STRAUSS II, J.: Waltzes, Polkas, Marches and Overtures, Vol. 3

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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 has 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 the Forty Thieves in 1871 and Die Fledermaus three years later to the final Goddessof Reason in 1897. By the time of his death in 1899 Strauss had written some 500 pieces ofmusic, waltzes, polkas, quadrilles and stage works, evidence of prolific talent and anenormous capacity for work.

Theoperetta Der Zigeunerbaron (The GypsyBaron), first staged in Vienna in 1885, has stood the test of time and retains a popularplace in the repertoire. The story, of the usual complexity, tells of the return of SandorBarinkay to reclaim his Hungarian family estates, which he finds occupied by gypsies. Allends well enough when he falls in love with one of them, Saffi, who turns out to be aprincess.

Strauss wasactive in providing dance music for special occasions, usually with titles to match. The Acceleration Waltz was written in 1860 for theEngineering Students' Ball in the Sofienbad-Saal in Vienna. The Bitte schon Polka, however, has its origin in theoperetta Cagliostro in Vienna of 1875, inwhich the former blacksmith Alexander Girardi won his first great stage success, while Duund Du is taken from Die Fledermaus.

The Im Krapfenwald'l French Polka started life in Russiain 1869 in the woods of Pavlovsk, later translated for audiences in Vienna to an area inthe Vienna woods where Josef Krapf had opened his Krapfenwaldel tavern. Wiener Blut, a waltz that is the very spirit ofVienna, was written in 1873, when it was first performed by the Vienna PhilharmonicOrchestra under the composer's direction to open a ball in celebration of the marriage ofthe Emperor's daughter Gisela to Prince Leopold of Bavaria. The title was used in the yearof the composer's death for anew stage-work based on his music, for which he gave hisapproval.

The Egyptian March of 1870 celebrates the opening of theSuez canal, while the New Vienna Waltz of the same year originated as a choral waltz to atopical text for the Vienna Men's Choral Society. LeichtesBlut (Light of Heart) was written for the 1867 Carnival to add to a danceprogramme that reviewed the new dances of the season. The quick polka provided a missingelement in a sequence of dances that included the BlueDanube and K??nstlerleben

(Artist's Life).

Disc: 1
Leichtes Blut, Polka, Op. 319
1 Zigeunerbaron: Overture
2 Accelerationen, Waltz, Op. 234
3 Bitte schon, Polka, Op. 372
4 Du und du, Waltz, Op. 367
5 Im Krapfenwaldl, Polka, Op. 336
6 Wiener Blut (Vienna Blood), waltz, Op. 354
7 Egyptian March, Op. 335
8 Neu-Wien, Waltz, Op. 342
9 Leichtes Blut, Polka, Op. 319
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