Strauss, Jr. – Emperor Waltz

by Max Derrickson

Johann Strauss Jr.    (1825-1899)

Emperor Waltz

By the mid 1860’s when Johann Strauss, Jr. had composed The Beautiful Blue Danube,Viennawas the cultural center of the Austro-Hungarian empire.  Balls were the entertainment of the day, and waltz music was as popular as it had ever been.  In fact, over half ofVienna’s 400,000 citizens, in the 1830’s, attended over 800 balls.

An interesting custom of these balls was the “Ballspenden” or dance cards that were given to the ladies at the door.  These were often times quite elaborate.  One such Ballspenden given at a pharmacy sponsored ball was an actual miniature berry press with working parts.  The Ballspenden also came with a small pencil and opened up to a piece of paper (or several pieces) that contained the musical selections of the evening.  Next to the selections were blank spaces for the lady to record who she would dance with.
[. . .]

Johann Strauss, Jr. was the eldest son to the first Waltz King, Strauss, Sr. who himself was a successful music director and composer of dance music.  Johann Jr.’s two brothers, Josef and Eduard, also composed waltzes, and the family in total composed hundreds of dance pieces.  Jr., however, was the undisputed waltz king in the family.

Of his many best loved works are the Beautiful Blue Danube, Tales from the Vienna Woods, Roses from the South, and the Emperor Waltz (which was completed in 1888).  Strauss also completed several operas, the most famous being Der Fledermaus (The Bat).  Though the waltz is a relatively simple form,
[. . .]

Strauss was not just admired at home, but throughout the world, yet he was an icon in Vienna through his career.  A quote from an admiring theater director  in 1896 follows: “For 50 years, Johann Strauss [‘s music], … has been present at almost every joyous function in the civilized world; wherever parties of happy people have gathered for carefree pleasure, … Johann Strauss’s spirit has pervaded.  If we could estimate the amount of happiness and enjoyment contributed to the world by his creations, [he] would be regarded as one of the greatest benefactors of the century.” Vienna was so fond of him, in fact, that a full figured, gold statue of him playing his violin to the muses was erected in memorial.