Johann Strauss 1
Pariser-Polka (nach englischen Motiven), well maybe
I have just returned from a trip to Vienna which was, in part, in order to find and copy some more interesting scores to do. In the catalogue of the Wien Bibliothek there are two entries for “Johann Strauss I’s Paris Polka on English Themes”, one for a piano score and one for an orchestral score. As I had never heard, or indeed heard of, a Paris polka by Strauss father, I couldn’t resist ordering them and copying them. This video is my transcription of the orchestral score, but is it genuine Strauss?
My thoughts on the subject –
Why would anyone write a “Paris” polka on English themes? “Old England Forever” perhaps?
The three themes are genuine. Two are used in The Beggar’s Opera” and all three would have been current at the time of Strauss’s visits to London.
The piano score looks to be on paper from about the 1840’s. The orchestral score is on later paper. Neither score is in Strauss’s handwriting and the handwriting is different in both. Both scores are intact and of the same piece and the words “by Johann Strauss” are in the same handwriting, i.e. not added later. (Someone has added a question mark on the piano score after the name, though)
The instrumentation on the orchestral score is plausible for the 1840’s. The score has the strings at the bottom (all of the Strauss manuscripts I have seen have the strings at the top) but the timpani part is between the trumpets and trombone and the horns are written on one line while the clarinets and trumpets have one instrument per line, which is what I’d expect to see in a genuine Strauss score. It’s slightly heavier than I would have done it and I did orchestrate the piano score myself before I looked at the piano score, but the differences weren’t great.
Strauss did not start writing polkas till after his first visit to London (I think there is an early one but it’s not a real Viennese style polka) so I am assuming that, if it is genuine, it’s probably a piece written for the 1849 visit.
So there are three options as I see it –
1) Both of these pieces are based on a genuine Strauss score which is not only lost but has disappeared without trace, unless anyone knows better than I do.
2) The piano score is genuine but the orchestral score is later and based on the piano score “in the style of Johann Strauss”. What kind of fool wastes his time orchestrating old piano scores?
3) Both pieces are based on a polka that isn’t by Strauss at all but is of the right period.
Unfortunately, the themes aren’t by Strauss so one can’t work out too much from the music and, given the themes, it is not difficult to knock out a passable polka. It’s much easier than faking a waltz.
However, three things stood out for me. There are no grace notes in the entire piece and Strauss polkas usually have lots of them. There are also no “first time bars” with modulations first time through and those are common in Strauss polkas. It has no coda so just fizzles out at the end. Even writing quickly these would be second nature to Strauss
My view is, if this is Strauss it isn’t very good Strauss and was probably written in an afternoon as a novelty piece. I think that anyone with a bit of knowledge of the period could write a piece of this standard and my attempt, also written in an afternoon, is here - https://www.cpestrauss.com/lmusic/polka-on-english-airs%2C-op.-87