Day 16 – Vienna (CD 16)

This morning’s fare is a hodgepodge of music from four different composers: Johan Strauss II, Carl Maria Weber, Josef Strauss, and Richard Strauss. The overall theme is Vienna.

Since I’m not really a fan of Strauss, nor of waltzes as a general rule, I’m not sure I’ll dig today’s CD.

But I’m a trooper. I’ll grin and bear it.

And this is to what I am listening today:

Strauss, Jr. – Morning Papers
Strauss, Jr. – Emperor Waltz
Strauss, Jr. – On the Beautiful Blue Danube

Weber – Invitation to the Dance

Joseff Strauss – Village Swallows

Richard Strauss – Waltzes from Der Rosenkavalier


I always consider waltzes and music of this sort to be incidental, like the 19th century equivalent of the music played in doctor offices and elevators nowadays. Stuff people tune out.

I seriously doubt this CD will convince me otherwise. But I’m sure it’ll try.

The Objective Stuff

From his entry on Wikipedia,

Johann Strauss II (born Johann Baptist Strauss; 25 October 1825 – 3 June 1899), also known as Johann Strauss Jr., the Younger, the Son (German: Sohn), was an Austrian composer of light music, particularly dance music and operettas. He composed over 500 waltzes, polkas, quadrilles, and other types of dance music, as well as several operettas and a ballet. In his lifetime, he was known as “The Waltz King”, and was largely responsible for the popularity of the waltz in Vienna during the 19th century. Some of Johann Strauss’s most famous works include “The Blue Danube”, “Kaiser-Walzer” (Emperor Waltz), “Tales from the Vienna Woods”, and the “Tritsch-Tratsch-Polka”. Among his operettas, Die Fledermaus and Der Zigeunerbaron are the best known.

Strauss was the son of Johann Strauss I and his first wife Maria Anna Streim.

“Light music”! Yes! That’s precisely what this is!

My less than enthusiastic response to today’s compositions must mean I prefer “heavy music,” whatever that may be. (Grand Funk Railroad? Black Sabbath? Led Zeppelin?)

From its entry on Wikipedia,

Morgenblätter (Morning Journals) op. 279 is a Viennese Waltz composed by Johann Strauss II in 1863. The work’s genesis was attributed to the composition of another waltz by Jacques Offenbach later titled ‘Abendblätter’ when the French opera composer dedicated his work to the influential Vienna Authors’ and Journalists’ Association (‘Concordia’). The Association had earlier intended the ‘Abendblätter’ waltz (untitled by Offenbach when first dedicated) to be played at their ‘Concordia Ball’ on 12 January 1864.

Strauss and his orchestra were engaged to provide music for the festivity and he was also obliged to dedicate a new composition of his own. Since he was clearly aware of Offenbach’s dedication, he similarly left it to the Association to decide the title of his own work. The committee, in a mood for a musical joust, titled Offenbach’s work as ‘Abendblätter’ (Evening Papers) and Strauss’ work as ‘Morgenblätter’ (Morning Papers).

From its entry on Wikipedia,

Kaiser-Walzer, Op. 437 (Emperor Waltz) is a waltz composed by Johann Strauss II in 1889. The waltz was originally titled Hand in Hand and was intended as a toast made in August of that year by Emperor of Austria Franz Joseph I on the occasion of his visit to the German Emperor Wilhelm II where it was symbolic as a ‘toast of friendship’ extended by Austria-Hungary to the German Empire.

Strauss’ publisher, Fritz Simrock, suggested the title Kaiser-Walzer since the title could allude to either monarch, and thus satisfy the vanity of both rulers. The waltz was first performed in Berlin on 21 October 1889. The original cover of the piano edition bore the illustration of the Austrian Imperial Crown.

