The Viennese Dance Series for Chamber Ensembles
Johann Strauss Sr.
Gitana Galopp, Op.108 for String Quartet
Johann Strauss Sr. (1804-1849) founder of the waltz dynasty that not only included the “Waltz King”, his oldest son Johann Jr., but also two younger sons, Joseph and Edward, was, along with Josef Lanner the most popular composer of Viennese dances from the Biedermeier period: 1815—1848. At least in Vienna, if not elsewhere, many of his works, such as the Radetzky March, the Kettenbrucken Waltzes, the Sperl Polka, the Champagne, Chinese, Indianer and Gitana Galopps, and the Bajaderen Waltzes have remained as popular as Junior’s compositions.
In one short movement, the Gitana Galopp dates from 1840 and was named after Auber’s ballet La Gitana (the Gypsy). Although the original themes used by Auber had a definite Spanish flavor to them, Strauss takes them and creates a typically Viennese dance with its characteristic nonchalance and grace. Unlike the waltz and the polka, the galopp, the fastest of Viennese dances, only flourished for a short time and did not survive the Biedermeier period, roughly 1815-48. It was considered almost dangerous to dance a galopp and articles in Viennese papers warned that dancing too many galopps could be injurious to one's health. Nonetheless, these high-spirited dances captured the hearts of the young people taking to the dance floors at the famous dance halls of Vienna.
Was this music specifically written for string quartet? The Gitana Galopp was written for a small chamber orchestra of around 10-15 players. However, at the same time, Strauss Sr. authorized arrangements for smaller ensembles. He was a violinist and had begun his career with a small ensemble--a string quartet, in fact. They played in cafes and restaurants and at small parties. Later, when fame came, he created an orchestra. At first 10 players, then 16 to 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.This type of music, first and foremost, was meant to be intimate chamber music. This is the time-honored way in which most Viennese then and now have listened to their beloved waltzes. Thus it is with pleasure that we make it available again in a version for string quartet