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Johann Strauss II(1825-1899)
100 Most Famous WorksVol. 5
Johann Strauss II, the most famous and enduringly successful nineteenthcentury light music composer, was born in Vienna on 25 October 1825. Buildingupon the firm musical foundations laid by his father, Johann Strauss I(1804-1849) and Joseph Lanner (1801-1843), the younger Johann (along with hisbrothers, Josef and Eduard) achieved so high a development of the classicalViennese waltz that it became as much a feature of the concert hall as of theballroom. For more than half a century Johann II captivated not only Vienna butalso 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 attentionto the composition 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). Johalm Strauss II died in Vienna on 3June 1899.
The Marco Polo Strauss Edition, from which these recordings wereselected, is a milestone in recording history, presenting, for the first timeever, the entire orchestral output of the "Waltz King". Despite theirsupremely high standard of musical invention, the majority of the compositionshave never before been commercially recorded and have been painstakinglyassembled from archives around the world. All performances featured in thisseries are complete and, wherever possible, the works are played in theiroriginal instrumentation as conceived by the "master orchestrator"himself, Johann Strauss II.
 Prinz Methusalem (Prince Methuselah) Overture
The world premi?¿re of Prinz Methusalem took place on 3 January1877, auspiciously three years to the day after the Carl-Theater had mountedthe sensational first Viennese production of Charles Lecocq's opera-comique, LaFille de Madame Angot (1872), given under the title Angot, die Tochterder Halle. Johann Strauss himself conducted the first performance of hisnew operetta, while the breeches title r??le featured the popular Budapest-bornsoprano Antonie Link (1853-1931), already famous for creating the role ofFatinitza in Suppe's operetta (1876) of that name and later to gain evengreater celebrity in the title r??le of another Suppe operetta, Boccaccio (1879).
Although Johann had strewn his latest stage work with a plethora of enchantingmelodies, it did not find critical acclaim. Nevertheless, due largely to thesterling efforts of performers including Josef Matras (1832-87), Carl Blasel(1831-1922) and Wilhelm Knaack (1829-94), Prinz Methusalem achieved arespectable run of 80 performances.
After an energetic introduction (nowhere traceable in the publishedpiano / vocal score of the operetta, and possibly comprising material discardedfrom the final version of the stage work), the overture to Prinz Methusalem presentsa colourful cross-section of the most memorable themes in the three-act comicoperetta. The Andante section is provided by a phrase sung by the night?¡-watchmanin Act 2 (No. 8) to the words "All' ihr Herrn und Frauen lasst euch sag'n",while the Andante grazioso is from a passage sung by Pulcinella in theAct 1 Finale (No. 7), "Von meiner Hochzeit der Schluss". The Allegretto(in 3/8 time) which follows quotes Vulcanio's cavatine ("Du schonerMai der Liebelei") from the Act 1 Chorus and Ensemble (No. 2). After an Allegrotransitional passage modulating from G into F comes the Moderato martialsong "Piff! Paff! Puff! Krick! Krack! Rataplan!" from the Act1 Ensemble (No. 6), sung first by Cyprian but featuring several times duringthe ensemble. Part of the Act 3 Duet and Chorus (No. 17), to the words"Bum! wohin er tritt" (which later appeared in the vigorous Banditen-Galoppop. 378), provides the Allegro assai passage, while the Allegromoderato following it is untraceable in the operetta's published piano /vocal score. This then modulates into E flat and repeats Pulcinella's "Vonmeiner Hochzeit der Schluss" used earlier. There follows a repriseof "Piff! Paff! Puff!", but a truncated version adapted tolead into the "B??hnen-Musik" (stage music) fanfare which, in turn,leads into the Maestoso highlight of the overture - the Act 3'Generalslied' (No. 18, General's Song) sung by Methuselah to the accompanimentof the orchestra together with an off-stage band. This 8-bar phrase is thenrepeated and modified to lead into an Allegretto section comprising acontinuation of the 'Generalslied' ("Millionen Bomben noch einmal",
sung by Methuselah and chorus). In typical Strauss style, however, theoverture does not end with this stately and imposing march, but insteadarpeggio and chromatic figures and an increase in tempo combine to provide thehighly effective climax at the close of the overture.
 Accelerationen, Walzer (Accelerations, Waltz) OP. 234
"A person who never has any ideas cannot create a waltz - whereasoperas and symphonies have in the past been written in thesecircumstances...".
Eduard Hanslick's keen observation is especially pertinent to theinspired waltz which the younger Johann Strauss wrote for the ball of thestudent engineers at Vienna University, held in the magnificent Sofienbad-Saalballroom on St. Valentine's Day 1860. Johann's choice of title for the newwaltz - Accelerationen - was one of the more obvious choices from thewide vocabulary of the engineering profession, and in the work's Introductionand opening waltz he effectively portrays the gathering momentum of a powerfulmachine. The first piano edition of the work, published by Carl Haslinger on 1June 1860, bears the composer's dedication "to the Gentlemen Students ofEngineering at Vienna University" and features a detailed coverillustration portraying the notion of 'acceleration': Zephyrus (the Greek godof the west wind a paddle-steamer, hot-air balloon, steam train and telegraphwires.
The work, clearly a spontaneous idea on the part of the composer, is thesubject of an anecdote to be found in such landmarks of Strauss literature asthe biographies by Rudolph Freiherr von Prochazka (1900), Erich Wilhelm Engel(1911) and Ernst Decsey (1922). According to the story, in the early hours of14 February 1860 an exhausted Johann was relaxing with a glass of wine afterconducting for a night-long ball at the Sofienbad-Saal. A committee member fromthe Engineers' Ball approached him, enquiring whether he had completed thewaltz he had promised them for their dance festivity that very evening.
Realising he had entirely overlooked the matter, Strauss took just half an hourto note down the waltz on the back of a menu. When this tale later came toJohann's attention during the 1890s, he dismissed it. Although he (and JosefStrauss) had certainly spent the entire night of 13/14 February 1860 in theSofienbad-Saal jointly conducting their 'Monster Ball', and while Johann wasthe swiftest of the three Strauss brothers at orchestration, he said, quitereasonably. "It may well be that I somewhere noted down the basic idea forthe work, perhaps even on the back of a menu, but even I could not write down awaltz in the twinkling of an eye".