Jo­hann strauss ii Vi­en­nese Blood Waltz

This month Brid­get Mer­mikides reck­ons we should look at a piece in three-quar­ter time. And where bet­ter to start than with The Waltz King him­self, the ven­er­a­ble Jo­hann Strauss II.

Guitar Techniques - - Play: Classical -

The Aus­TriAn com­poser wrote so many en­gag­ing and pop­u­lar waltzes (as well as other dance forms) in the late 19th century that he be­came known as The Waltz King. Grow­ing up in a fam­ily of com­posers, strauss had a hugely busy, oc­ca­sion­ally very stress­ful and fab­u­lously suc­cess­ful mu­si­cal ca­reer. he was es­sen­tially the pre­miere pop song­writer of the day, con­tribut­ing sig­nif­i­cantly to the huge pop­u­lar­ity of the Vi­en­nese waltz. There is an un­fussy el­e­gance to his writ­ing that seems ac­ces­si­ble to all, which might ex­plain why his mu­sic has been used in sev­eral films and TV shows ev­ery year since 1930, in­clud­ing Ti­tanic, Amélie and most fa­mously his Blue Danube Waltz in stan­ley Kubrick’s 2001: A space odyssey.

here i’ve ar­ranged his fa­mous Wiener Blut which trans­lated as Vi­en­nese spirit, or Vi­en­nese Blood, and pop­u­larly known as the Vi­en­nese Blood Waltz. First per­formed by the Vi­enna phil­har­monic orches­tra in 1873, it is in the light 3/4 waltz feel pop­u­lar at the time, and ac­tu­ally in­cludes a num­ber of themes, from which i’ve selected and ar­ranged the fa­mous Waltz i which has an ex­tremely sim­ple yet stun­ningly ef­fec­tive melody.

orig­i­nally writ­ten in c ma­jor (with a mid­dle sec­tion in the key of G ma­jor), i’ve trans­posed it up a tone to D (with a mid­dle sec­tion in A) and used drop D tun­ing so a wider range of the gui­tar may be used.

Tech­ni­cally this ar­range­ment re­quires the abil­ity to play a bass and chordal ac­com­pa­ni­ment us­ing fret­ting hand thumb and fin­gers. This should have a light waltz feel un­der­neath the melody, which is oc­ca­sion­ally voiced in 3rds and 6ths. The chal­lenge is to keep an ef­fort­less lilt­ing rhythm while

I have ‘cheated’ by al­low­ing the first bass note of each bar to sus­tain more than just one beat. This makes it eas­ier but still re­tains the char­ac­ter.

re­tain­ing the lyri­cal sim­plic­ity of the melody. Those of you who caught our re­cent clas­si­cal har­mony ar­ti­cle (GT226) should recog­nise a wealth of di­a­tonic har­mony and sec­ondary func­tion chords in this work. I firmly be­lieve that a the­o­ret­i­cal un­der­stand­ing of the ba­sic pro­gres­sion can re­ally help me­mori­sa­tion.

This ar­range­ment is a good ex­am­ple of play­ing in three parts: melody, bass notes and mid­dle ac­com­pa­ni­ment notes. When play­ing a solo gui­tar ar­range­ment we have the tech­ni­cal chal­lenge of play­ing all parts where an or­ches­tral player only ever has one part to cope with. if you fol­low the score along with my record­ing, you may no­tice that i have ‘cheated’ by al­low­ing the first bass note of each bar to sus­tain longer than just the one beat as writ­ten. This is de­lib­er­ate; it makes it much eas­ier to play with­out wor­ry­ing about ex­ces­sive bass note mut­ing; the best thing about it is that it man­ages to re­tain the char­ac­ter of the mu­sic.

i do hope you en­joy play­ing this splen­did piece. Why not prac­tise it to strictly… with the sound turned down of course?

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