George Hamilton wrote in Newsletter of the Johann Strauss
Society of GB, Issue 264, May 2010 on pages 14 – 18:
Another triumphant Tanz-Signale in Vienna
How do the Vienna Institute for Strauss Research and (our own Hon. Patron)
Dr Eduard Strauss achieve it? For the seventh year in a row, working together
they mounted a Tanz-Signale event (March 19-24) that once again surpassed
the event of the previous year: the number of participants increased,
the papers and their subjects and quality were outstanding and international
interest reached an all-time high, thanks in no little part to a remarkable
delegation from Japan.
The venue again this year was the University of Vienna's Institute for
Music Studies where all were made to feel most welcome by Institute head
Birgit Lodes. She noted that some information from Tanz-Signale papers
of last year had been utilised in a lexicon of Strauss' stage works by
Institute students in aid of their own studies, a welcome sign of ongoing
interest in Viennese music and that the Strauss research is not isolated
in an ivory tower. Equally Dr Lodes commented that "there is much
to be investigated" in the field of Viennese music. Not surprisingly,
funding is as much of a challenge as finding personnel to undertake the
Indeed the extraordinary generosity of Shunzo Karasawa of the Japanese
Johann Strauss Society added enormously to the Vienna event. Sponsorship
by the Strauss chapter of the Business Network International group and
Mr Karasawa's financial support made possible a ‘workshop concert’
on the opening evening of Tanz-Signale, with the excellent ‘Wiener
Gemüths-Ensemble’ string quartet in a programme moderated by
Norbert Rubey of the Vienna Institute for Strauss Research. Rubey noted
that the combination of two violins, viola and bass was the makeup of
the early Lanner and Johann I orchestras and that Johann I had started
by playing the viola in Lanner's ensemble before striking out on his own.
The more academic aspect of Tanz-Signale had got off to an enthusiastic
start earlier on the opening day with the welcoming addresses. Dr Strauss
made the critical observation that virtually no one was in attendance
who made his or her livelihood playing Strauss music, for example in one
of the groups which perform regularly in various Viennese locales; he
reflected that money flows for events such as the Vienna Philharmonic's
New Year's concerts or to André Rieu or similar, but that funds
were all but non-existent for the research which supports those performances.
The serious side of Strauss considered
The formal lectures got off to a dynamic start with an information-packed
talk by Ralph Braun of Coburg, Germany, Chairman of the German Johann
Strauss Gesellschaft (society). Braun addressed subjects ranging from
early Strauss recordings (an undersized disc of the Blue Danube) from
the Coburg collection, to documentation concerning Johann II's Coburg
citizenship, divorce and (re)marriage. Braun showed a copy of the programme
to Clemens Kraus' 1939 New Year's concert, the event which inspired young
Franz Mailer to pursue a course to become the leading Strauss researcher
and scholar. Braun presented a thought-provoking thesis: Hitler's edict
disallowing operettas which didn't fit the Nazi image left us with today's
sugar-coated Technicolor jolly-times concept of the Biedermeier and Strauss
Isabella Sommer, associated with the Vienna Strauss Institute, followed
with a fascinating sound-illustrated lecture on further early recordings
of Strauss music, discussing in particular piano rolls made for the Vorsetzer
and Phonola technologies. She noted with examples the transcriptions of
Strauss works made by leading artists such as Alfred Grünfeld and
Eduard Schutt and including Johann Strauss III.
Dr Eduard Strauss offered a taste of things to come with news of an upcoming
reissue of a book in German and English on Eduard II. Most amusing was
a film clip of Eduard II's rehearsal efforts to bring the Viennese idiom
to the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra in a performance of the ‘Emperor
Waltz’. This was followed by a clip of a similar exercise involving
‘Roses from the South’ and a Swedish television stage orchestra.
Notes today's Eduard, "heard conducted by my father, that's the right
way to do it." His father's direction was indeed clear and the result
The orchestra's viewpoint (in this case, as seen by the Vienna Symphony
and the Johann Strauss Orchestras) regarding interpretation was enlightened
by comments of Ernst Istler, member of both orchestras, who discussed
the dilemma of original scores vs accepted performance standards of today.
