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Johann Strauss Jr.

Biography

Born: Oct 25, 1825; Austria   Died: Jun 3, 1899; Austria   Period: Romantic
Johann Strauss, Jr. is the first truly well-known composer in those classical genres particular to his hometown, the Viennese waltz and Viennese operetta. The Blue Danube Waltz is not only the most popular of his works in the former category, but is among the most widely played and arranged pieces of its time, known to the most casual listener today from many radio, film and television uses of it.
Johann Strauss, Jr. was born in Vienna
Read more on October 25, 1825. He showed remarkable skills early in his childhood, despite his father's opposition to any career in music for any of his three sons. Johann, Sr. wanted him to become a banker, but the younger Strauss had his own ideas, taking violin lessons in secret from a player in his father's band. When Strauss was 17 his father left the family, thus allowing him to begin serious study without encumbrance. His mother, a good amateur violinist who had always encouraged him, remained supportive. Strauss now studied theory with Joseph Drechsler and took violin lessons from Anton Kohlmann. In 1844 young Johann led his first concert and a year later formed his own band, thereby competing with his father's orchestra. He was also writing his own quadrilles, mazurkas, polkas, and waltzes for performance by his ensemble, even conducting works by his father, and receiving praise from the press. He was given the honorary position of Bandmaster of the 2nd Vienna Citizens' Regiment (his father was bandmaster of the 1st regiment) in 1845, and in 1847 began composing for the Vienna Men's Choral Association.
His real success began in 1849 after Johann Strauss, Sr. died. Johann, Jr. merged his father's orchestra with his own and took up his father's contracts. His career moved along smoothly for the next several years, but in 1853 he became seriously ill and turned over conducting duties to his younger brother, Josef, for six months. After his recovery he resumed fully both his conducting and his composing activities, eventually gaining the respect of such composers as Brahms, Wagner, and Verdi for his seemingly unlimited imagination for using melodies.
Strauss married singer Henriette "Jetty" Treffz in August 1862, and they settled in Hietzing. Thereafter, she became his business manager and apparently a great inspiration, drawing him toward operetta, just as Viennese theater operators were becoming tired of the works of Offenbach. His first, Indigo und die vierzig Räuber, came in 1871, and his most famous, Die Fledermaus, was staged three years later with great success. Eine Nacht in Venedig (1883) and Der Zigeunerbaron (1885) were his only other international operetta hits.
In 1872, he traveled to the United States and led highly successful concerts in Boston and New York. For all the success that came in the 1870s for Strauss, there was also much grief: his mother and brother Josef died in 1870, and his wife died suddenly of a heart attack in 1878. Her death devastated him, and the suddenly helpless composer unwisely married the much-younger actress Angelika Dittrich, six weeks later. The marriage lasted only four years, though it may have saved the composer from personal disaster in the months following his wife's death.
Strauss, a Roman Catholic, left the church and had to give up his Austrian citizenship to marry Adele Deutsch in 1887, owing to the Church's unwillingness to recognize his divorce. His new wife, with whom he had lived for a long period before their marriage, seemed to inspire him much like his first wife. In his last years, Strauss remained quite productive and active. He was working on a ballet, Cinderella, when he developed a respiratory ailment which grew into pneumonia. He died on June 3, 1899. Read less
Johann Strauss II at the Opera
Release Date: 09/09/2014   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 578287   Number of Discs: 1
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Strauss Johann: Most Famous Waltzes
Release Date: 06/30/1992   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8550152   Number of Discs: 1
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Johann Strauss Jr.: Simplicius / Welser-Most, Volle, Zysset, Widmer
Release Date: 11/18/2014   Label: Arthaus Musik  
Catalog: 100365   Number of Discs: 1
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J. Strauss Jr.: 100 Most Famous Waltzes, Etc Vol 9
Release Date: 10/26/1999   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 554525   Number of Discs: 1
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Strauss: Famous Waltzes, Polkas, Marches, Overtures Vol 4
Release Date: 02/15/1994   Label: Naxos  
Catalog: 8550339   Number of Discs: 1
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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 Read more 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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