The Viennese Dance Series for Chamber Ensembles
Johann Strauss Sr.
Sperl Polka, Op.133 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 Sperl Polka dates from 1830. It is named for Zum Sperl (At the Sperl), which was the most famous dance hall in Biedermeier Vienna. Playing the Sperl could be likened to playing Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas or the Rainbow Room in New York. It was the place to be seen and heard. Strauss Sr. enjoyed some of his greatest successes there and wrote a number of dances in honor or the hall. The Viennese polka of the early 19th century is not to be confused with the heavy-handed beer-barrel type oom-pah polkas that came out of Germany and Bohemia at a later date. The Viennese Polka is light and elegant.
Was this music specifically written for string quartet? Most probably. In 1830, Strauss Sr. was still playing with a quartet and only formed his larger orchestra of around 10-15 players a few years after this. 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