Thursday, March 24

The Strauss Family

The Strauss family must be included among Vienna’s greatest

and most important musicians. The ruling family and

aristocracy of this city loved the arts, especially music.

In view of this fact, Vienna produced the most magnificent

waves of musical genius anywhere

over a span of three centuries.

The first wave included Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and the senior Strauss. The second wave: Brahms, Mahlar, Richard Strauss1, and the younger Johann Strauss. Finally the third wave: the twentieth-century geniuses – Schoenberg, Berg and Webern.

Johann2 Strauss, Sr. lived for his orchestra and sadly, not for his family. He was restless, demanding and tyrannical3. Even so, his sons idolized him. Strauss, Sr. created cheerful and happy music. His ‘Rachetzy march’ was his greatest success. It is the unofficial Austrian national anthem.

Johann, Sr. didn’t want any of his children to become musicians, but encouraged by their mother Anna; his three sons, Johann, Jr., Josef, and Eduard4, studied music and contributed more to the waltz 5 than their father did.

Strauss, Sr. was called the Waltz King. He joined Joseph Lanner, in 1826, and they began to formalize the Viennese Waltz that Lanner had created earlier. They formed this into the kind of waltzes that we know today.

After his father left his family, Johann, Jr. became the new ‘Waltz King’. He was already writing music, in ¾ time, at age 6. This is an amazing accomplishment, as it is an extremely difficult time to play, let alone write in.

Beethoven6 often complained that “the Viennese were Waltz
 mad!” Maybe he had a point. Many waltz enthusiasts danced
 through the night until early morning, and the large elegant dance
 halls of Vienna often over flowed. These magnificent dance halls
 could hold over 500 people.

It was not unusual to find Johann Jr. writing music at night and usually under stress. In ill health, and urged by his wife, Jetti, he handed over the responsibility of the family orchestra to his brother Josef.

Reluctantly, his brother, took over conducting, yet handled it with outstanding success. Josef also wrote beautiful waltzes and was called ‘the Schubert of the Waltz”. Unfortunately, Josef died young of brain tumour. After Josef’s untimely and upsetting death, Eduard directed the family orchestra.

In Johann Jr.’s famous operetta masterpieces, “Die Fledermous” and “the Gypsy Baron”, he took ballroom to the theatre. Jr.’s music remained fresh and young. His genius went far beyond the realm of light dance, inspiring many great composers who wrote waltzes.

When Waltz King Johann Strauss, Jr. died in 1899, he had composed nearly five hundred works – waltzes, polkas, marches, operettas, and more.

Vienna and the world, owes much to the Strauss family. If it wasn’t for their passion and hard work we would not have the music we have today.

1 not a relation; 2 pronounced Jo-han, 3meaning bad, bad, and bad; 4Ed-r-ed; 5 wal-s;



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