The bulk of Strauss pieces were written as dance music with the bass line
emphasised; the development of the concert waltz came with the summer
performances of the Strauss Orchestra in Pavlovsk (Russia). Istler asked
how much interpretation is tradition and how much has been changed by
arrangements over the years transcribed from what themselves may have
been copies? Istler noted that in the course of some 37 concerts over
a 20-year span which he played under Eduard II as conductor, even Strauss
himself was sometimes uncertain as to what was ‘right’; "there
are nuances [to be played] which are not in the score," Istler advised.
The question of interpretation was continued by Prof. Ingomar Rainer,
professor at the Vienna University of Music, asking how the performer
is to deal with what is not in the written or printed score? Rainer noted
that in the course of Viennese music development, evolutions in musical
instruments occurred and were understandably considered by later composers.
Nor were tempi for waltzes, polkas françaises or schnell indicated
by the composers or by those who later researched or copied the pieces.
Part of the brilliant sound attributed to the Strauss orchestras may well
have been that contemporary instruments were tuned to a higher pitch and
indeed were all basically of a standard Viennese design. "Most of
these differences have subsequently been lost through globalisation,"
Norbert Rubey of the Institute for Strauss Research commented that musicians
of the Strauss period were highly experienced in the genre and much which
was not noted in the scores was simply understood as a matter of course.
But Rubey pointed out errors which had crept in either through careless
copying or simply printing mistakes. Shortcuts were taken, such as a da
capo with changes in instrumentation ignored and marked as a simple repeat.
"As long as Strauss himself was on the podium, the musicians understood
what and how to play, not the case when Eduard I later took over,"
according to Rubey. Indeed specific and exact notations by Johann II today
are often either not recognised or simply ignored, including shifts in
dynamic and balance, Rubey regrets, and gave audio examples to support
A pleasurable musical break
The intensive and thought-provoking sessions gave way to an outstanding
evening concert by the Wiener Gemüths-Ensemble, with Eduard Strauss
expressing appreciation to Shunzo Karasawa and the Business Network International
for their specific support of the splendid concert, enhanced by commentary
by Norbert Rubey on present-day interpretation and performance practices
relative to those of the Strauss era.
The following day continued the academic side of the symposium, opening
with a fascinating talk by Thomas Aigner, Director of the Music Collection
of the Vienna City Library, on contemporary press coverage of Strauss'
activities in Russia. The Strauss Orchestra performed daily for an up-market
public of some 3-4,000, dressed for the elegant event it was. Special
concerts might draw up to 10,000! Critics even came from Vienna to report
on the successes of the home-town hero; Strauss obliged his public with
concerts of works by Russian composers such as Glinka, although mainly
works of the family were performed.
That Strauss compositions receive international acclamation was underscored
by Nada Bezic, archivist at the Croatian Music Institute in Zagreb, who
traced the performance history of Strauss operettas in Zagreb from 1883
to 1945. Die Fledermaus (145 performances) was by far the most popular
but lesser-known works such as Der Lustige Krieg (2, in 1900) and Prinz
Methusalem (5, in 1904) were also staged. Four stagings of Zigeunerbaron
(68 performances) over the years between 1895 and 1938-1940 were in part
successful, Bezic noted, since the piece played on Croatian prejudices
regarding Hungarians. By 1910 popular taste had shifted toward Franz Lehár
and Leo Fall and Strauss' Das Spitzentuch der Königin in that year
achieved only 3 performances. Die Fledermaus staged and directed by Berislav
Klobucar in 1944-45 was the last Strauss operetta performed in Zagreb
before takeover of Croatia by partisans in 1945. Bezic notes that after
1947, "only Russian operettas" were staged.
Thomas Aigner, substituting at short notice for an absent participant,
offered further details of the Strauss years in Russia, observing that
the only guest appearance by the Vienna Strauss Orchestra had been under
Eduard I's direction during a visit to St Petersburg in 1894, when they
had performed, not in the elegant Vauxhall pavilion in Pavlovsk, but in
the newly rebuilt ‘Mon Plaisir’ establishment, which replaced
a former glass palace. According to local reports, all did not go as well
as hoped, with Eduard sharply criticised for featuring only his own compositions.
In good weather the concerts drew an audience of between 450 and 700.
