Work: Voices of Spring (Frühlingsstimmen)
About This Work
Vienna, the waltz and the Strauss family are inseparable entities. The waltzes of Johann Strauss, Sr. (1804-1849) evoked the air of the Viennese countryside, beer gardens and Heurigen. Those of his eldest son, Johann, Jr., at first had the same
rhythmic vitality and brief melodies. After 1860, however, this would change. The younger Strauss infused the traditional waltz format with a new vitality and sophistication that reflected the glittery, hedonistic spirit of nineteenth century imperial Vienna. He melded the rhythmic drive of his father's works with Joseph Lanner's (1801-1843) lyricism, and changed the rhythmic emphasis from the beat to the measure. Strauss' seemingly unlimited melodic invention prompted him to compose melodies that did not fall into the traditional four-, eight-, or sixteen-measure patterns of earlier waltz tunes. He maintained the basic outline employed by Lanner and his father: a slow introduction, (typically) five pairs of waltzes and a coda, but increased the length of each section and the organic unity of the whole. Strauss' orchestration is often picturesque, especially in his introductions, while that of the waltzes themselves approaches a Mozartean clarity.
Strauss originally entrusted the melody of his Frühlingsstimmen (Voices of Spring) waltz, Op. 410, not to the violin but to the voice, specifically that of Bianca Bianchi, a coloratura soprano. Richard Genée (1823-1895), librettist of Die Fledermaus, provided the text and the piece was composed during work on Eine Nacht in Venedig. The work did not please at its première at the Theater an der Wien, but proved to be a great success when Strauss brought it to Russia while on tour in 1886. Strauss later made a piano arrangement , in which form the work's popularity spread beyond Vienna. Throughout Frühlingsstimmen Strauss disregards ballroom traditions, producing a musically integrated concert piece with only three, not five, waltz pairs.
Forgoing a slow introduction, Strauss opens Frühlingsstimmen with only eight measures of prefatory material. In B flat major, the first waltz's rolling, rising and falling tune encompasses 16 measures, but its repeat only fifteen. The second of the first waltz pair, with its detached, leaping melody, is also of an unusual length and closes with a return of the prefatory material and a complete presentation of the first waltz, this time with a repeat of a full sixteen measures. Unpredictability continues as the second waltz pair is interrupted by a six-measure bridge before the repeat of its first melody, while the second tune of the pair is extended by a couple of "extra" measures. The first half of the third waltz shows Strauss at his most experimental, clearly composing in a developmental, Beethovenian vein. After moving to A flat major, Strauss begins the new section with an eight-measure tune that begins to repeat, but this is cut off as a new melody begins. The ensuing 28 measures contain four different ideas that refuse to fall into a pattern. As if to make up for this "transgression," Strauss provides a symmetrical, 16-measure tune for the second half of the third waltz. Still in A flat, the opening of the coda modulates to the tonic before revisiting the waltz's prefatory material. Most of the coda is concerned with the first waltz but Strauss includes references to the bridge between the two waltzes of the second pair and an inversion of the descending chromatic line of the last waltz.
-- John Palmer
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