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Marble Surface

Josef Hellmesberger jnr.

Nelly Walzer

Arr. CPE Strauss

00:00 / 10:44

My orchestration of this waltz by Hellmesberger from two piano scores, neither of which was complete! It’s based on themes from the operetta Rikiki of 1887 and brought to mind memories of my late grandmother, Eleanor “Nelly” Sowerby, who is pictured.

It’s a very good waltz of the period with lots of nice tunes but it doesn’t do a lot for me. I am much happier fifty years earlier but styles change over the years. I think by this period the waltz is getting a bit middle aged and tired. I was going to witter on about the lack of cross rhythms, the tunes that are relentlessly on the beat, the themes based on minims and crotchets rather than crotchets and quavers, the tum ti tum ti tum ti tum tunes and the general feeling of heaviness but then I decided that what I was trying to say is that it’s not much fun.

Johann Strauss II’s Kaiserwalzer Op. 437 dates from this period. It’s a superb piece of music and arguably the best he ever wrote. It doesn’t get in my top ten favourite Johann Strauss II waltzes though, because it doesn’t sparkle in the way some of his earlier pieces do. I transcribed Johann Strauss I’s Ball Racketen, Op. 96 recently (Here - ). This is the other end of the scale. It’s not Strauss’s greatest work. It looks hurriedly put together and some of the joins show, but it’s a joy. Everything sparkles. The orchestration is delicate, the rhythms are bouncy, there are little musical jokes and firework impressions and the stretto at the end positively fizzes despite the small orchestra. It is obvious to me that Kaiserwalzer is by far the better piece of music but I know which I’d choose to whiz round a dance floor to, preferably at 2 am after a modicum of fizzy wine and with an attractive partner. (We all have our dreams!)

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