ANNA STRAUSS (NÉE STREIM) (1810 – 1870)
Maria Anna Strauss, née Streim, was born on 30 August 1810, the daughter of Josef Streim, a publican in the Viennese suburb of Liechtental, and his wife Maria Anna Streim, née Rober. When she married Johann Strauss I on 11 July 1825 she was already expecting a child by him. Since an independent career promised to be more lucrative, this was the time when Strauss stopped working with Joseph Lanner. Anna is reported to have been highly musical.
Johann Strauss II (1825-1899) was born on 25 October 1825. The couple had five more children: Josef (1827-1870), Anna (1829-1903), Therese (1831-1915), Ferdinand (1834-1834) and Eduard (1835-1916). Just two months later the first child of the liaison between Johann Strauss I and Emilie Trampusch (Trambusch), a milliner, was born; at least six further children were to follow.
From 1834 the family lived in a large apartment in the Hirschenhaus in the Leopoldstadt suburb (now Taborstrasse 17b in the city’s 2nd district). Within it Johann Strauss I had his own set of rooms. The apartment was thus not just where the family lived; it was also where the father composed, worked with his copyists and held orchestral rehearsals. While Anna ran the household, he travelled a great deal. Around 1843-44 Johann Strauss I left his family for good and moved into another apartment with Emilie Trampusch and their children. Their last address was at Kumpfgasse 11 in the centre of Vienna (now the 1st district).
Following the death of Joseph Lanner on 14 April 1843 Johann Strauss II, then just under eighteen years old, decided to take the necessary steps to prepare himself for a career as a free-lance composer of dance music. These efforts were definitely encouraged by mother Anna Strauss, who wanted to achieve financial independence from her husband for herself and her children in this way. On 31 July 1844 Johann Strauss II registered his wish to work as a musician with the city council, and on the same day Anna Strauss submitted her petition for divorce. It was certainly part of the ‘war of the roses’ between Anna and Johann Strauss I that the latter did everything he could to prevent his son’s debut, planned to take place at Dommayer’s Casino in Hietzing, then a village just outside Vienna, on 15 October 1844. But Anna and her son Johann got their way, although the legal wrangling between Anna and her estranged husband went on until 1846.
Anna Strauss was a skilful manager for her son Johann and after his debut continued to run the household in the Hirschenhaus together with her unmarried daughters Anna and Therese. After her husband’s death she stressed the position of her children as the legitimate heirs of Johann Strauss I, who had achieved great fame, and she spread false, defamatory rumours about Emilie Trampusch which even today are still being repeated. Under Anna’s strictly matriarchal leadership the firm of Strauss Entertainment Music grew and flourished, outstripping all competitors. In the course of time she made sure that her two younger sons Josef and Eduard joined the family business. Its heyday was between 1863 and 1870, and it was this period that saw the first performances of such famous compositions as the waltzes Artist’s Life, the Blue Danube and Tales from the Vienna Woods by Johann II; Delirien, Music of the Spheres and Mein Lebenslauf ist Lieb’ und Lust by Josef; and the quick polka Clear the Track! by Eduard.
This period ended with Anna’s death on 23 February 1870, and Josef was to die later the same year. Subsequently, Johann II, under the influence of his first wife, Jetty, devoted himself to composing operettas, while the Strauss Orchestra remained in Eduard’s hands.
Anna Strauss was without doubt a fascinating, independent woman and manager in nineteenth-century Vienna. She was in charge of an ‘entertainment music empire’ which not only enabled her and her children to live well but also has decisively shaped Vienna’s image in the world as a city of music right down to the present day.
Translation: Leigh Bailey