From its entry on Wikipedia,

The Blue Danube” is the common English title of “An der schönen, blauen Donau“, Op. 314 (German for “By the Beautiful Blue Danube”), a waltz by the Austrian composer Johann Strauss II, composed in 1866. Originally performed on 15 February 1867 at a concert of the Wiener Männergesangsverein (Vienna Men’s Choral Association), it has been one of the most consistently popular pieces of music in the classical repertoire. Its initial performance was considered only a mild success, however, and Strauss is reputed to have said, “The devil take the waltz, my only regret is for the coda—I wish that had been a success!”

After the original music was written, the words were added by the Choral Association’s poet, Joseph Weyl. Strauss later added more music, and Weyl needed to change some of the words. Strauss adapted it into a purely orchestral version for the 1867 Paris World’s Fair, and it became a great success in this form. The instrumental version is by far the most commonly performed today.

From his entry on Wikipedia,

Carl Maria von Weber (18 or 19 November 1786 – 5 June 1826) was a German composer, conductor, virtuoso pianist, guitarist and critic who was one of the first significant composers of the Romantic era. Best known for his operas, he was a crucial figure in the development of German Romantische Oper (German Romantic opera).

From its entry on Wikipedia,

Invitation to the Dance (Aufforderung zum Tanz), Op. 65, J. 260, is a piano piece in rondo form written by Carl Maria von Weber in 1819. It is also well known in the 1841 orchestration by Hector Berlioz. It is sometimes called Invitation to the Waltz, but this is a mistranslation of the original.

From his entry on Wikipedia,

Josef Strauss (20 August 1827 – 22 July 1870) was an Austrian composer.

He was born in Mariahilf (now Vienna), the son of Johann Strauss I and Maria Anna Streim, and brother of Johann Strauss II and Eduard Strauss. His father wanted him to choose a career in the Austrian Habsburg military. He studied music with Franz Dolleschal and learned to play the violin with Franz Anton Ries.

He received training as an engineer, and worked for the city of Vienna as an engineer and designer. He designed a horse-drawn revolving brush street-sweeping vehicle and published two textbooks on mathematical subjects. Strauss had talents as an artist, painter, poet, dramatist, singer, composer and inventor.

From its entry on Wikipedia,

Dorfschwalben aus Österreich (Village Swallows from Austria) op. 164 is a Viennese Waltz composed by Josef Strauss in 1864 (1865?).

It was inspired by August Silberstein’s novel “Dorfschwalben aus Österreich”. It was premiered at the Volksgarten, Vienna on September 6, 1864 (1865?). polka-mazurka “Frauenherz” was also premiered at the same time. These are his masterpiece. “Frauenherz” and “Dorfschwalben aus Österreich” were played during Josef Strauss’s memorial ceremony under the direction of his brother.

From his entry on Wikipedia,

Richard Georg Strauss (11 June 1864 – 8 September 1949) was a German composer, conductor, pianist, and violinist. Considered a leading composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras, he has been described as a successor of Richard Wagner and Franz Liszt. Along with Gustav Mahler, he represents the late flowering of German Romanticism, in which pioneering subtleties of orchestration are combined with an advanced harmonic style.

From its entry on Wikipedia,

Der Rosenkavalier (The Knight of the Rose or The Rose-Bearer), Op. 59, is a comic opera in three acts by Richard Strauss to an original German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. It is loosely adapted from the novel Les amours du chevalier de Faublas by Louvet de Couvrai and Molière’s comedy Monsieur de Pourceaugnac. It was first performed at the Königliches Opernhaus in Dresden on 26 January 1911 under the direction of Max Reinhardt, Ernst von Schuch conducting. Until the premiere, the working title was Ochs auf Lerchenau. (The choice of the name Ochs is not accidental, for in German “Ochs” means “ox”, which describes the character of the Baron throughout the opera.)

The Objective Stuff

Recording quality: 5
Overall musicianship: 5
CD booklet notes: 2
CD “album cover” information: 2
How does this make me feel: 2

The only thing waltzes are good for is (a) dancing, or (b) movie soundtracks. For example, Strauss’ Blue Danube that Kubrick used in the classic film 2001: a Space Odyssey.

That’s what Waltzes are good for.

And not much else.

Not even if they were recorded and performed to perfection, as they were on this album.

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