Strauss family visits to England
Our own Peter Kemp then took up the theme of the Strauss family’s
travels, noting that, with the exception of Josef, all the family’s
career musicians had performed in Great Britain. Specific focus of his
talk was on Johann III’s visits, commencing with 1902 when he appeared
in London with his ‘Strauss’ Imperial Band’ to honour
the coronation of Edward VII. Strauss was engaged to play at state banquets
as well as concerts at the Empire Theatre (today replaced by a cinema)
in Leicester Square. Reviews were mixed. Those who remembered Eduard Strauss'
visit in 1897 were disappointed at the young man's - he was 36 at the
time - lack of spirit but Johann III made up the deficit in part with
his composition Krönungswalzer (Coronation Waltz), op.40. Alas the
visit ended abruptly when Edward VII was taken ill and the coronation
had to be postponed. Some 25 years later on a tour in 1927 Johann III
got a good house and generally good reviews for an all-Strauss concert
in the Royal Albert Hall where his father, Eduard I, had conducted in
1885. Asked to comment on the musical trends of the day, Johann III replied,
"rhythm takes the place of melody with the dance-music of to-day",
referring to the American jazz craze that was sweeping Britain. "The
waltz is inspired by a soul...Jazz has none", was his verdict. Strauss
concluded his visit with recording sessions for 18 titles at Columbia's
studios and Wigmore Hall. Johann III returned to the UK seven months later
in 1928 to undertake a month-long tour including many cities in which
his grandfather Johann I had played in 1838 and 1849. This time Johann
III's reviews were generally better. His final visit to the UK in 1931
involved conducting a British orchestra at a highly successful charity
ball in the Savoy Hotel, opposite the site of the Exeter Hall where his
grandfather had performed and had introduced his Exeter-Polka (op.249)
And what was achieved?
Fortified with such a wealth of information and inspiration, Tanz-Signale
participants sought to review the event and summarise its significance.
The round table discussion, chaired by Otto Brusatti of Austrian Broadcasting,
included Ernst Istler; scholar and author Norbert Linke (Germany); musicologist,
and conductor Christian Pollack (Vienna); Ingomar Rainer; and Norbert
Rubey. Brusatti asked participants for their assessment of the sustainability
of conclusions reached during the event. The general consensus was that
this year's Tanz-Signale had made progress in challenging some of the
more ingrained established traditions, encouraging a more critical view
of the Strauss family, their music and their times. From an interpreter's
standpoint, performers must take a broader view of source materials, where
possible going back to original scores and ignoring the many errors which
have become tradition. Rubey commented that with better source material
researchers and performers have greater possibilities for transparency
in interpretation. The panel saw opportunities for improved and wider
understanding of Strauss music. Commented Rubey, "the music critiques
following the New Year's Concert are worse than the concert itself."
Added Istler, "much is tied to clichés, see Rieu." Rainer
observed that most conductors today, faced with a work with which they're
not familiar, follow the standard practice "first get [a stack of]
the recordings and then the score."
Pressed by Brusatti for personal wishes as an outcome of the Tanz-Signale
event, panel member Ingomar Rainer hoped to share that which he had learned
with his students and wished that two or three might follow the path into
further study of Strauss and Viennese dance music; Christian Pollack seconded
the wish regarding his own students. Ernst Istler would have all working
score materials clear, without error and readily available for musicians'
use, to which Norbert Rubey responded, "that's what we (the Institute
for Strauss Research) are here for, as motivation toward that ideal."
Norbert Linke expressed an indirect complaint observing that "even
when conductors today receive [copies of] original scores, they don't
know how to deal with them" and with a clear dig at programming of
events such as the New Year’s concerts, that "business influences
what is done."
Strauss and Lanner in Japanese wrappings
With presentation of papers concluded, the Tanz-Signale turned to Strauss
music with an enthusiasm not easy to achieve and not soon to be repeated.
On three separate days following, the group and guests were invited at
no charge to concerts which, under any measure, can only be called astonishing:
Shunzo Karasawa had brought with him - at his own expense - five delightful
lady members of The Tokyo Johann Strauss Ensemble, which regrouped into
quartet formations for performances of Strauss and Lanner works which
many in the audience, even the most experienced, had never heard in string
arrangement. In the absence of 19th century arrangements for quartet,
Mr Karasawa himself had turned to original printed piano scores and made
his own arrangements of some 42 rare works for the quartet of two violins,
viola and bass. Musicians Yukie Usui, Sumikomo Shimizi, Kyoko Tsujiguchi,
Sachiko Miyawaki and Yoshiko Nishimura appeared in colourful traditional
kimonos, a delight to the eye as was their playing to the ear. The result
was three memorable events, thanks also in part to the generosity of the
Johann Strauss Hotel (Manager Peter Kammerhofer) which offered its delightful
breakfasting room as both rehearsal and concert venue.
