Johann Strauss, Jr.

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Johann Strauss, Jr.

Born: 25 October 1825, Vienna
Died: 3 June 1899, Vienna

Known during his lifetime as the “Waltz King”, Johann Strauss Jr was an Austrian composer and musician who went on to write more than 500 musical compositions. His most celebrated piece “An der schönen blauen Donau” (Blue Danube Waltz) became one of the best-known and best loved melodies of the 19th century and has seen enduring popularity within the classical repertoire.

Born in Vienna on 25 October 1825 as Johann Baptist Strauss, Strauss Jr — or “the Younger” as he was also known — was the oldest son of the Austrian Romantic composer Johann Strauss Sr. The elder Strauss was strongly opposed to the notion of his son following in his footsteps as a musician despite his evident talent and tried, often forcibly, to push him in a very different professional direction, namely that of becoming a bank clerk. Without his father’s knowledge, however, the younger Strauss pressed on with his musical undertaking and studied the violin in secret under the tutelage of the first violinist of his father's orchestra, Franz Amon. In 1844 Johann, with his mother’s secret encouragement, started his own orchestra and it soon became a successful rival to his father’s. Soon he was composing prolifically.

Mazurkas, polkas, waltzes, and quadrilles were all performed by his own orchestra, to much acclaim. He was soon awarded the position of honorary bandmaster of the 2nd Vienna Citizens' Regiment — Strauss the Elder being bandmaster of the 1st regiment. The following year brought turmoil to Vienna as it was seized by the 1848 revolutions in the Austrian Empire. The political tensions underscored the rift between father and son even more glaringly, as Strauss Jr aligned himself with the revolutionaries and his father remained loyal to the monarchy. It was a disadvantageous alignment for Strauss Jr as the Austrian royalty twice denied him the much coveted 'KK Hofballmusikdirektor' position — a title first designated specifically in recognition of the musical contributions of his own father – until he eventually attained it in 1863. After much turbulence, both personally and politically, father and son were reconciled, and when the elder Strauss died of scarlet fever in 1849 the two orchestras were amalgamated. Thereafter Strauss Jr. began to tour more extensively and built a successful career for himself, making efforts to endear himself to the newly installed Habsburg Emperor Franz Josef I, by composing several patriotic marches dedicated to him.

Due to unrelenting mental and physical demands that accompanied his increased productivity and popularity, Strauss suffered a nervous breakdown in 1853. At they advice of his physicians, he spent the summer taking seven weeks of respite in the countryside. His younger brother Josef, who was also a musician, was enlisted by the family to relinquish his career as an engineer and to take over the helm of Johann's orchestra in the interim. Upon his eventual recovery, Strauss recommenced his career conducting and composing with renewed vigour, becoming one of the most popular waltz composers of his age. During this time he completed his most famous single composition, the aforementioned Blue Danube (1867) and many other melodious waltzes including Morgenblätter (1864), Künstlerleben (1867), and G’schichten aus dem Wienerwald (1868). He and his orchestra toured extensively throughout Europe, and eventually even toured the United States. An international celebrity, he was surrounded by adoring fans, and although married to the singer Henrietta (“Jetty”) Treffz—six years his senior—he readily succumbed to the charms of other women. Following the success in Vienna of the operettas of Offenbach, Strauss, encouraged by his wife tried his hand in the theatre, at first without success, but when the right libretto came along he wrote what was to become the premier masterpiece of the operetta repertoire, Die Fledermaus (1874).

When Jetty died in 1878 Strauss precipitously plunged into another marriage within six weeks, which turned out to be a disaster and led to a divorce in 1882. Strauss sought solace in his third wife Adele Deutsch, whom he married in August 1887, having converted to Protestantism because he could not get an annulment from his second wife. She encouraged his creative talent to flow once more in his later years, resulting in many famous compositions.  By this time he was composing primarily for the stage, resulting in another masterpiece, Der Zigeunerbaron (Gypsy Baron) (1885) as well as many lesser pieces. His waltz compositions reached their pinnacle with his most symphonic Emperor Waltz (1888), which transcended any of his earlier concert waltzes and took on the qualities of a tone poem.

