Aquarellen, Walzer, Op.258
My transcription of the Neuausgabe Josef Strauss edition score of this waltz by Josef Strauss. It is my 2022 “Christmas Goody” – a famous piece that has been recorded many times and has no need of an effort by me but done just for fun and to hear it played my way.
This is one of the very best waltzes written post-1850. The qualification is only added because comparisons with late Joseph Lanner works are difficult as the styles had changed so much in the intervening period. It would certainly get in my top ten and possibly even be number one.
No Viennese dance composer orchestrates with the subtlety of Josef Strauss and some of the melodic writing in here is unequalled.
You can play it like it was Richard Strauss rather than Josef, on an enormous orchestra con molto rubato mit Schlagobers, or you can play what’s written on an orchestra of about the size Strauss had. That is what I have tried to do. Strauss writes for quite a big brass section of twelve players, although they are used sparingly. There are ten woodwind parts and three percussion. That makes twenty five players. I believe the Strauss orchestra of the period to be about forty five strong which means a maximum of twenty string players. Play it with sixty string players and any subtlety goes out of the window.
I have talked about tempo before. I believe the waltz of this period was played at about this speed. The modern ballroom waltz is not. I believe more rubato has crept in over the years too. There is only one “rit” marked in this score. I’m sure it wasn’t played in strict time, and I haven’t played it in strict time either. The tempo in here varies by more than ten percent, not including the marked “rit”. Hopefully, the tempo changes are felt rather than over the top.
It can be very powerful and beautiful pulled about by a huge orchestra but it does make a good waltz just played as it is written.
Waltz 2 is just magnificent. The first eight bars are a more or less conventional four bar opening phrase with a related four bar answering phrase. Most composers would repeat the first phrase, perhaps varying it, and then have a closing four bar phrase. Strauss extends the opening phrase into twenty four bars of continuous melody. There is no space for a waltz 2B.