Today marks the 150th anniversary of the first performance of Johann Strauss’ waltz An der schönen blauen Donau (By the beautiful blue Danube) and I thought that deserved a blog post.
I hope you’ll like the bit of history and links to the various versions of the composition.
Happy reading and listening!
150 years An der schönen blauen Donau
In 1866 Austria suffered a defeat in the battle near Königsgrätz. The consequences were still felt the next year. During the carnival season, many balls, amongst which the Court Ball, were replaced by concerts and the Wiener Männergesang Verein (Vienna Men”s Choral Association) organised a Liedertafel (songs evening) instead of its traditional Narrenabend (fools’ evening). The association had asked Johann Strauss to compose a choral waltz for them. That’s how An der schönen blauen Donau op. 314 came into being.
Johann composed this waltz for choir and orchestra in his home in the Praterstrasse 54.
Josef Weyl (1821-1895), the Wiener Männergesang Verein’s poet, set words to the music. The text reflected the general mood in Vienna after the defeat near Königsgrätz.
The composition’s title was taken from the poets by Karl Isidor Beck (1817-1879) There’s no mention of it in the original text by Weyl, nor does it fit in with it. And the Danube was as blue then as it is now.
The Wiener Männergesang Verein’s Liedertafel was held in the Dianabadsaal on 15 February 1867. That evening An der schönen blauen Donau was premièred. Johann Strauss and his orchestra had a commitment at Court, so the Wiener Männergesang Verein’s choir master set it upon himself to conduct the new work with the orchestra of the Georg I., König von Hannover Infantry Regiment No. 42.
It is often said that the first performance wasn’t a success. I think Johann Strauss, spoilt with many encores on other occasions, won’t have been pleased with the fact that his new waltz was repeated only once. But the newspapers of the time spoke positively of the composition.
Later in 1867 Johann Strauss and his wife Jetty travelled to Paris and London, where the orchestral version of the waltz was on many concert programmes. Since then, the composition conquered the world and was to become Austria’s second national hymn.
In 1890 Franz von Gernerth (1821-1900) wrote a new, more suitable text for the waltz.
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) admired the waltz so much, he often gave sensational piano performances of it during his concerts.
An der schönen blauen Donau belongs to the most loved composition by Johann Strauss and is a must at concerts with Strauss music on the programme.
Have a listen at the different versions highlighted in the next. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
The pictures of the house where Johann Strauss composed An der schönen blauen Donau are pictures I took during my visits there.
The others were kindly put at my disposal by Helmut Reichenauer of the Museum der Johann Strauss Dynastie.