Strauss was much admired by other great composers of his age, including Brahms, Verdi, Wagner, Richard Strauss (no relation), and above all, Mahler, who transplanted Die Fledermaus from the precincts of operetta to the opera stage. His performance of the piece at the Vienna Court Opera (now State Opera) remained one of the legends in the history of musical performance and set the precedent for its annual production there ever since on New Year’s Eve.

Strauss “the Younger” would build a reputation for himself that overshadowed his father’s in both scope and popularity and would forge an albeit reluctant musical family dynasty. He died of pleuropneumonia in Vienna on 3 June 1899, at the age of 73 and was buried in the Vienna Central Cemetery.


Online Performances

Musical selections curated by our founding director, Professor Franz Szabo.

An der Schönen Blauen Donau, Op. 314 (Blue Danube Waltz)
Vienna Philharmic Orchestra
Nikolaus Harnoncourt, conductor
Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Concert, 2001
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWAAxuj2LHw 

Kaiserwaltzer, Op. 437 (Emperor Waltz)
Vienna Philharmic Orchestra
Nikolaus Harnoncourt, conductor
Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Concert, 2003
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glb7g949Zg8 

G´schichten aus dem Wienerwald, Op. 325
(Tales from the Vienna Woods Waltz)
Vienna Philharmic Orchestra
Daniel Barenboim, conductor
Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Concert, 2014
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgzU7cdQHzo 

Wein, Weib und Gesang, Op. 333 (Wine, Women and Song Waltz)
Vienna Philharmic Orchestra
Zubin Mehta, conductor
Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Concert, 2015
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFzbCjr7uq0 

Wiener Blut, Op. 354 (Vienna Blood Waltz)
Vienna Philharmic Orchestra
Franz Welser-Möst, conductor
Vienna Philharmonic Summer Night Concert 8 June 2010
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1vk3LcOsc4 

Frühlingsstimmen, Op. 410 (Voices of Spring Waltz)
Vienna Philharmic Orchestra
Carlos Kleiber, conductor
Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Concert, 1989
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8_DdClkhaw 

Rosen aus dem Süden, Op. 388 (Roses from the South Waltz)
Gewandhaus Orchestra
Daniel Nazareth, conductor
Gewandhaus New Year's Concert, Leipzig, Germany, 2014
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3c04xZJqfY 

Künstlerleben, Op. 316 (Artist’s Life Waltz)
Wiener Symphoniker
Philippe Jordan
Live from Paris, November 2014
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXgk8eNayU8 

Wiener Bonbons, Op. 307 (Viennese Bonbons Waltz)
Vienna Philharmic Orchestra
Georges Prêtre, conductor
Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Concert, 2010
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smLPq_bIzOY 

Morgenblätter, Op. 279 (Morning Papers Waltz)
Vienna Philharmic Orchestra
Nikolaus Harnoncourt, conductor
Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Concert, 2001
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Q83TWXrgys 

Sphärenklänge, Op. 235 (Music of the Spheres Waltz)
Vienna Philharmic Orchestra
Christian Thielemann, conductor
Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Concert, 2019
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9sP1VNUIfW8 

Schatz-Walzer, Op. 418 (Treasure Waltz)
Vienna Philharmic Orchestra
Mariss Jansons, conductor
Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Concert , 2016
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4P54EycMh-Q 

Märchen aus dem Orient, Op. 444 (Tales from the Orient Waltz)
Vienna Philharmic Orchestra
Zubin Mehta, conductor
Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Concert, 2015
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mefew0RWdow 

Tausend und eine Nacht, Op. 346 (Thousand and one Nights Waltz)
Vienna Philharmic Orchestra
Gustavo Dudamel, conductor
Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Concert , 2017
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x_JjVFXndWQ 

