Friday, December 31, 2010

Cheesy Classical Music You Should Know: The "Blue Danube" Waltz

On every January 1 since 1939, the Vienna Philharmonic has been waltzing in the new year at the Musikverein. In all of these concerts, Johann Strauss Jr.'s music is the most prominent musical fixture.

Although it was his father, along with Josef Lanner, who popularized Austria's indigenous 3/4 dance music, Johann Strauss Jr. was the true "Waltz King"; by the time he passed in 1899, his music was beloved worldwide, from Bosnia to Boston.

Most people are familiar with his "Blue Danube" Waltz; the Vienna Phil plays it on every New Year's Day concert--and of course, it's part of the 2001: A Space Odyssey soundtrack:

As respected for his dance music as he was in his time--Brahms was but one noted admirer and friend--and as historically important as he is for it today, Strauss was also a successful stage composer. He wrote a ballet based on Cinderella, and provided competition to Offenbach with operettas such as his Die Fledermaus (1874):

This year, the Vienna Philharmonic New Year's Day concert is broadcast in over 70 countries, and you can watch it on PBS. Just try not to think too hard about who was in Vienna in 1939 when this tradition all started, and what it might have meant back then.