Oct 252018

Today is the birthday (1825) of Johann Baptist Strauss, son of Johann Strauss the Elder. He is well known as an Austrian composer of light music, particularly dance music and operettas. He composed over 500 waltzes, polkas, quadrilles, and other types of dance music, as well as several operettas and a ballet. In his lifetime, he was known as “The Waltz King”, and was largely responsible for the popularity of the waltz in Vienna during the 19th century. This post can be considered a companion piece to my post on his father https://www.bookofdaystales.com/strauss-the-elder/  and I will try not to duplicate material there too much, although a certain amount is inevitable, not least because of the intense rivalry between the two.

Strauss was born in St Ulrich near Vienna (now a part of Neubau). His paternal great-grandfather was a Hungarian Jew – a fact which the Nazis, who lionized Strauss’s music as “so German”, later tried to conceal. His father did not want him to become a musician but rather a banker. Nevertheless, Strauss the Younger studied the violin secretly as a child with the first violinist of his father’s orchestra, Franz Amon. When his father discovered his son secretly practicing on a violin one day, he gave him a severe whipping, saying that he was going to beat the music out of the boy. It was only when the father abandoned his family for a mistress, Emilie Trampusch, that the son was able to concentrate fully on a career as a composer with the support of his mother.

Strauss studied counterpoint and harmony with theorist Professor Joachim Hoffmann, who owned a private music school. His talents were also recognized by composer Joseph Drechsler, who taught him exercises in harmony. It was during that time that he composed his only sacred work, the graduale Tu qui regis totum orbem (1844). His other violin teacher, Anton Kollmann, who was the ballet répétiteur of the Vienna Court Opera, also wrote excellent testimonials for him. Armed with these, he approached the Viennese authorities to apply for a license to perform. He initially formed his small orchestra where he recruited his members at the Zur Stadt Belgrad tavern, where musicians seeking work could be hired easily.

Johann Strauss the Elder’s influence over the local entertainment establishments meant that many of them were wary of offering the younger Strauss a contract for fear of angering the father. Strauss the Younger was able to persuade the Dommayer’s Casino in Hietzing, a suburb of Vienna, to allow him to perform. The elder Strauss, in anger at his son’s disobedience, and at that of the proprietor, refused to ever play at the Dommayer’s Casino again, which had been the site of many of his earlier triumphs. Strauss made his debut at Dommayer’s in October 1844, where he performed some of his first works, such as the waltzes “Sinngedichte”, Op. 1 and “Gunstwerber”, Op. 4 and the polka “Herzenslust”, Op. 3. Critics and the press were unanimous in their praise for Strauss’s music. A critic for Der Wanderer commented that “Strauss’s name will be worthily continued in his son; children and children’s children can look forward to the future, and three-quarter time will find a strong footing in him.”

Despite the initial fanfare, Strauss found his early years as a composer difficult, but he soon won over audiences after accepting commissions to perform away from home. His first major appointment was the honorary position of “Kapellmeister of the 2nd Vienna Citizen’s Regiment”, which had been left vacant following Joseph Lanner’s death two years before.

Vienna was wracked by the revolutions of 1848 in the Austrian Empire and the intense rivalry between father and son became much more apparent. Johann the Younger decided to side with the revolutionaries. It was a decision that was professionally disadvantageous, as the Austrian royalty twice denied him the much coveted ‘KK Hofballmusikdirektor’ position, which was first designated especially for his father in recognition of his musical contributions. Further, the younger Strauss was also arrested by the Viennese authorities for publicly playing “La Marseillaise”, but was later acquitted. The elder Strauss remained loyal to the monarchy, and composed his “Radetzky March”, Op. 228 (dedicated to the Habsburg field marshal Joseph Radetzky von Radetz), which would become one of his best-known compositions.

When the elder Strauss died from scarlet fever in Vienna in 1849, the younger Strauss merged both their orchestras and engaged in further tours. Later, he also composed a number of patriotic marches dedicated to the Habsburg Emperor Franz Josef I, such as the “Kaiser Franz-Josef Marsch” Op. 67 and the “Kaiser Franz Josef Rettungs Jubel-Marsch” Op. 126, probably to ingratiate himself in the eyes of the new monarch, who ascended to the Austrian throne after the 1848 revolution.

Strauss eventually surpassed his father’s fame, and became one of the most popular waltz composers of the era, extensively touring Austria, Poland and Germany with his orchestra. In 1853, due to constant mental and physical demands, Strauss suffered a breakdown. He took a seven-week vacation in the countryside in the summer of that year, on the advice of doctors. Johann’s younger brother Josef was persuaded by his family to abandon his career as an engineer and take command of Johann’s orchestra in the interim. In 1855, Strauss accepted commissions from the management of the Tsarskoye-Selo Railway Company of Saint Petersburg to play in Russia for the Vauxhall Pavilion at Pavlovsk in 1856. He would return to perform in Russia every year until 1865.

Later, in the 1870s, Strauss and his orchestra toured the United States, where he took part in the Boston Festival at the invitation of bandmaster Patrick Gilmore and was the lead conductor in a “Monster Concert” of over 1000 performers, performing his “Blue Danube” waltz, amongst other pieces, to great acclaim.

Strauss was diagnosed with pleuropneumonia, and on June 3, 1899 he died in Vienna, at the age of 73. He was buried in the Zentralfriedhof. At the time of his death, he was still composing his ballet Aschenbrödel.

