About this work
Vienna, the waltz, and the Strauss family are inseparable entities. The waltzes of Johann Strauss Sr. (1804-1849) evoked the air of the Viennese countryside, beer gardens and Heurigen. Those of his eldest son, Johann Jr., at first had the same rhythmic vitality and brief melodies. After 1860, however, this would change. The younger Strauss infused the traditional waltz format and sound with a new vitality and sophistication that reflected the glittery, hedonistic spirit of nineteenth century imperial Vienna. He melded the rhythmic drive of his father's works with Joseph Lanner's (1801-1843) lyricism, and changed the rhythmic emphasis from the beat to the measure. Strauss' seemingly unlimited melodic invention prompted him to compose melodies that did not fall into the traditional four-, eight-, or sixteen-measure patterns of earlier waltz tunes. He maintained the basic outline employed by Lanner and his father: a slow introduction, (typically) five pairs of waltzes and a coda, but increased the length of each section and the organic unity of the whole. Strauss' orchestration is often picturesque, especially in his introductions, while that of the waltzes themselves approaches a Mozartean clarity.
Strauss' Das Spitzentuch der Königin, with text by H. Bohrmann-Riegen and Richard Genée (1823-1895), premiered on October 1, 1880, at the Theater and der Wien in Vienna. Originally written for Franz von Suppé (1819-1895), the three-act book was based on Cervantes' Don Quixote. Strauss extracted the "Truffel" Couplet from Das Spitzentuch der Königin as the point of departure for his waltz Rosen aus dem Süden (Roses from the South). The waltz was published in 1880 in Hamburg, before the score of the operetta was printed.
Much of what Strauss accomplished in his transformation of the Viennese waltz from dance piece to concert piece can be heard in the opening part of the first waltz pair. The first eight-measure tune, which is strikingly similar to the opening waltz of Strauss' Morgenblätter, Op. 279, closes on the dominant and is answered by another eight-measure tune that returns to the tonic. This is not unusual, but during the expected "repeat" the melodies are rewritten and extended by eight measures while the harmonic progression is completely changed. Such melodic manipulation is more like the work of Brahms than of Lanner or Strauss Sr. Also like Morgenblätter, the second and third waltz pairs feature a repeat of their first halves (although not all conductors follow this direction), and both pairs juxtapose slow, sustained tunes in the first half with faster, active melodies in the second. The fourth waltz is another of Strauss' through-composed sections in which he develops and extends his material at the expense of the traditional waltz structure. The coda contains both new material and references to the preceding waltzes, especially the third and fourth, and of course, the first, which is fragmented and briefly developed in a Haydn-esque manner.