The Viennese Dance Series for Chamber Ensembles
Johann Strauss Jr.
Morgenblätter Waltzes, Op.279
For Piano Quintet (Piano, 2 Violins, or Violin & Viola, Cello & Bass)
Johann Strauss Jr. (1825-1899) needs no introduction. The Viennese Waltz King will forever remain famous as long as music is played.
Was this music specifically written for piano quintet? No. It's really for no specific ensemble. Almost as soon as he would compose a waltz at the piano, Strauss would start making arrangements. First for his orchestra and then for the other combinations which his publishers demanded.
In the beginning, Strauss' ensemble was small--a few players. Perhaps 2 violins, a viola and a cello or bass. Maybe a piano, too. They played in cafes and restaurants and at small parties. Later, when fame came, he created an orchestra. At first 10 to 12 players, then 16-20 and on special occasions perhaps 25 to 30. But one combination he certainly never envisioned was the modern day 100 member symphony orchestra--probably the least valid arrangement of all. No, the music of Strauss Junior and Senior, of Joseph Lanner and the other Viennese waltz masters, first and foremost, was intimate chamber music. This is the time-honored way in which most Viennese then and now have listened to their beloved waltzes.
It is in this spirit that our arrangement for Piano, 2 Violins (or violin and viola), cello and bass is presented. The Morgenblätter waltzes, Op.279, date from 1864 and became one of the master's best-loved compositions. Strauss was 34 and already known throughout much of Europe. Not long before it was composed, Jacques Offenbach wrote and dedicated a waltz to the Vienna Press Association which subsequently gave it the nickname Abendblätter (or Evening Papers). The Press Association later engaged Strauss to compose a waltz for their Gala Ball which he did. To encourage a rivalry between the two, they dubbed it "Morning Papers" or Morgenblätter. It is quite substantial and consists of an introduction, five waltzes and a coda which is nearly as long as all of the preceding waltzes. Lovely, and easy to play, musicians from Brahms to Fritz Kreisler and Gregor Piatagorsky to the Budapest String Quartet have all enjoyed playing Strauss' music in this format.