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If Johann Strauss Jr. was the Waltz King, then Johann Strauss Sr. was the Waltz Emperor!

If Johann Strauss Jr. was the Waltz King, then Johann Strauss Sr. was the Waltz Emperor! featured image

It can be confusing as to which Johann Strauss wrote which waltz; father and son did more for the Viennese waltz form than most other composers (though they were by means not the only waltz composers) . To help clarify things a little, Sr. wrote the Radetzky March (ironically, not a waltz), the Lorelei Rhein Klange Walzer, and Chineser Galop; and Jr. wrote The Blue Danube, the Emperor Waltz, and the music for the opera Die Fledermaus, for which the Overture is a popular short orchestra work on its own.

It’s fair enough to say that the son’s compositions are more “ear-catching” and better known these days, but it was his father who lay down the groundwork. It was Johann Sr. who created the classical Viennese dance form: a short introduction (in which one would imagine the dancers taking their places in the ballroom), the rustic peasant dance that’s been refined into an elegant dance theme; a strong, three-beat rhythm to twirl by; and a rousing finish.

Johann Strauss Sr. was ambitious, forming his own orchestra to compose for, and introduced Austria to the quadrille, a dance he heard during travels to France. His popularity lead him to ambitions of having his music performed for the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838, a plan that succeeded. He also incorporated popular tunes of the day into his works to ensure crowd popularity. Johann Sr. also had a touch of the marketing gene: he gave each waltz a nickname, better to remember them by.

Franz Welser-Most conducts the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra for a New Year’s Concert in 2011 in the Radetsky March, and as is custom with this work, he cues the audience to clap along, which they do, most enthusiastically.

Johann Strauss Sr. was born March 14, 1804 in what is now Vienna, Austria, and died September 25, 1849, in Vienna.

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