Marble Surface

Johann Strauss I

Kettenbrücke, Walzer, Op. 4

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My transcription of the manuscript in the Wien Bibliothek. It was Johann Strauss I’s first big success after he split from Joseph Lanner. It was written for the carnival of 1828. For a comparison of Lanner’s work at this period there is my transcription of his Vermählungs Walzer, Op. 15, also written in 1828, here –

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-nJook5Bzg

That suffers from my orchestration though.

The waltz has been recorded many times. Most of the recordings are, shall we say, uninspiring. There are exceptions (my favourite being the old Boskovsky Ensemble recording) but most are too slow, mannered and anachronistic. Reviews of Strauss’s concerts at this time are full of words like fizzing, sparkling, exciting and thrilling. Graceful and sentimental do not feature. His waltzes are not ländler or minuets. This is not just a matter of speed. I am far from the fastest on record. There is the small matter of adhering to Strauss’s dynamics and phrasing. Rant over.

Strauss’s early works have a chamber music feel to me. There is some very delicate writing for wind in this piece. I think as Strauss’s orchestra gets bigger the orchestration loses some subtlety.

There is one interesting (to me anyway!) technical feature. The figuration shown in the accompaniment for the 2nd and 3rd violins in the image is almost universal in this period. It starts to disappear in the 1830’s. By the time of Die Schönbrunner Lanner has stopped using it but his mid-30’s waltzes still have it. August Lanner is still using it in 1853. Nobody, including me, ever plays it, as far as I can tell. I don’t even know whether it is intended to be double stopped or divisi (although Lanner usually marks divisi when he wants it and at the time this waltz was written Strauss might only have had one violinist per part). With some difficulty I have persuaded Sibelius to play it. It is very different to the almost staccato accompaniment often heard in this piece, particularly in the quartet recordings.