Some interesting facts about the waltz By the Beautiful Blue
Danube (op.314) (“Blue Danube Waltz”) by Johann Strauss
II, together with its original lyrics
As early as 1865 Johann Strauss had promised to write a choral work for
the Wiener Männergesang-Verein (Vienna Men’s Choral Society),
an institution which at that time played an important role in cultural
life in Vienna. Although originally promised for 1866, the work was not
ready until the Carnival of 1867, when Strauss began by providing a four-part
a cappella waltz, later adding a hastily sketched-out piano accompaniment
for rehearsals. Josef Weyl, the society’s poet, composed a satirical
text which goes with the music much better that the text usually heard
today, which was written by Franz von Gernerth, but not until 1890. When
Strauss added the fifth waltz then customary for a full-length waltz,
Josef Weyl had to adjust the text, and when shortly before the first performance
it was decided that an orchestral accompaniment was wanted after all,
this was also speedily provided by the composer.
On 15 February 1867 this ‘Waltz for Choir and Orchestra by Johann
Strauss, Imperial-Royal Director of Music for Court Balls, dedicated to
the Vienna Men’s Choral Society’ received its first performance
in the hall of the Diana Baths (Dianabadsaal) in Vienna, sung by the choir
conducted by Rudolf Weinwurm and accompanied by the band of Infantry Regiment
No. 42 ‘King of Hanover’, and it was a great success. The
title ‘By the Beautiful Blue Danube’ is to be understood ironically
and was chosen more or less by chance.
A word-for-word translation of Josef Weyl’s lyrics runs as follows:
Viennese, be happy!
Oho, but why?
Well, just look around!
But tell me, why?
A shimmer of light!
We can’t see anything yet.
Well, it’s Carnival!
Well, so what?
So defy the times –
O God, the times!
– of sadness.
Ah, that would be clever!
What’s the use of regrets
So be happy and merry!
Honour the law of Carnival,
However bad the finances may be,
Let us dance!
Today anyone who sits at home
Will be sweating
As much as the swarm of dancers
At the ball!
The farmer is scratching himself
Because the times are so bad;
He forces hinself to take a run-up,
Rushes to the tax office
And pays up.
The money’s gone, that’s for sure,
They’ll never part with it again,
So, as it’s Carnival right now,
There’s a ball in the village inn,
And there are pretty girls there too,
We’ll have a knees-up,
Even if we have no money.
In fact nobody has any money!
A fat landlord is very annoyed,
All the apartments in his house are empty,
It doesn’t matter – despite his spleen
He’s going to a masked ball.
If six tenants are missing,
Then the rents for the rest will be put up,
Tomorrow an artist is moving in,
But he certainly won’t pay up,
If you call the bailiffs in it’s a nuisance,
People haven’t got a penny to their name,
That’s what the landlord thinks
And dances in his anger.
When he is near the Graces
The artist feels both at ease and uneasy
Like a little fish in the lake:
The happiness they radiate
Makes him see them
As the embodiment of an ideal he’s long been dreaming of.
He’s the one who’s been kissed on the forehead by the Muses,
Who sweetens life,
Whom beauty greets.
Where joy and love come to flower
The artist feels at home.
With quick movements,
Fresh and youthful
Presents himself in a masterly way,
Hence it is quite understandable
That art stands in such high favour with the ladies.
Even the political, critical gentlemen
Like to turn wisely in a circle,
Even if they seem to be moving nimbly
They never actually leave the one spot.
And just as they dance the waltz, so they usually make a mess
Of the ideas in their brains – despite their efforts,
However exactly they write down everything down,
Unfortunately they keep losing the beat.
So just keep on
Dancing without a break,
Make the most of the moment,
For your good fortune
Will not return.
What you have got today,
Because time flies
And the rose of joy fades!
So dance, just dance!
Dr. Leigh H Bailey