Johann Strauss Junior

We now turn to Johann Strauss Junior (1825-1899) – the king of 19th century Viennese popular music.

There were actually four Strausses in total: the father, probably best known for his Radetzky March, and the three sons Johann, Josef and Eduard, with the first-mentioned being particularly prominent. Their music dominated the 19th century and is still played around the world today. This success was probably due to the perfect management behind the Strauss trio. We're talking about a flourishing global business enterprise. Johann Strauss Junior was a 19th century "pop star"; he performed in front of 100,000 people at the World Peace Jubilee in Boston in 1872, along with 20 deputy conductors, a concert of which today's musicians would probably also be proud.
The Strauss orchestra tours always made headlines, and not always for musical reasons. In 1850 on the way to Warsaw, the musicians were said to have been taken for spies and locked in a pigsty. Allegedly, they were only released thanks to the personal intervention of Tsarina Maria Feodorowna, to whom Johann Strauss Junior then dedicated the "Warsaw Polka" specially composed for this guest performance. Whether such stories were really true or simply clever marketing - at least they were good for business. Johann Strauss was particularly popular in Russia, and also caused a sensation at the Paris World Exhibition in 1867. What's strange is that Strauss actually suffered from a fear of travelling. Whenever a train went over a bridge or through a tunnel, he lay down flat on the carriage floor. And he was only persuaded to make his famous guest appearance in Boston thanks to a fee of 100,000 dollars. The Railway Pleasure Waltzes, in which we hear the rhythmic sound of the locomotive's steam engine, were written by his father who was a keen traveller. "Beautiful Edi" (Eduard Strauss) also paid musical tribute to this means of transport: in his "Clear Track" Polka, we hear the train's characteristic whistle at the beginning of the piece.

Eduard Strauss: “Ohne Aufenthalt” – “Without Stopping!”, Polka schnell, Op. 112

Performed by the Vienna Philharmonic 2011 at the "New Years Concert", under the baton of Franz Welser-Möst.

The themes of the Strauss Dances were always topical - which is probably another reason for their huge popularity. The audience was personally moved by precisely these references to everyday life, and the music therefore captured the spirit of the times.

Johann Strauss Senior: “Sperl-Galopp”, Op. 42

Performed by the Vienna Philharmonic 2012 at the "New Years Concert", under the baton of Mariss Jansons.

The waltz – a development of the minuet – was a child of its time. Frowned upon in polite society until the early 19th century, because its hold was considered much too close for those days, and also because it originated from the farming community, the waltz still managed to become an extremely popular dance. The emerging bourgeoisie imitated the balls held by the nobility, making the waltz the most important dance – with roaring success, and even the aristocracy soon wanted to dance the waltz. The first city where it was permitted at Court, was Vienna. From Vienna, Johann Strauss Junior finally made the waltz a triumph. Dancing the waltz only remained prohibited in the presence of the Emperor. But not at "Haus der Musik" – you're more than welcome to dance here!

Did you know that…

Johann Strauss Junior was married three times? After his first wife, "Jetty" (Henriette), who was a couple of years older than him, his other two wives compensated for this by being 30 years younger. Just like Jetty, his last wife, Adele, was also her husband's manager, thereby making a major contribution to the success of the Strauss dynasty. As the saying goes: "Behind every great man is a great woman."