Bolshoi Theater Wind Orchestra
Vladimir Andropov, conductor
Catalog #S022589CD [DDD]
Johannes Brahms inscribed Adele Strauss' fan with the opening bars of An der Schönen blauen Donau (the Blue Danube Waltz) and the words, "Leider nicht von Brahms" ("Regrettably not by Brahms"). This was a measure of how the great Waltz Kings, Johann Strauss and his sons, captivated the romantic yet formal Vienna society of the nineteenth century with their exhilarating tunes, which came to be played throughout the major capitals of Europe. Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort, and other crowned heads of Europe were dancing the waltz, and the waltzing craze became one of the greatest ever dance phenomena.
Johann (Baptist) Strauss (I), known as "The Father of the Waltz" was born in Vienna, Austria on March 14, 1804 and died there on September 25, 1849. He was born into a humble Jewish family of Hungarian descent and made a concerted effort to conceal his Jewish origins. When the ancestry of the family was realized by the chagrined Nazis a century later, they falsified the parish register at St. Stephen's Cathedral in 1939 to make the family racially pure. Johann's father was an innkeeper who apprenticed him to a bookbinder, but his musical talent revealed itself at an early age. After Strauss ran away, his parents consented to his becoming a musician. He studied the violin under Polyschansky and harmony under Seyfried becoming a violist in Michael Pamer's Dance Orchestra at 15. He became friends with Josef Lanner and in 1819 became a member of the latter's small band, and later served as second conductor of Lanner's orchestra (1824-25). In 1825, Strauss organized his own orchestra, which quickly became popular in Viennese inns. He composed his first waltz, Täuberln-Walzer, in 1826, transforming the rigid oom-pah of the Landler Dance into the more elegant, but still somewhat risqué, Viennese Waltz. His renown spread, and his orchestra increased in size and efficiency. From 1833 he undertook concert tours in Austria, and in 1834 was appointed bandmaster of the 1st Vienna militia regiment. His tours extended to Berlin in 1834 and to the Netherlands and Belgium in 1836. In 1837-38 he invaded Paris with a picked corps of 28, and had immense success both there and in London. In 1846 he was named k.k (i.e., kiserlich and königlich, or imperial and royal) Hofballmusikdirektor. After catching scarlet fever from one of his children, he died at the age of 45. Although he composed around 300 works, he is chiefly remembered for the lovely waltz Loreley-Rhein-Klänge and for the ubiquitous Radetzky-Marsch (1848) which honors the eponymous 82-year-old Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Austrian army. He had three sons who carried on the family musical tradition.
Johann (Baptist) Strauss (II), known as "The Waltz King" was born in Vienna on October 25, 1825 and died there on June 3, 1899. Despite his great success, the elder Strauss was adamantly opposed to the idea of his son pursuing a career in music and intended Johann II to enter the banking profession. The younger Johann, however, displayed musical gifts at an early age. He began composing when he was six years old and wrote the first 36 bars of waltz music that later was published as Erster Gedanhe. His mother arranged for him to secretly study violin with Franz Amon, the concertmaster of his father's dance orchestra. After his father left the family in 1842, he was able to pursue violin training with Anton Kohlmann and music theory with Joseph Drechsler until 1844. Every bandleader has a location with which he is identified: Guy Lombardo at the Roosevelt Grill, Freddy Martin at the Coconut Grove, Glenn Miller at the Glen Island Casino, Chick Webb at the Savoy, Bob January at the Rainbow Room. For Johann Strauss, it was Dommayer's Casino. He made his first public appearance as conductor of his own ensemble at Dommayer's Casino at Hietzing on October 15, 1844, performing both his own works and those of his father. His success was instantaneous, and his new waltzes won wide popularity. Despite his father's objections to this rivalry in the family, Johann continued his concerts with increasing success. After his father's death in 1849, he united his father's band with his own, subsequently making regular tours of Europe (1856-86). From 1863 to 1871, he was k.k. Hofballmusikdirektor in Vienna. In 1872, he accepted an invitation to visit the United States, and directed 14 "monster concerts" in Boston and 4 in New York. He then turned to the theater. His finest operetta is Die Fledermaus, an epitome of the Viennese spirit that continues to hold the stage as one of the masterpieces of its genre. It was first staged at the Theater an der Wien on April 5, 1874, and within a few months was given its New York premiere (December 29, 1874). Productions followed all over the world. It was performed in Paris with a new libretto as La Tzigane on October 30, 1877. The original version was presented there as La Chauve-souris on April 22, 1904. Also very successful was the operetta Der Zigeunerbaron premiered in Vienna on October 24, 1885. All his operettas were first produced in Vienna, with the exception of Line Nacht in Venedig that premiered in Berlin on October 3, 1883. Although Strauss composed extensively for the theater, his supreme achievement remains his dance music. He wrote almost 500 pieces of it. He brought the Viennese waltz to its highest form with his gifts for melody, interesting harmonic structures, and clever orchestrations. The Waltz King created the music that made balls flourish not just in Vienna, but all over the world. Without his wonderful compositions and his extraordinary following the ball would not have had the impact on the social life of the era. Of his waltzes the greatest popularity was achieved by An der Schönen blauen Donau, op. 314 (1867), whose main tune became one of the best known in all music. Strauss contracted 3 marriages: to the singer Henriette Treffi, the actress Angelika Dittrich, and Adele Strauss, the widow of the banker Anton Strauss, who was no relation to Johann's family. Strauss also composed numerous quadrilles, polkas, polka-mazurkas, marches and gallops as well as several pieces in collaboration with his brothers Josef and Eduard.
