Roses from the South

Following the Viennese Congress (1814/1819), despite of its condemnation by the upper reaches of society and even its outlawing by the Prussian court, the waltz soon spread unprecedentedly throughout all strata of society. In the 19th and 20th centuries, different types evolved, tempos changed, as did forms and performance styles. At the beginning, they comprised of two equal parts of eight bars each. Later, Hummel, Schubert and Beethoven composed whole series of them. Carl Maria von Weber's concert work Invitation to the Waltz exercised a decisive effect on the story of the dance: an enclosed cycle was augmented with a slow introduction and a coda quoting the work's opening. Such characteristics are to be discerned with the classical Viennese waltz, composed in the 1820s by J. Lanner and Johann Strauss the Elder. Their compositions also began with an introduction, followed by five waltzes and a coda.

 

Johann Strauss the younger (1825-1899), the “Waltz King”, was the senior Strauss's first born son, and he inherited the form, and exceeded the compositional methods of the previous generation. He expanded the introduction with a kind of orchestral prelude, the harmony was more refined and also more daring, while its rhythm was made more spicy. In some waltzes, he enriches them with vocal lines (for example, the first version of the Blue Danube Waltz.) He expanded the waltz of his father's generation not only in its dimensions but in content too, developing works that became symphonic concert pieces. Primarily in the introductory sections, he applied motific methods and aimed for the depiction of each mood.

 

Although his father taught Johann Strauss the piano, he opposed his son taking up a  musical career. At the age of 18 though, Strauss  abandoned all pretences of following his father's prescribed path, and in 1844, founded his own fifteen member orchestra. The two orchestras – belonging to Strauss senior and junior – continued to compete with each other, although after this father's death, the two ensembles united. Johann Strauss took his orchestra on numerous concert tours, and in 1872, were guest performers in America. They became known world wide and from 1863 to 1870, directed the Vienna court balls.

 

As we can surmise from the nickname “Waltz King”, Strauss's waltzes brought him his greatest successes. He composed his first (Sinnedichte, op. 1) in 1844, the year he founded his orchestra, and for the rest of his life, he poured out a total of 168 waltzes (this is not counting those that feature in his operettas), melodies that became the hits of their day. Through their winning melodic charm and superb orchestration, Strauss's waltzes were admired by all layers of Viennese society, and he could count among his admirers figures such as Johannes Brahms and Hans von Bülow. Of his many waltzes, his best known include Wine, Women and Song (Wein, weib und Gesang, op. 333, 1869), Roses from the South (Rosen aus dem Süden, op. 388) from his operetta Spitzentuch der Königin, the Emperor Waltz (Kaiserwalzer, op. 437) and Treasure Waltz.