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RIP Johann Strauss Father

On 25 September 1849 Johann Strauss Father died in Vienna.

I will go into his life more in another post but think a little info here won’t be amiss.

He was the first professional musician in the family. To distinguish him from his famous son, who was also called Johann, he is often referred to as Johann Strauss Father, Johann Strauss I or Johann Strauss the elder.
Johann Strauss Father by Kriehuber (with kind permission of Peter Kemp, Honorary Life President of The Johann Strauss Society of Great Britain)

Johann was born in Vienna on 14 March 1804 and took an apprenticeship with a bookbinder but soon stepped into the music world.

In 1819 Strauss joined the already established trio of Joseph Lanner and the two Drahanek brothers as viola player. Over time, the quartet expanded, until in 1824 it had grown to a small string orchestra. Soon the orchestra was in great demand, so much so that it was split in two with both Lanner and Strauss leading a part of it. The two men also started to compose their own works which were liked very much by the public. Together they developed and perfected the Viennese dance music, especially the waltz.
In 1825, Johann married Anna Streim, with whom he had six children.

In 1827 Strauss founded his own orchestra and he and Lanner successfully went separate ways. Johann Strauss Father is said to be the first musician not only to ask a fixed entrance fee for his concerts, but also to take his orchestra on tour. Over the years he took his musicians to Hungary, Germany, Prague, Belgium (yeah!), Holland, France and England. He even performed for Queen Victoria during the festivities for her coronation in 1838!

He was only 45 years old when he got infected with scarlet fever and died at home in the early morning of 25 September 1849.
Johann Strauss on his death bed (with the kind permission of Helmut Reichenauer, director of the Museum der Johann Strauss Dynastie)


His funeral took place two days later. The route the funeral procession would follow was filled with 100,000 people who wanted to pay their respect.
At three in the afternoon, members of Strauss’ orchestra carried the coffin with his remains from his house to St Stephen’s Cathedral where the service took place. They carried him into the church through the large gate which was seldom opened. Stephansdom 4

After the funeral ceremony in the cathedral, a carriage took the coffin to the Schottentor. From there, members of the orchestra carried it to the Döblinger Friedhof where Strauss was buried next to his friend Joseph Lanner.

In 1927/1928 a park was laid out on the site of the cemetery: the Strauss-Lanner-Park. Strauss and Lanner’s original gravestones and a small part of the old cemetery wall have been retained.

In 1874 a new cemetery was consecrated: the Zentralfriedhof. At that time it was the largest cemetery in Europe and was an example for others. The Viennese didn’t like it in the beginning because it was remote and bare. To change that, the municipality decided to erect Eherengräber (honorary graves) for historically important people. The transfer of their remains started in 1884.
In October 1903, the city council approved the dedication of an honorary grave for Johann Strauss Father and Joseph Lanner on the Zentralfriedhof.

On 11 June 1904, the remains of Strauss Father, Lanner and his son were exhumed on the Döblinger Friedhof.
The newspapers of that time gave a full report of the event. Strauss’ remains had been well-preserved. His clothing was clearly recognizable. The skull was covered with the musician’s black hair and his teeth were in good condition. Johann’s remains were transferred into a metal coffin which was then soldered.
Joseph Lanner and his son’s remains were put in a second coffin.
The undertaker’s firm Concordia brought the two coffins to the Zentralfriehof.

The morning of 13 June 1904 they were buried in their honorary graves.
After the consecration in the cemetery’s chapel, workers of Concordia took the coffins to the graves, where they were put on a catafalque and consecrated again. The headstones were covered with black cloths with white crosses, which fell down as soon as the coffins had been lowered in the graves. The ceremony was concluded by some speeches and the reading of telegrams.
19040622 WB ANNO BLZ 10 foto

Johann Strauss I found his final resting place in the honorary grave number 15 in Gruppe 32A.
The headstone by A. Weinkopf is made of black Swedish granite. It has the shape of a triangle and carries a marble medallion with the composer’s portrait.

For a visit to his honorary grave, one enters the cemetery by Tor 2 (Gate 2), a monumental entrance with two large columns. From here, a wide path leads to Gruppe 32A, where the grave can be found.
ZF TOR 2 05

Johann Strauss Father. Portrait by Kriehuber (with the kind persmission of Peter Kemp, Honorary Life President of The Johann Strauss Society of Great Britain).
Johann Strauss on his death bed (with the kind permission of Helmut Reichenauer, director of the Museum der Johann Strauss Dynastie).
Third last picture: Honorary graves of Lanner and Strauss: consecration of the exhumed coffins before the reburial (Wiener Bilder number 25, 22/06/1904, page 10).
All other pictures were taken by me during my visits to Vienna.


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