The Viennese Dance Series for Chamber Ensembles
Johann Strauss Sr.
Radetzky March, Op.228 for String Quartet
Strauss composed the Radetzky March, what is arguably his best known work, in 1848. He was commissioned to write the piece to celebrate Austria’s victory over the Kingdom of Sardinia at the first battle of Custoza. The Austrian army commander, the then 81 year old Field Marshal Joseph Radetzky von Radetz, was one of Austria’s most successful generals and tremendously popular among his soldiers. The famous main theme of the March had already been used by Strauss in his Jubil Quadrille, Op.130 composed in 1841. The pounding beginning to the piece, due to its distinctive rhythm—–datadám datadám datadám Damdam—–three Anapäste, a pentameter is similar to that found in the second movement of Haydn’s Military Symphony composed in 1794. Some wags maintained that the march remained popular due to the fact that its distinctive rhythm lent itself to doggerl. Various words were added to it, some in their time becoming rather famous—–for example: Wenn der Mút in der Brúst seine Spánnkraft übt oder Wenn der Móps mit der Wúrst übern Rínnstein spríngt. When it was first played in front of Austrian officers they spontaneously clapped and stamped their feet when they heard the chorus. This tradition is kept alive today when the march is played in classical music venues in Vienna, among members of the audience who are familiar with the tradition.
Although the march was not written for for string quartet, within days of its publication Strauss authorized arrangements for smaller ensembles and soon the march was heard in Viennese cafes and restaurants. It is in this spirit that we make it available again in a version for string quartet.
Johann (1804-1849) 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, Jugendfeuer, Indianer and Gitana Galopps, and the Bajaderen Waltzes have remained as popular as Junior’s compositions.