The waltz king

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The waltz king
主題: Vienna 永遠的
Strauss Waltz
Strauss Jr
The Great Waltz (1938)
Directed by
Julien Duvivier
Writing credits
Gottfried Reinhardt (story)
Samuel Hoffenstein (screenplay) ...
The waltz king
A lot of what we call classical music
started out as popular music. Most
of the non-religious Renaissance
pieces performed now by scholarly
early music groups are nothing
more than extremely old oldies pop songs and dance tunes that hit
the charts before 1600.
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And one of the most beloved of
all 19th-century composers, a
man whose music is now played
by symphony orchestras around
the world, was actually a danceband leader.
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Johann Strauss Jr. was the most
commercially successful band
leaders of his periods, Strauss'
prosperous home town of Vienna
went waltz mad in the early 19th
century. Spectacular dance
palaces were everywhere. The
privileged classes threw one
opulent party after another, while
the working classes congregated
at tradesmen's balls.
The waltz king
In the 1820s, Johann Strauss Sr.
and his partner Josef Lanner were
the first men to corner the
Viennese waltz market. They
wrote their own music and
conducted their own small dance
orchestras to great adulation and
The waltz king
Despite his success - or perhaps
because he feared the
competition - Strauss insisted
that his sons pursue non-musical
careers. Two of them, Eduard and
Josef, obeyed, but wrote waltzes
and polkas on the side.
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His eldest son, Johann Jr.,
secretly rehearsed 15 musicians
and made his debut in 1844. For
the occasion he'd written four
waltzes, two quadrilles and three
polkas, which were immediately
hailed as equal to his father's
work. Before long, the young
Strauss would far surpass the
efforts of his father.
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The first original waltz Strauss
played that night was called
``The Favor Seekers''; the last
was titled ``Thought Poems.''
Those titles became his career's
dual theme.
The waltz king
All Strauss waltzes are, in effect,
thought poems, with an
expressiveness and elaborate
detail that transcend dance music
forms. One reviewer of a Strauss
concert at the 1867 Paris
Exhibition wrote, ``No one
thought of dancing, for everyone
wanted to listen.''
The waltz king
Strauss was and remains known
as ``The Waltz King,'' but he
wrote several different kinds of
pieces - polkas, marches,
quadrilles and others, as well as
sparkling operettas including
``Die Fledermaus'' and ``The
Gypsy Baron.''
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It's easy to tell most of these
forms apart. The march needs no
introduction. It's a two-step that's
so simple it can't be danced to;
you merely, well, march to it.
The waltz king
The polka was originally a lively
Bohemian peasant dance that sent
couples bounding and twirling all over
the dance floor. Most polkas are in
ternary, or three-part, form. The first
and third parts are identical, and the
second often brings in a contrasting
mood. The two most famous Strauss
polkas are ``Thunder and Lightning''
and ``Tritsch-Tratsch.''
The waltz king
A quadrille is a group dance, requiring
an equal number of couples. It seems
to have originated in France and may
have begun as music to accompany
displays of horsemanship. The
quadrille is not only a group dance,
but a group of dances - five, usually,
in different rhythms and tempos. At
first, quadrilles used folk tunes, but
Strauss' quadrilles employ songs and
opera arias that were popular in his
The waltz king
Finally, the waltz. The basic waltz
is in 3/4 time with the emphasis
on the first beat (count: ONEtwo-three, ONE-two-three). While
the polka is a boisterous, jerky
dance, the waltz is characterized
by gliding and smooth rotation.
The waltz king
The Viennese waltz has a special
rhythm. It's still a three-count,
but the second beat is rushed a
little, leaving a short breathing
space between the second and
third beats. A truly authentic
performance of a Strauss waltz
will rush the second beat in this
manner, imparting a special lilt to
the music.
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To understand Strauss' distinction
as a composer of waltzing
thought poems, consider one of
his most popular works, the
``Emperor Waltz.''
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Most waltzes begin with a little
introduction to give couples time
to get onto the dance floor. The
``Emperor Waltz'' opens with an
extended intro. First there's a
distant march tune, rather jaunty
but decidedly military.
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A waltz melody tries to surge
forward but is interrupted by the
march, which now comes up front
and full regalia.
