The Viennese Dance Series for Chamber Ensembles
Unter der Enns Polka, Op.121 for String Quartet
Eduard Strauss (1835-1916) was the third son of Johann Strauss Senior. He was born in Vienna and originally began a career in the Austrian diplomatic service. However, as a youth he did study composition and music theory. He was persuaded by his brothers to join the family business and became a harpist and substitute conductor in the Strauss orchestra from 1855 to 1862, On the death of Josef, the middle brother, in 1870, Eduard took over the management of the Strauss family orchestra entirely and served as a regular conductor until he disbanded the orchestra in 1901 two years after Johann Jr’s death. Like his two brothers, his musical output was prolific, writing over 320 dances and marches. He particularly excelled at the dance form known as the Polka snell or fast polka and lthough his music is not as well-known as that of Johann Jr or Josef, a few of his fast polkas such as Bahn Frei! (Track’s Clear) and Unter der Enns did, at least in Vienna, did become equally as well known as their works.
Unter der Enns, Op.121, dates from 1874. It was premiered by the Strauss Orchestra in Vienna with Eduard conducting. The title translates as under the Enns, a river which is a tributary of the Danube flowing into it at the town of Enns. The river marks the border between the provinces of Upper Austria and Lower Austria formerly known as Austria above the Enns and Austria below the Enns. Lower Austria is one of the more beautiful parts of the country, long a destination for vacations and outings. The lively and happy music conveys the atmosphere upon arriving there.
Was this music specifically written for string quartet? The Unter der Enns Polka originally appeared in a version for small chamber orchestra of around 10-15 players, but almost immediately like the popular works of the other members of the Strauss family, it immediately authorized arrangements for all different kinds of ensembles.