About this work
The polka was very popular in the late nineteenth century and examples were penned by nearly every major composer of dance music, performed by almost all military bands and distributed in the form of sheet music throughout the world. A French dictionary of dance terms dating from 1847 describes the polka as having a pulse rate of 104 beats per minute with an emphasis on the second beat of the measure. It exhibits a ternary (ABA) form with eight-measure subsections and sometimes include an introduction and a coda.
In 1869, Strauss had for six years been a Hofballmusikdirektor at the Imperial Court in Vienna. The position demanded a constant output of works suitable for Court balls, of which Eljen a Magyar (Hurrah for Hungary), Op. 332, stands as a typical example. Strauss' Eljen a Magyar is a Schnell-Polka, which was influenced by the galop, a rapid, simple dance in 2/4 meter. The polka was published in Vienna by Carl Anton Spina in 1869.
What is not typical about Eljen a Magyar is that the B section consists of only one melody, not the more common two or three. Furthermore, the B section does not fall into the usual eight-plus-eight pattern of repetition, but includes extensions of the melody that result in an odd sum of 28 measures. Section A contains three distinct tunes, all of which have a Viennese flavor which at Strauss' time would have been considered Hungarian. Chromatic inflections, dotted figures and cymbal crashes all evoke images of Hungary as Strauss creates variety by juxtaposing stepwise melodies with leaping ones and varying his orchestration.