Monday, March 30, 2009

Straussian Weather

We've mentioned Strauss' Thunder and Lightnight Polka before, but here's some more information about Johann Strauss, Jr, "The Waltz King," and his weather-related composition.

"In the 19th century, Viennese music (dance) was dominated by Johann Strauss Sr. and his three sons Johann Jr., Josef and Eduard. Johann Strauss Jr. in all composed over 170 waltzes" [1]of which the most famous today is the "Blue Danube," written in 1867. Thunder and Lightning was published the following year, in 1868.

"Johann Strauss, Jr. (center) was born October 25, 1825 the first of five children. A number of great composers encountered parental opposition when they decided to undertake a musical career, but none met more than Johann Jr. His father, Johann Sr., had decided that one musician in the family was enough and went to great lengths to keep his sons from following in his footsteps. Ironically, all three, Johann Jr., Josef (1827-1870) and Eduard (1835_1916) achieved success as musicians.

"It was his mother, Anna, who encouraged Johann's ambition, who bought him his first violin and saw to it that he received musical instruction. Little Johann secretly studied the violin, making his first attempt at writing a waltz at 6 years of age.

"From 1841 on, Johann Strauss Jr. was a student of the Polytechnic school. He was not very interested in accounting and was expelled for "misbehavior" two years after he joined the school. No one could help him not even a private teacher. Johann skipped the private lessons and spent all his time studying music. He still took violin
lessons from his mother, then he got a permit from the police that allowed him
to play with an orchestra of 12-15 people in public houses." [1]

"Possibly the noisiest of Strauss' dance pieces, Unter Donner und Blitz [Thunder
and Lightning] evokes the sound of thunder and lightning through incessant
timpani rolls and cymbal crashes. In the first half of section A, a loud timpani
roll occurs every four measures, while the cymbals crash on each beat of the
detached descending melody of the second half. Drum answers cymbal in the
arching woodwind tune that begins section B, moving the accent to the second
beat of the measure. A note-for-note return of section A completes the
traditional ternary form, and a rambunctious coda creates a thunderous close.
The only peculiar aspect of Unter Donner und Blitz is the percussive,
eight-measure bridge between the two parts of section A, and the absence of any
return to the first part of section A. Clearly, Strauss sought to amuse as much
as compose a successful piece of music. ~ All Music Guide " [2]


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