltz takes its namefrom the meeting of the German and Austrian Emperors, and could therefore betaken as a compliment to either. The still more famous Blue Danube waswritten for the Vienna Men's Choir and was originally a choral waltz, withwords suggesting the romance of the River Danube, which is never as blue as itis made out to be.


The French composer Hector Berlioz had turned tothe waltz long before the younger Strauss had taken up music as a profession.

In his Symphonie fantastique of 1830, a work written with a strongautobiographical element after his rejection by his mistress, includes a dancescene, prelude to a pastoral idyll and a scene of tragedy, the execution of theartist and a nightmare witches' sabbath.

Tchaikovsky, who once danced a mock-ballet withCamille Saint-Saens, created sets of superb dances in his three ballets, andthe form of the waltz also found a place in his concert works, even in asymphony. The Sleeping Beauty Waltz is taken from the ballet of thatname, on the traditional story, while the Waltz of the Flowers is takenfrom Nutcracker , a ballet based on a Hoffmann story , in which, in adream, a Nutcracker Prince takes little Clara to the Land of Sweets, adentist's nightmare but a chance for ballet divertissements of the most variedkind. The second movement of Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings is amagnificent example of the waltz in a more extended musical form.


The Viennese tradition of the waltz had itslight-hearted French counterpart in Waldteufel, born Emile Levy in Strasbourg in 1837. He came tooccupy a position similar to that of Strauss in Vienna as director of music for thecourt balls under the patronage of the Empress Eugenie, until the revolutionafter the defeat of the Franco-Prussian war. His career was resumed largelythrough the patronage of the Prince of Wales. His famous Skaters' Waltz (Lespatineurs) belongs to this later period of his life.


In Vienna the waltz was sustained by thesuccessors of Strauss, among them the Hungarian band-master Franz Lehilr,composer of The Merry Widow and of a continuing series of popularoperettas and dances that include Gold and Silver. Further afield JuventinoRosas, an Otomi Indian, made his own South American bow to the form with Sobrelas olas, a sequence then often attributed to Strauss himself, while theRomanian Josif Ivanovici is now remembered above all for his Valurile Duntfrii(Donauwe/1en or Waves of the Danube).


Aram Khachaturian, a Soviet composer of Armenianextraction, might seem immediately more at home with sabre-dances than waltzes.

His waltz from incidental music for Lermontov's Masquerade, written in1941, has come to enjoy a similar degree of popularity.


Disc: 1
Blue Danube Waltz, Op. 314
1 Waltz from Sleeping Beauty, Op. 66
2 Emperor Waltz, Op. 437
3 The Danube Waves
4 Gold and Silver, Op. 79
5 Waltz from Serenade for Strings in C major, Op. 48
6 The Skaters, Op. 183
7 Un bal from Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14
8 Over the Waves (Sobre las olas)
9 Waltz from Masquerade
10 Waltz of the Flowers from The Nutcracker, Op. 71
11 Blue Danube Waltz, Op. 314
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