Friday, January 18, 2008

The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia --

The Blue Danube is the common English title of An der schönen blauen Donau op. 314 (On the Beautiful Blue Danube), a waltz by Johann Strauss the Younger, composed in 1867. Originally performed 9 February 1867, at a concert of the Wiener Männergesangsverein (Vienna Men's Choral Association). It has been one of the most consistently popular pieces of music in the classical repertoire. Its initial performance was only a mild success, however, and Strauss is reputed to have said, "The devil take the waltz, my only regret is for the coda - I wish that had been a success."

The waltz originally had an accompanying song text written by Josef Weyl. Strauss adapted it into a purely orchestral version for the World's Fair in Paris that same year, and it became a great success in this form. The instrumental version is by far the most commonly performed today. An alternate text by Franz von Gernerth, Donau so blau (Danube so blue), is also used on occasion.

The sentimental Viennese connotations of the piece have made it into a sort of unofficial Austrian national anthem. It is a traditional encore piece at the annual Vienna New Year's Concert.

It is reported by composer Norman Lloyd in his "Golden Encyclopedia of Music" that when asked by Frau Strauss for an autograph, the composer Johannes Brahms autographed Mrs. Strauss's fan by writing on it the first few bars of the Blue Danube. Under it he wrote "Unfortunately not by Johannes Brahms."

You can read more about this at:

The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss --
Herbert von Karajan conducts:

The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss --
Andre Rieu performed:

The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss --
André Rieu - Royal Albert Hall:

The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss --
Wiener Philharmoniker and Wiener Staatsopern ballet.
Lorin Maazel, conductor. New year's concert 2005:

The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss --
sung by Vienna Boys Choir:

The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss --
By Zubin Mehta:

The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss --

Strauss first performed this piece with a text set to a four-part chorus. It met with limited success. It was an immediate hit at the Paris Exhibition later in 1867, when he performed it in the familar instrumental version.

Performed here by the Orch of the Berlin Opera, conducted by Erich Kleiber.

In 1919, H.L.Menken wrote:
The waltz never quite goes out of fashion;
it is always just around the corner;
every now and then it returns with a bang...
It is sneaking, insidious, disarming, lovely...
The waltz, in fact, is magnificently improper...
the art of tone turned lubricious...

Kleiber (August 5, 1890, in Vienna -- January 27, 1956) was a bit less-known and less appreciated than his more celebrated contemporaries like Walter, Toscanini, Furtwängler and such. He was a perfectionist who studied scores relentlessly, and didn't enjoy the recording process. He shared these traits with his son Carlos, another celebrated conductor.

Kleiber became music director of the Berlin Opera in 1923, and resigned in protest to the Nazis after they denounced Webern's opera "Lulu." Kleiber was offered his old post back after the war, but it was in Russian hands and Kleiber didn't think the communists were much of an improvement over the Nazis. He never took another permanent post. He became an Argentinian citizen in 1938.

He gets this Berlin orchestra playing like a Viennese one for Blue Danube. In particular is his very idiomatic use of the Luftpause or "breath-pause" (not take, but pause for breath) a fermata, a bit of silence to give the listener a kind of release before a faster tempo is taken. You can sometimes detect a tiny Luftpause before the third beat in the waltz time too. Very hard for anyone not born and reared in Vienna those days to employ the Luftpause with this much elegance and authenticity...

And, yes, few top orchestras of the day had women in them. The conductor Beecham declared that if one came into his orchestra, the problem would be "If she is pretty, she'll distract the men, if ugly, she'll distract me!"... Women created their own opportunities by founding and organizing all-female orchestras, of which there were many back then.

Toscanini invited Kleiber to conduct the NBC Symphony in the late 40s, and those were his last trips to the US.

Anderson & Roe Piano Duet play "BLUE DANUBE FANTASY":

The Blue Danube (1939, MGM Cartoon):

Andre Rieu - The Blue Danube:

Strictly Come Dancing 2006 - Blue Danube:

Vladimir Malakhov :The Blue Danube:

Musicians of the World Symphony -- The Beautiful Blue Danube:

Neujahrskonzert 2008 vienna philharmonics -- Blue Danube:

Sumi Jo - J. Strauss - Blue Danube Waltz:

The Classical Now - Stewart Goodyear -
Canadian pianist Stewart Goodyear offers his wonderful interpretation of "The Blue Danube" from the second season of The Classical Now.

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