Mr Karasawa's enthusiasm for Strauss and Lanner compositions readily
overflowed to the audience which was treated in the opening concert to
such rarities as Josef Lanner's Victoria-Walzer (op.138), Isabella (Waltz,
op.74), Roccoco-Walzer (op.136), Johann I's Rosen ohne Dornen (Waltz,
op.166) and Die Vortänzer (Waltz, op.189) along with Eduard Strauss'
Unter der Enns (Polka schnell, op.121) and various galops. Exquisite surprises
continued into the second concert with Lanner's Die Pressburger (Waltz,
op.155), Krönungs-Walzer (op.133), Johann I's Paris-Walzer (op.101)
and Eduard's Lustig im Kreise (Polka schnell, op.93).
Hopes for yet more delicacies were met in the third concert with such
as Lanner's Die Petersburger and Die Talismane (Waltzes, op.132 and 176
respectively) along with Eduard's outstanding Liebeszauber (Polka-Mazur,
op.84) and Johann I's Schwedische Lieder (Waltz, op.207).
Each concert included an average of 13-14 works and an intermission with
free drinks and Japanese delicacies, all thanks to Mr Karasawa, as if
the splendours of the concerts themselves had not left cups overflowing
And even more!
Two other musical events further enhanced the 2010 Tanz-Signale schedule.
In what has now become a traditional part of the symposium programme,
a Sunday morning matinée concert with a Schrammel ensemble, this
year the Neuen Wiener Concert Schrammeln, moderated by Otto Brusatti,
was again staged in the historic ‘Strauss Rooms’ of the Theater
in der Josefstadt, dating to 1822 and for which Beethoven wrote the ‘Consecration
of the House’ overture. The programme ranged from traditional Schrammel
compositions to modern innovations, new compositions expanding the horizons
of what can be performed by a Schrammel quartet of two violins, Schrammel
guitar and accordion.
The City of Vienna took notice of the Tanz-Signale and scheduled one
of a lecture series to nearly coincide with the symposium; as the head
of Technical University, where the lecture took place, noted: ‘honouring
our most famous dropout’, in reference to both Johann II and Josef
pursuing careers as musicians, not as engineers.
The intriguing topic which drew an audience of over 300 was ‘The
Strauss Family and its Myths.’ On hand to debunk some of the many
tales which have grown up around the family such as reported enmity between
Josef Lanner and Johann I, were Moritz Csáky of the Austrian Academy
of Scientists together with Norbert
Rubey and ‘our’ Eduard Strauss of the Vienna Institute for
Strauss Research. Mirjam Jessa moderated. Topics which sparked a general
discussion ranged from the changing environment in which the Strauss family
was active, to national, religious and family relationships which may
or may not have been reflected in Strauss family member compositions.
The same delightful group, Wiener Gemüths-Ensemble, which had performed
for the symposium, also added musical accents to the city-organised evening.
Earlier that day about 40 Tanz-Signale participants along with Austrian
government and Vienna City dignitaries, had been present at the wreath-laying
ceremony at the Vienna Central Cemetery, where Eduard I and II share a
common memorial. This year marks the 175th anniversary of Eduard I's birth
and the 100th of Eduard II's birth. Appropriately ‘our’ Eduard
III's sons, Michael and Thomas, placed the wreath of the Vienna Institute
for Strauss Research. Tribute was paid by federal government officials
to the role the entire Strauss family had played, notably Eduard II to
Japan, in expanding Austria's global relations and the continuing importance
of Strauss compositions as musical ambassadors for Austria around the
A special note of special thanks
No report on the Tanz-Signale event would be complete without singling
out the participation and support not only of our Honorary Patron Eduard
Strauss but also his wife Susanne and sons Michael and Thomas. Combined,
the family constitutes a team which manages to deal successfully and unobtrusively
with refreshments, technology and a host of unexpected complications.
Equally, the Institute for Strauss Research and the Vienna City Library
are owed special thanks for helping to cope with speaker cancellations
and other unplanned hiccups.
For the next chapter of the stimulating Tanz-Signale project we must
wait until 2011. For some of us, our wish would be that the Tanz-Signale
2010 would never come to an end. Plan now: the 2011 Tanz-Signale is set
for 18-19 March, 2011. The theme will be the roles played by the female
members of the Strauss family.
George W. Hamilton
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