Johann Strauss - the Waltz King
Johann Strauss (Son) was born on 25 October 1825 in Vienna. With his compostions in light classical style, he put everything comparable in the shade. In the year 1844 he made his sensationally successful debut in Dommayers Casino in Hietzing with his own small orchestra. An unprecedented triumphal progress began that led him, together with his brothers Joseph and Eduard, to the Kursalon Wien, among other locations. Wide-ranging concert tours throughout Europe, and the 1872 American concert series, triggered off a real “Strauss hysteria“. His popularity was unsurpassed.
Besides waltzes, Strauss also applied himself to the composition of other dance forms, such as polkas, galops, marches and csárdás. Through his contact with Jacques Offenbach he discovered operetta, which he himself called “comic opera”. With works like “Die Fledermaus“ and “The Gypsy Baron” he brought the golden era of Viennese operetta to its pinnacle. Johann Strauss Jnr died on 3 June 1899 in Vienna.
The origins of the waltz reach back to the Middle Ages. Although initially considered coarse and too folksy, from the Congress of Vienna (1814/15) onwards it spread around the world and captivated all levels of society. From 1800, Vienna became the centre for the waltz. In the course of the 19th Century, the waltz developed into a concert form in its own right, fashioned by the Grand Masters of the waltz: Josef Lanner, Johann Strauss Senior and his sons Joseph and Eduard. But when one speaks of the “Viennese Waltz”, then without a doubt the waltz compositions of Johann Strauss Jnr spring to mind, representing as they do a pinnacle in the development of the form. The classical concert waltz begins with an introduction, which is followed by a series usually of five waltz melodies, and ends with the coda, which brings a reprise of the preceding melodies. The ¾ time of the waltz gains its characteristic Viennese swing through the slight, intuitive anticipation of the second beat. Undoubtedly the most famous of the Viennese waltzes is Johann Strauss Jnr’s “The Blue Danube”, opus 314, which has practically become Austria’s secret national anthem.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – the infant prodigy
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on 27 January 1756 in Salzburg. At the tender age of four he was already being given music lessons by his father Leopold Mozart, and studied the violin, piano and composition. At the age of five his first compositions appeared, and in 1762 his first performances as a child prodigy took place in Vienna and Munich. From 1769 to 1781 he was employed as concert-master at the court of the Bishop of Salzburg, and undertook many journeys - among others, three to Italy, then the leading centre of music. From 1781 onwards, Mozart lived as a freelance composer and music teacher in Vienna, where his most important operas came into being. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died here on 5 December 1791. Despite his early death, his life work comprises over 600 compositions, and he is regarded as one of the most important creators of music that mankind has ever seen.