The Viennese Dance Series for Chamber Ensembles
Gold and Silver Waltzes, Op.79
For Piano Quintet for Piano, 2 Violins (or Violin & Viola*), Cello & Bass
Franz Lehár (1870-1948) was born in the Hungarian village of Kormorn, then part of the Habsburg Empire of Austria-Hungary. His father was a military bandmaster. Lehár entered the Prague Conservatory where he studied violin with Anton Bennewitz and composition with Dvorak and Joseph Foerster. He also took private lessons from Zdenek Fibich. After graduating, he became an assistant to his father and eventually succeded him as director. He was the serving bandmaster of the 26th regiment stationed in Vienna when he was asked by the Princess Metternich to compose "something especially fine" for her "Gold und Silber" gala ball given on January 27, 1902. This commission continued an old Viennese tradition, dating back to Lanner and Johann Strauss the Elder, of the so-called "name waltz," which received its title from the important occasion at which it was premiered. The "name waltz" would be given as the first piece of the evening, an instrumental concert work to set the mood before the dancing began. Although the waltz was to achieve international fame as "Gold and Silver" balls became popular throughout Europe, England, and America, that first evening it made little impression on the crowd.
Within this style, Lehár's waltz is an ideal example of thematic balance and emotional contrast. The first theme ascends and descends within a small range. The work begins with birdcall-like grace notes. Arpeggios help the music flow elegantly. Suddenly, there is a theme which rushes along and creates ann atmosphere of anticipation. The third subject is very romantic, Viennese, and continental. It floats among with confidence. A fourth theme is bright and lively. A distant hunting call leads to a subdued, pastoral fifth theme. The coda follows in a Wagnerian style, a take-off on Das Rheingold, but soon leads to a grand sweeping conclusion.
Though originally intended for a small dance orchestra of perhaps 15 players, arrangements of it for much smaller and more intimate groups were almost immediately made from the time it was published so that it could be heard in the cafes and coffee houses throughout Vienna and the rest of the world.
* Our arrangement is for 2 Violins, Cello, Bass & Piano, however, violists who can read the treble clef can easily read the part. The arraangement sounds good either way.