Johann Strauss Jr.
Johann Strauss Jr.
Some of his polkas and marches are also well known, as is his operetta Die Fledermaus. Strauss was born in Vienna, Austria. His father did not want him to become a musician but rather a banker; nevertheless he studied the violin secretly as a child: ironically with his father's first violinist in the Strauss orchestra, Franz Amon. However, when his father found out, Johann II recalled that 'there was a violent and unpleasant scene' and that 'his father wanted to know nothing of his musical plans'. It seems that, rather than trying to avoid a Strauss rivalry, Strauss Sr.
wanted his son to escape the rigors that accompany a musical life. It was only when his father left the family and took a mistress Emilie Trambusch when Johann II was 17 that he was able to concentrate fully on a career as a composer. Johann Jr. then studied counterpoint and harmony with theorist Professor Joachim Hoffmann, who owned a private music school. His talents were also recognised by composer Josef Drechsler (also spelled Drexler) who taught him exercises in harmony.
His other violin teacher, Anton Kollmann, who was the ballet répétiteur of the Vienna Court Opera, also wrote excellent testimonials for him. Armed with these, he approached the Viennese authorities to apply for a license to perform. He initially formed his small orchestra where he recruited his members, the 'Zur Stadt Belgrad' tavern, where musicians seeking work could be hired easily. Johann Strauss I's influence meant that many establishments were wary of offering the younger Strauss a contract for fear of angering the former.
Strauss Jr. was then able to persuade the Dommayer's Casino, Hietzing in Vienna to give him his debut. The local media were soon frantically reporting a 'Strauss v. Strauss' rivalry between father and son.
Strauss Sr., in anger at his son disobedience, refused to play at the Dommayer's Casino ever again, which was surprising as the establishment had been the site of many of his earlier triumphs. Strauss Jr. found the early years difficult, but he soon won over audiences after accepting commissions to perform away from home. The first major appointment for the young composer was his award of the honorary position of "Kapellmeister of the 2nd Vienna Citizen's Regiment", which had been left vacant following Josef Lanner's death two years before. Vienna was racked by a bourgeois revolution on 24th February 1848 and the intense rivalry between father and son became more apparent.
Eventually, Johann Jr. decided to side with the revolutionaries, a decision which was both musically and professionally disadvantageous, as the Austrian royalty twice denied him the much coveted KK Hofballmusikdirektor position, which was first designated especially for Johann I in recognition of his musical contributions. Further, the younger Strauss was also taken to task by the Viennese authorities for publicly playing the infectious La Marseillaise, which stoked revolutionary feelings. When the elder Strauss died from scarlet fever in 1849 in Vienna, the younger Strauss merged both their orchestras and engaged in further tours. He would eventually surpass his father's fame, and become the most popular of all waltz composers, extensively touring Austria, Poland and Germany with his orchestra.
It would be a usual sight for his audiences to catch sight of Strauss for only one performance before he would quickly hurry to another venue where he was commissioned to play via the traditional fiaker. It would be the ultimate showmanship and this would be displayed on the placards at the venues to proudly proclaim "Heut Spielt der Strauss!" or 'Strauss plays today!'. He also made visits to Russia where he performed at Pavlovsk and wrote many compositions there and retitling it to suit his Viennese audiences back home, Britain where he performed with his first wife Jetty Treffz at the Covent Garden, France, Italy and the United States later in the 1870s where he took part in the Boston Festival and was the lead conductor in the 'Monster Concert' of over 1000 musicians. Among the more popular dance pieces Strauss wrote in this period include the waltzes Sängerfahrten op. 41, Liebeslieder op.
114, Nachtfalter op. 157, Accelerationen op. 234 and the polkas Annen op. 117, and Tritsch-Tratsch-Polka op.
214. He married the singer Jetty Treffz in 1862 and applied for the KK Hofballmusikdirektor Music Director of the Royal Court Balls position which he eventually achieved in 1863 after being denied several times before for his frequent brush with the local authorities. His involvement with the Court Balls meant that his work has been elevated to be even heard by the royalty. His second wife, Angelika Dittrich (an actress) whom he married in 1878 was not a fervent supporter of his music and their differences in age and opinion, especially her indiscretion led him to seek a divorce. Strauss was not granted a divorce by the Roman Catholic church and therefore changed religion and nationality and became a citizen of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha on January 28, 1887. Strauss II sought solace in his third wife Adele (whom he married on August 15, 1887) and she encouraged the creative talent to flow once more in his later years, resulting in much fine music such as those found in the operettas 'Der Zigeunerbaron' and 'Waldmeister' and the waltzes 'Kaiser-Walzer','Kaiser Jubilaum','Märchen aus dem Orient' op.
444 and 'Klug Gretelein' op. 462. After establishing his first orchestra prior to his father's death, he founded many others to be supplied to various entertainment establishments such as the 'Sperl' ballroom as well as the 'Apollo' where he dedicated appropriately titled pieces to commemorate the first performances there. Later, he accepted commissions to play in Russia for the Archduke Michael and Tsar Alexander II especially in Pavlovsk where a new railway line was built. When the commissions became too much to be handled by him alone, he sought to promote his younger brothers Josef and Eduard to deputise in his absence from either poor health or a busy schedule.
