I usually write about opera, but today I decided to dedicate this article to the music of the Strauss family which always brings me memories of that unforgettable year when I was privileged to waltz in the New Year in the beautiful city of Vienna.
The dances, marches and operettas by the Strauss family of Vienna are linked so closely with the way the whole world thinks of Vienna as the capital of music that there are very few other composers whose works can be said to be linked with a city to such a degree. People in Vienna, from the citys tourism managers to the politicians in the Town Hall, are very fond of this label. After all, it conveys exactly that cultural image of Vienna which they like to promote.
The First Waltz King was Johann Strauss I (1804- 1849). He was a conductor and composer of dance music. His early playing experience helped him to transform the rigid, provincial oomph dance into the more elegant (but somewhat risqu) Viennese Waltz. The reason that the original waltz was considered risqu was because for the first time in history a man put his arm around the waist of his partner while dancing. Up until that time the most contact that two dancers of the opposite sex had while dancing was holding hands or linking arms.
The three-quarter time signature has a distinctive 1-2-3, 1-2-3 feel and rhythm pattern that can be found in most music genres, including rock, country and pop. Johann Strauss II (1825-1899) was discouraged by his father to follow his musical ambition. However, this did not deter the young man. After dedicated study at age 19 he conducted a program of his own compositions as well as his fathers. This also earned him the title of Waltz King because of the prolific output and frequent international tours with his orchestra. An excellent self-promoter, he traveled by stagecoach from Vienna to St. Petersburg, Edinburgh and points in between, as well as making an 1872 tour of the United States. His best-known work, The Blue Danube, was written in 1867.
Josef Strauss (1827-1870) was trained as an engineer, and worked for the city of Vienna. When his older brother, Johann II, became ill from overwork, he reluctantly took over temporarily the leadership of the Strauss orchestra. However, his creative mind soon caused Johann to envy him, and to acknowledge him as the most talented. His best known composition is Village Swallows.
Eduard Strauss (1835-1916) was the younger brother of Johann and Josef and the last leader of the Strauss orchestra. He published 295 compositions.
Perhaps what is so spectacular about the waltz music that this family produced is the fact that it transcends time and can be enjoyed and danced by everyone.
In a world that moves at the speed of light, it is so comforting to enjoy traditional music that can make you recall a simpler, gentler time. Although still being used as the dance de rigueur for debutantes, it can be enjoyed in concerts and ballrooms everywhere. Now turn up the volume of your speakers, move the chairs and tables and put a little fun in your life try waltzing.
Carmen Ileana Romn writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.