Josef Strauss was born in Vienna on August 22, 1827 and died there on July 21, 1870, following a fall from the conductor's podium. He studied music theory with Franz Dolleschal and violin with Franz Anton. He was trained as an engineer, and worked for the city of Vienna. In his spare time he put to good use his talents as an artist, painter, poet, dramatist, singer, composer and inventor - he designed the horse-drawn forerunner of today's revolving-brush street-sweeping vehicles - and also published two textbooks on mathematical subjects. It was only when his elder brother, Johann, became ill from over-work, that he reluctantly took over - temporarily, he thought - the leadership of the Strauss orchestra. Johann once said of him: "Pepi [Josef] is the more gifted of us two; I am merely the more popular..." Josef regularly appeared as a conductor with his brother Johann's orchestra (1856-62). Their younger brother Eduard joined them in 1862. When Johann left the orchestra in 1863, Josef and Eduard continued to conduct the family orchestra. Josef wrote 283 opus numbers many of which reveal a composer of remarkable talent. He is best remembered today as composer of the waltzes Village Swallows from Austria (1864), The Mysterious Powers of Magnetism (1865) and Music of the Spheres (1868) as well as co-writing the Pizzicato-Polka (1869) with his brother Johann.
Eduard Strauss was born in Vienna on March 15, 1835 and died there on December 28, 1916. He studied music theory and composition with Gottfried Preyer and Simon Sechter, violin with Amen, and harp with Parish-Alvars and Zamara. After playing harp in his brother Johann's orchestra, he made his debut as a conductor and composer with it at the Wintergarten of the Dianabad-Saal on April 6, 1862. Eduard and his other brother Josef shared the conductorship of the orchestra until the latter's death in 1870. From 1870 to 1878, Eduard was k.k. Hofballmusikdirektor; subsequently made annual tours of Europe as a guest conductor, and with his own orchestra. In 1890 and 1900-1901 he toured throughout the United States. He wrote some 300 works, but they failed to rival the superior works of his brothers. Eduard was a pompous, dictatorial person, who loved wearing his medals. He is best remembered as the person who, to fulfill a promise he had made to his brothers, burned the entire Strauss orchestra library, and the original manuscripts of the entire Strauss Family in 1906. All the dance arrangements of the Strauss Orchestra were destroyed in the boiler room of his friend's chair factory. It took seven hours amid frantic protestations from the many onlookers. His memoirs were published in 1906.
Charles Gounod (1818-1893), the son of a painter father and a musician mother was destined from early in life to be a composer. He studied in Paris and Rome and fell under the influence of early Italian church composers such as Palestrina. His enthusiasm for religious music led him to the seminary. He never graduated, but was known as "Abbe Gounod" throughout his life. He eventually tried his hand at stage music composing several operas, of which Faust is the most famous. Petite Symphonie for 9 Wind Instruments (1885) was a commission from Gounod's friend Paul Taffanel (1844-1908), the highly influential teacher of the flute at the Paris Conservatory. Taffanel had organized an ensemble specifically to perform chamber works for wind instruments, and in 1885 he asked Gounod to contribute a piece. Gounod chose an instrumentation that closely matched the scoring of some of Mozart's wind serenades - two each of oboes, clarinets, horns, and bassoons - and then added a single flute, in deference to Taffanel. The Petite Symphonie is a miniature evocation of a complete classical symphony. The opening movement begins with a slow introduction before a formal Sonata Allegro movement begins. The slow movement features an extensive flute part. The Scherzo contains a full trio and restatement. The finale is filled with exuberance, varied rhythmic figures and musical ideas that are passed from one instrument to the next throughout the movement.
Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) was one of the greatest masters of Russian music. His source of inspiration was Glinka's operatic style. He made use of both the purely Russian idiom and coloristic oriental melodic patterns. Flight of the Bumble Bee is a showpiece, showing Rimsky-Korsakov's ear for the unusually shaped melody. The fast runs in semitones clearly bring to mind a bee busily bumbling about. The music is a bit more vindictive than it might seem. It comes from Act 3 of the opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan (1903), when the hero Prince Gvidon, transformed by magic into a bee by a Swan-Princess, stings his wicked aunts and the old witch who helped them plot against him and his mother.
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