In 1853, he was even confined to a sanatorium to recuperate as he was suffering from shivering fits and neuralgia. Anxious that the family business that she so lovingly nurtured would be ruined, mother Anna helped persuade a reluctant Josef to take over the helm of the Strauss Orchestra. The Viennese welcomed both brothers eventually and Johann even once admitted that 'Josef was the more talented of the two of us, I'm merely the more popular.' Josef went on to stamp his own mark into his own waltzes and this fresh rivalry did more good for the development of the waltz as Johann Strauss II proceeded to consolidate his position as the "waltz king" with his exquisite The Blue Danube waltz which began life as a choral waltz with banal words written by a local poet. The highlight of the Strauss triumvirate was displayed in the concert of 'Perpetual Music' in 1860s where his aptly titled 'Perpetuum Mobile' musical joke op. 257, was played continuously by all three Strauss brothers at the helm of three large orchestras.
At around the same time, the three Strauss brothers also organised many musical activities during their concerts at the Vienna Volksgarten where the audience would be able to participate. For example, a new piece would be played and the audience would be asked to guess who the composer was as the placards would only announce the piece as written by a 'Strauss' followed by question marks. Johann Strauss (including the Strauss family) was not without rivals. Although the most sought-after composer of dance music was Johann Strauss II in the 1860s to the 1890s, stiff competition was present in the form of Karl Michael Ziehrer and Emile Waldteufel whom the latter was commanding in his position in Paris. Much earlier, Johann Strauss I faced a long rivalry with fellow composer Josef Lanner and Josef Gungl.
Ziehrer would eventually eclipse the Strauss family after Johann and Josef's deaths and posed more than a challenge to Eduard. The German operetta composer Offenbach who made his name in Paris also posed a challenge to Strauss in the operetta field. Later, the emergence of operetta maestro Lehár would usher in the Silver Age in Vienna and most certainly sweep aside Strauss dominance in the operetta world. Johann Strauss and Johannes Brahms photographed in Vienna. He was admired by prominent composers of the day, including Richard Wagner who once admitted that he admired the waltz Wein, Weib und Gesang op. 333 and Johannes Brahms, who was also a personal friend, and to whom he dedicated his waltz Seid umschlungen Millionen or 'Be Embraced Millions' op.
443 inspired by a poem by Friedrich Schiller. Other admirers include Richard Strauss (unrelated) who, when writing his Rosenkavalier waltzes, said 'How could I forget the laughing genius of Vienna?' which made a reference to Johann Strauss the younger. Strauss' operettas, however, have not had as much enduring success as have his dance pieces: and much of the success was reserved for Die Fledermaus and Der Zigeunerbaron. Notwithstanding the lack of popularity of his operettas, there are much dance pieces drawn from themes of his lukewarmly-received operettas such as 'Cagliostro-Walzer' op. 370 and 'Rosen aus dem Süden' Walzer op.
388. He also wrote an opera, Ritter Pásmán which could be faulted on the libretto but nevertheless, many attribute his strong links to the waltz and the polka as his failure as this may well indicate that he may not be able to write serious music. In fact, for his third and most successful operetta of all time, Die Fledermaus 1874, music critics of Vienna prophesied that his work would only be a 'motif of waltz and polka melodies'. Nonetheless, his fiercest critic and ironically a strong supporter, Eduard Hanslick wrote at the time of Strauss's death in 1899 that his demise would signify the end of the last happy times in Vienna.
Johann Strauss II died from pneumonia in Vienna in 1899 at the age of 74 and was buried there in the Zentralfriedhof. At the time of his death, he was still working on his ballet Aschenbrödel. Strauss' music is now regularly performed at the annual Neujahrskonzert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, as a result of the efforts by Clemens Krauss who performed a special all-Strauss programme in 1929 with the Viennese orchestra. Many distinguished Strauss interpreters include Willi Boskovsky who carried on the "Vorgeiger" tradition of conducting with violin in hand as is the Strauss family custom as well as the famous Herbert von Karajan and the opera conductor Riccardo Muti. It is to be noted that most of the Strauss works that we are all familiar with today may have existed in a near negligible different form as conceived by Johann Strauss II and his brothers as Eduard Strauss destroyed a great amount of original Strauss orchestral archives in a furnace manufacturer in Vienna's Mariahilf district in 1907. The Johann Strauss societies around the world have, however, painstakingly pieced together a large body of these destroyed works to be appreciated by future generations.
Eduard Strauss, then the only surviving brother, took this drastic precaution to prevent Strauss works from being openly claimed as another composer's own. This may have also been fuelled by the intense rivalry between the other popular waltz and march composer, Karl Michael Ziehrer. (cited from For more information on Johann Strauss II, visit this webpage.) Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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