Payback in three-quarter time Die Fledermaus
AN inviting stretch of downtown Vienna is given over to the Stadtpark, where locals linger on benches near the Vienna River while tourists make a beeline for the gilded statue of Johann Strauss II. Vienna has been home to a disproportionate number of famous composers — Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Bruckner, Mahler, Schoenberg, Webern, Berg — but of the bunch, it is Strauss whose music is most indelibly attached to the city. His melodies in three-quarter time have made him Vienna’s smiling ambassador to the world, and when the world comes calling, it can’t resist snapping a selfie beneath his mustachioed visage and his upraised violin.
Strauss is universally acknowledged as the “Waltz King,” and for good reason. A prolific composer, he left a corpus of 479 published works. Waltzes are the most numerous among them, accounting for 183 pieces in the scholarly catalogue of his compositions. During his peak years — the 1860s and early 1870 — he bestowed on the world such quintessential masterpieces of the Viennese waltz as Accellerationen (Acceleration); An der schönen, blauen Donau (On the Beautiful Blue Danube); Künstlerleben (Artist’s Life); Geschichten aus der Wienerwald (Tales from the Vienna Woods); Wein, Weib und Gesang (Wine, Women, and Song); and Wiener
Blut (Vienna Blood). Even in his later years, when he was expending more of his energy on stage works, he still found time to turn out waltz masterpieces, such as Frühlingsstimmen (Voices of Spring) in 1883 and
Kaiser-W (Emperor Waltz) in 1889. He was practically born into his profession. In the beginning was Johann Strauss I, who achieved great popularity as a Viennese orchestra leader. He hoped his three sons — Johann II, Josef, and Eduard — would do better in the world, encouraging them to enter business or the military.