The Viennese Dance Series for Chamber Ensembles
Johann Strauss Sr.
Wiener Gemüts Waltzes, Op.116 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 Wiener Gemüts Waltzes have remained as popular as Junior’s compositions.
The Wiener Gemüts Waltzes are among the two or three most famous and beloved set of waltzes he composed. They date from 1839 and were dedicated to Prince Nikolas Esterhazy, at that time head of the Esterhazy family, which for the past century had been perhaps the most important patrons of music in Austrian Empire, commissioning works from the likes of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and many others. The Wiener Gemüts Waltzes were first perfromed at the famous Sperl Ballroom in Vienna. They are set in the format that Lanner and the Strausses standardized--an introduction followed by five waltzes and a coda. Perhaps the best translation of Wiener Gemüts is Viennese soul.
Was this music specifically written for string quartet? Most likely, they were or quite possibly 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 for small ensemble.