1825 — 1899
Johann Strauss II
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Johann Strauss II was an Austrian composer, violinist and conductor most celebrated for his waltzes and operettas. He composed over 500 waltzes, polkas, quadrilles. He was known as “The Waltz King” and was largely responsible for the popularity of the waltz in 19th century Vienna.
Johann Strauss II came from a family of musicians and composers. He was the son of the composer Johann Strauss I and was known as Johann the Younger, Strauss Son and Johann II. His brothers Josef and Eduard also composed light music.
Strauss was born near Vienna in 1825. Strauss’s father wanted him to become a banker and heavily dissuaded him to even try learning the violin. It was not until Johann Strauss I left the family for his mistress that the young Strauss began a fruitful musical way of life. He studied violin harmony and counterpoint and soon developed as a skilled musician.
Johann Strauss I’s influence over the musical establishments of Vienna prevented Strauss the Younger from accessing performance platforms, but soon after his death, Johann Strauss II surpassed his father in popularity, ultimately becoming one of the most popular waltz composers of the era. He toured extensively in Austria-Hungary, Poland and Germany with his orchestra. In 1863, he was appointed music director of the Royal Court Balls.
In 1855, he accepted commissions from the management of the Tsarkoye Railway Company of Saint Petersburg to play in Russia, which led to repeat performances in Russia for the rest of his career.
The most famous of Strauss's operettas are his Die Fledermaus and Die Zigeunerbarn and his most famous piece of all isAn der schönen, blauen Donau op.314, more commonly known by its English title, the Blue Danube Waltz. One of the first hugely successful performances of the Blue Danube Waltz was with Strauss and his orchestra on tour in the United States, where he took part in the Boston Festival at the invitation of the bandmaster Patrick Gilmore. This concert was consisted of about 1000 performers.
Strauss was a friend of Johannes Brahms an dedicated his waltz Seid umschlungen, Millionen! (Be Embraced, You Millions!) to Brahms. Strauss was also a great admirer ofWagner and Liszt. In 1853 and 1854, he introduced their influences into his waltzes inWellen und Wogen Op. 141, Novellen, Op. 146 andSchallwellen Op. 148. The music critic Eduard Hanslick dismissed them as 'new waltz requiems'. Strauss and his brother Josef were significant in that they were the first composers to feature extracts from Wagner operas in their concerts.
Strauss was married three times: first to Jetty Treffz until her death and then to the actress Angelika ('Lili') Dittrich for four and a half years until they called for divorce and finally to Adele Deutsch. In order to marry Adele, Strauss had to convert to Lutheran Protestantism, as did Adele, give up his Austrian citizenship and enrol as a citizen of the city of Coburg. Only then would Duke Ernst dissolve his marriage to Lili and allow Strauss and Adele Deutsch to marry.
In 1894, a golden jubilee of his career as a composer was held and he said "The distinctions which you bestow upon me today I owe to my predecessors, my father and [Joseph] Lanner. They indicated to me the means by which progress is possible, through the broadening of the forms, and that is my single small contribution."