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The march tune recedes, and is
followed by a swirling transitional
passage with a little cello solo.
This leads quietly into the waltz
theme that appeared in the
introduction. There's no grand
announcement; it just subtly
The waltz king
Now comes a whole series of
waltzes, all featuring singing
melodic lines. Orchestral
flourishes occasionally billow like
women's ball gowns, but there
are quiet sections,too.
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Each new tune is a little more
extroverted than the last, but
near the end the wistful, nostalgic
opening waltz returns. It's all
about to end in a noble blaze, but
everything suddenly dies away
into that poetic cello solo from
the introduction. It's very slow,
not easily danced.
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Finally comes a brief uplifting
coda, louder and a bit faster than
the cello solo and full of brass
The waltz king
Strauss' melodic gift assured him
of the public's unflagging favor
throughout Europe and the United
States. The waltz was a social
opiate, and each Strauss waltz
provided a deeply satisfying high.
The waltz king
Waltzing was, in modern parlance,
an escape mechanism. During
Strauss' life, Vienna's opulence
and its glittering balls masked a
pervasive xenophobia, political
oppression, epidemics of cholera
and scarlet fever, and financial
The waltz king
But who could worry about such
things while dancing to music
given titles like ``Carefree'' and
``I Couldn't Care Less''?
The waltz king
Nothing changes, does it? When Dr.
Burney in 1805 described the waltz as
a “riotous modern invention”, whose
very name implied “to wallow, welter,
tumble down or roll in the dirt or mire”,
he could just as easily have been
denouncing rock 'n' roll in 1956. When
he wondered “how uneasy an English
mother would be to see her daughter
so familiarly treated”, he could have
been commenting on the lambada or
“Dirty Dancing”.
The waltz king
This salacious popular entertainment
hit the big time when Johann Strauss
Vater formed his rock - sorry, dance band in 1825, whereafter it gradually
gained acceptance as a social activity.
In 1844, Johann Strauss Sohn, who
was born the same year as his dad's
band, formed one of his own, the key
step in his transformation from bank
clerk to Waltz King, and embarked on
a career which was to elevate the
waltz from the coffee house (c.f. disco)
to the regal ballrooms of Europe.
The waltz king
While nothing assures respectability more
than recognition by the Establishment,
Strauss also won admiration from some
surprising quarters, namely the avantgarde of the next generation. Mahler was
a great fan, even paying tribute in his
Fifth Symphony, though he wryly
observed that Strauss' very facility
prevented his becoming a “great
composer” (presumably in the sense of
Beethoven or Brahms) - he had no need of
symphonic development, because when
one tune had run its course, he simply
pulled another, equally memorable, out of
his hat! Crying shame!
The waltz king
Schoenberg was so incensed at the
arrangements of the 1920s that he
organised a concert, to show that it
was not compulsory for piano,
harmonium and string quartet to
mangle Strauss' elegant tunes. The
arrangements by Schoenberg, Berg,
and Webern are well worth searching
out, believe me!
The waltz king
You could say Strauss made an art
form out of the pot-pourri. He
exercised immense skill in coordinating
the tunes pulled from his capacious
headgear, combining them with
imaginative introductions and bridging
phrases to transmute mere dance
sequences into exquisite tone-poems. I
believe that Strauss remains so
universally well-loved because his
music is not just stylish and attractive,
but also edifyingly well bolted together.
The waltz king
The names given to these pieces were
often just fanciful handles, but
sometimes reflected the character of
the music. Thus the introduction to the
Emperor Waltz (or Kaiser-Walzer, if
you want to be picky), written in
honour of Franz Josef in 1888, is in a
march-like 2/4 giving it a regal, even
pompous feel. It also has a certain
fussiness which, if I were Franz Josef,
I might wonder about.
The waltz king
How effortlessly it leads, via a
cadential 'cello solo, into the first waltz
tune - cunningly pre-echoed in the
introduction - and on into a colourful
and varied full dress ball. The stately
processional of the introduction is
brilliantly reflected in a central,
majestic, tune, resplendent in weighty
brass, which you just know will come
back to form the sonorous climax (but
surprisingly not the conclusion). If you
feel the urge to dance in the aisles, go
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