Annen-Polka, Op. 117
Vienna Philharmic Orchestra
Daniel Barenboim, conductor
Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Concert, 2009
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHlrl4cJV6I 

Trisch-Trasch Polka, Op. 214
Vienna Philharmic Orchestra
Andris Nelsons, conductor
Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Concert , 2020
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=940YbxF5zgY 

Unter Donner und Blitz, Op. 324 (Thunder and Lightning Polka)
Vienna Philarmonic Orchestra
Mariss Jansons, conductor
Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Concert , 2012
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHZLckYfv4c 

Leichtes Blut, Op. 319 (Light of Heart Polka)
Vienna Philharmic Orchestra
Nikolaus Harnoncourt, conductor
Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Concert, 2003
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbAYmn0_ljA 

Auf der Jagd, Op. 373 (On the Hunt Polka)
Vienna Philharmic Orchestra
Georges Prêtre, conductor
Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Concert, 2010
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njXfuve1VXs 

Éljen a Magyar, Op. 332 (Long Live the Magyars Polka)
Vienna Philharmic Orchestra
Daniel Barenboim, conductor
Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Concert, 2009
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHlrl4cJV6I 

Csárdás from the operetta "Ritter Pasman" 
Vienna Philharmic Orchestra
Franz Welser-Möst, conductor
Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Concert , 2011
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHEHRGTAZqE 

Schönfeld-Marsch, Op. 422
Vienna Philharmic Orchestra
Christian Thielemann, conductor
Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Concert, 2019
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qOQQDxPxfM 

Spanischer Marsch, Op. 433 (Spanish March)
Vienna Philharmic Orchestra
Mariss Jansons, conductor
Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Concert , 2006
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeP0tDSpQMM 

The Gypsy Baron: Entrance March
Vienna Philharmic Orchestra
Riccardo Muti, conductor
Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Concert , 2018
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fgNPc68gUg 

Egyptischer Marsch, Op. 335 (Egyptian March)
Vienna Philharmic Orchestra
Christian Thielemann, conductor
Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Concert, 2019
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnK2LM0hpxQ 

Die Fledermaus, operetta in two acts
Gundula Janowitz (Rosalinde), Eberhard Wächter (Eisenstein), Renate Holm (Adele), Erich Kunz (Frank), Wolfgang Windgassen (Prince Orlofsky), Waldemar Kmentt (Alfred), Heinz Holecek (Falke), Erich Kuchar (Dr. Blind), Silvia Lukan (Ida), Otto Schenk (Frosch)
Vienna State Opera Choir
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Karl Böhm, conductor
Vienna State Opera production filmed in 1972
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KY2Mw0LMz-E 

Wiener Blut, operetta in two acts
Benno Kusche (Prince Ypsheim-Gindelbach), Rene Kollo (Count Zedlau),
Ingeborg Hallstein (Countess Zedlau), Dagmar Koller (Franziska Cagliari),
Fritz Muliar (Kagler, her father), Ferry Gruber (Josef), Helga Papouschek (Pepi),
Hilde Sochor (Lisi)
Die Schönbrunner Schrammeln
Vienna Volksoper ballet
Munich Chamber Choir
Graunke Symphony Orchestra
Anton Paulik, conductor
Television movie, 1971
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0wWTar8xki8 

Der Zigeunerbaron (Gypsy Baron), operetta in two acts
Peter Edelmann (Count Homonay), Heinz Zednik (Conte Carnero),
Martina Serafin (Saffi), Harrie van der Plas (Sándor Bárinkay),
Helmut Berger-Tuna (Kálman Zsupán)
Symphonie-Orchester Burgenland.
Rudolf Bibl, conductor
The Seefestspiele Mörbisch, Austria, July 2000
Act 1
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NswtS4uvWxM 
Act 2
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcNkirJl1Qo 


Watch the full collection of performances on our YouTube channel!