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Johann Strauss

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
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Johann Strauss I (German: Johann Strauss) born in Vienna, (March 14, 1804 – September 25, 1849) was an Austrian Romantic composer known particularly for his waltzes and for popularizing it alongside Josef Lanner thereby (without intention) setting the foundations for his sons to carry on his musical dynasty. His most famous piece, however, is probably the Radetzky March (named after Joseph Radetzky von Radetz) whereas his most famous waltz is probably the Lorelei Rhine Klänge op. 154.

The often used German form “Strauß” is not correct: the composer himself always wrote his name with “ss”, and never with “ß”.

Johann Strauss I was the father of Johann Strauss II, Josef Strauss and Eduard Strauss. He also had two daughters, Anna who was born in 1829 and Therese who was born in 1831 as well as third eldest son Ferdinand born 1834 lived only ten months.

Strauss’ parents were innkeepers. The location of his father’s inn at the Danube Channel and the neighboring harbor with its rafts and boats from different countries and the music played by the sailors, influenced Johann’s enthusiasm for popular dance music.

Tragedy struck his family as his mother died when he was seven of ‘creeping fever’. When he was twelve, his father Franz Borgias (who had since remarried) was discovered drowned in the Danube river. His step-mother sought to place him as an apprentice to a bookbinder Johann Lichtscheidl, but he took lessons in the violin and viola in addition to fulfilling his apprenticeship. While generally disputed, he never ran away from his bookbinder apprenticeship and in fact successfully completed it in 1822. He also studied music with Johann Polischansky during his apprenticeship and eventually managed to secure a place in a local orchestra of a certain Michael Pamer which he eventually left in order to join a popular string quartet known as the Lanner Quartet formed by his would-be rival Josef Lanner and the Drahanek brothers Karl and Johann. This string quartet playing Viennese waltzes and rustic German dances expanded into a small string orchestra in 1824.

He eventually became conductor of the orchestra in which he played after it became so popular during the Fasching of 1824 and Strauss was soon placed in command of a second smaller orchestra which was formed as a result of the success of the parent orchestra. In 1825, he decided to form his own band and began to write music for it to play after he realized that he could also possibly emulate the success of Lanner in addition to putting an end to his financial struggles. By so doing, he would have made Lanner a serious rival although the rivalry did not entail hostile consequences as the musical competition was very productive for the development of the waltz as well as other dance music in Vienna. He soon became one of the best-known and well loved dance composers in Vienna, and he toured with his band to Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, England, and Scotland.

On a trip to France in 1837 he heard the quadrille and began to compose them himself, becoming largely responsible for introducing that dance to Austria in the 1840 Fasching where it became very popular. It was this very trip which has proved Strauss’ popularity with audiences from different social backgrounds and this paved way to forming an ambitious plan to perform his music in England for the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838.

He also married Maria Anna Streim in 1825 in the parish church of Liechtenthal in Vienna. His marriage was relatively unstable as his prolonged absence from his immediate family due to frequent tours abroad led to a gradual alienation and he later took on a mistress, Emilie Trambusch in 1834 with whom he had eight children. This personal decision probably marked Johann Strauss II’s first development as a composer as Johann senior previously forbade his sons to undertake music studies at any point of time. With Johann senior’s open declaration of his paternity of a daughter borne to Emilie, Maria Anna sued for divorce in 1844 and allowed Johann junior to actively pursue a musical career. Strauss I was a strict disciplinarian in the Strauss home called ‘Hirschenhaus’ better known in Vienna as the ‘Goldener Hirsch’ (The Golden Stag), and imposed his will on his sons to pursue careers that are not musically-related. His own personal view may not be to avoid a rivalry from within the family but he understood the challenges that a struggling musician may face especially during the early days of his career.

Despite family problems, he also toured the British Isles frequently and was always prepared to write novelty pieces for many charitable organizations there. His waltzes were developed from the peasant dance in three quarter time into one with a short introduction with little or no reference to the later chain of five two-part waltz structure and usually with a short coda and a stirring finish although his son Johann Strauss, Jr. expanded the waltz structure and utilized more instruments than his father. While he did not possess a musical talent as rich as his eldest son’s, nor a business mind just as astute, he was among the first few composers along with Josef Lanner to actively write pieces with individual titles to enable music enthusiasts to easily recognise those pieces with the view to boost sales of their sheet music. In fact, during his performances at the Sperl-Ballroom in Vienna where he established his name, he actively pursued the concept of collecting a fixed entrance fee from the patrons of the ballroom instead of the old practice of passing around a collection plate where income is only guaranteed by the goodwill of the patrons.

Johann Strauss II often played his father’s works and openly declared his admiration of them although it was no secret to the Viennese that their rivalry was intense, with the press at that time fuelling it. Johann Strauss I himself refused to play ever again at the Dommayer’s Casino who offered his son his conducting debut and was to tower over his son during his lifetime in terms of career advancement although Strauss II was to eclipse him in terms of popularity in the classical repertoire. In 1846, Johann Strauss I was conferred the honorary title of KK Hofballmusikdirektor (Director of Music for the Royal Court Balls) by Emperor Ferdinand I.

Strauss died in Vienna in 1849 from scarlet fever. He was buried at the Döbling cemetery beside his friend Lanner. In 1904, both of their remains were transferred to the graves of honour at the Zentralfriedhof. The former Döbling cemetery is now a Strauss-Lanner Park. Berlioz himself paid tribute to the ‘Father of the Viennese Waltz’ by commenting that ‘Vienna without Strauss is like Austria without the Danube’.

Works of Johann Strauss I


* Täuberln-Walzer op. 1 Little Doves (1827)
* Wiener Carneval op. 3 (1828)
* Kettenbrücke-Walzer op. 4 Suspension Bridge (1828)
* Tivoli-Rutsch Walzer op. 39 Tivoli-Slide (1830)
* Das Leben ein Tanz oder Der Tanz ein Leben! Walzer op. 49 Life is a Dance
* Elisabethen-Walzer op. 71
* Philomelen-Walzer op. 82
* Paris-Walzer op. 101 (1838)
* Wiener Gemüths-Walzer op. 116 Viennese Sentiments (1840)
* Lorelei Rhein Klänge op. 154 Echoes of the Rhine Loreley (1843)


* Seufzer-Galopp op. 9 Sighing
* Chineser-Galopp op. 20 Chinese
* Einzugs-galopp op. 35 Entrance Galopp
* Sperl-Galopp op. 42
* Fortuna-Galopp op. 69
* Jugendfeuer-Galopp op. 90 Young Spirit
* Cachucha-Galopp op. 97
* Indianer-Galopp op. 111
* Sperl-Polka op. 133
* Beliebte Annen-Polka op. 137 Beloved Anna
* Piefke und Pufke Polka op. 235


* Radetzky-Marsch op. 228 (1848)
* Jellečić-Marsch op. 244
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