As a slight detour from music I would like to take a little time to talk about fathers and sons. In particular, I find it almost incomprehensible that Strauss Elder should be so jealous of the success of his son that he would virtually disown him. I have been an anthropologist all of my career, and I certainly had no wish for my son to follow in my footsteps. I, obviously, did not beat him as a boy if I caught him reading books about other cultures, but I did not want him to go through the strains of life in academia as an anthropologist. I was, therefore, quite delighted when he went to college to study for two degrees: one in trumpet performance, and the second in experimental physics. It came as a complete shock to me when he announced at the end of his second year that he had switched majors at the end of his second year and was intent on graduating in anthropology.  Since then he has progressed by leaps and bounds, and I fully expect him to surpass me as a scholar. I collaborate with him on papers and publications, and see no problem with encouraging him to excel. What was Strauss Elder’s problem? As it happens, the fame of his son has outshone him. When most people, at least outside of Austria, think of the name Strauss they think of the Blue Danube, and even though Strauss Elder popularized the waltz in Vienna, it was Strauss Younger who codified the form (and the polka) and had all Vienna dancing. Why should this not be a source of pride for the father rather than of resentment? When my son publishes his first book, I will be the first to buy the champagne.

I have written so many posts about Vienna and Viennese celebrities that finding a new recipe from Vienna is a challenge. Perhaps you can choose one I have given already, or else you can try Frittatensuppe, a beef broth with sliced thin pancakes.

Mar 142018

Today is the birthday (1804) of Johann Strauss the Elder known widely for his waltzes, marches and other dance music. Strauss was born in Leopoldstadt (now in Vienna). Strauss’s parents, Franz Borgias Strauss (October 10, 1764 – April 5, 1816) and Barbara Dollmann (December 3, 1770 – August 28, 1811), were innkeepers. His mother died of ‘creeping fever’ when he was 7, and 5 years later his father drowned in the Danube – possibly a suicide.

Strauss’s guardian placed him as an apprentice to the bookbinder, Johann Lichtscheidl. Strauss took lessons in the violin and viola in addition to fulfilling his apprenticeship. Contrary to a story, later told by his son Johann the Younger, Strauss successfully completed his bookbinder apprenticeship in 1822. He also studied music with Johann Polischansky during his apprenticeship and eventually managed to secure a place in a local orchestra, headed by Michael Pamer. Strauss left the orchestra to join a popular string quartet known as the Lanner Quartet, formed by his would-be rivals Joseph Lanner and the Drahanek brothers, Karl and Johann. This string quartet which played Viennese waltzes and rustic German dances expanded into a small string orchestra in 1824.

Strauss became deputy conductor of the orchestra to assist Lanner in commissions after it became popular during the Fasching of 1824, and Strauss was soon placed in command of a second smaller orchestra which was formed as a result of the success of the parent orchestra. In 1825, he decided to form his own band and began to write music (chiefly, dance music) for it to play after he realized that he could also possibly emulate the success of Lanner in addition to putting an end to his financial struggles. By so doing, he would have made Lanner a serious rival although the rivalry did not entail hostile consequences as the musical competition was very productive for the development of the waltz, as well as other dance music in Vienna.

Strauss soon became one of the best-known and well-loved dance composers in Vienna. During the carnival of 1826, Strauss inaugurated his long line of triumphs by introducing his band to the public of Vienna at the Schwan in the suburb of Roßau where his Täuberln-Walzer (Op. 1) at once established his reputation. He toured with his band to Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Britain. The conducting reins and management of this Strauss Orchestra would eventually be passed on to the hands of his sons until its disbandment by Eduard Strauss in 1901.

On a trip to France in 1837 he heard the quadrille and began to compose them himself, becoming largely responsible for introducing that dance to Austria in the 1840 Fasching, where it became popular. It was this trip which established Strauss’s popularity with audiences from different social backgrounds and paved the way to forming an ambitious plan to perform his music in England for the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838. Strauss also adapted various popular melodies of his day into his works so as to ensure a wider audience, as evidenced in the incorporation of the Oberon overture into his early waltz, “Wiener Carneval”, Op. 3, and also the French national anthem “La Marseillaise” into his “Paris-Walzer”, Op. 101.

Strauss married Maria Anna Streim in 1825 in the parish church of Liechtenthal in Vienna. The marriage was relatively unhappy due to his prolonged absences caused by frequent tours abroad which led to a gradual alienation. They had seven children; Johann, Josef and Eduard Strauss, the last of whom had a son called Johann Strauss III. Strauss Sr. also had two daughters, Anna, who was born in 1829, and Therese, who was born in 1831. His third son, Ferdinand, born in 1834, lived only ten months.

The family home was called ‘Hirschenhaus’ but was better known in Vienna as the ‘Goldener Hirsch’ (The Golden Stag). Strauss was a strict disciplinarian and demanded that none of his sons pursue careers in music, despite their display of musical ability. Johann the Younger was to study banking, likewise his brother Josef Strauss was destined for a military career, whereas the youngest Eduard Strauss was expected to join the Austrian consulate.

By 1834 Strauss had taken a mistress, Emilie Trampusch, with whom he had 8 children. When her husband openly acknowledged his paternity of a daughter born to Emilie in 1844, Maria Anna sued for divorce. With the ending of the marriage Anna Strauss determined to further Johann the Younger’s musical career, allowing him to develop his skills as a composer.

Despite family problems, Strauss the Elder continued to tour frequently and was always prepared to write novelty pieces for numerous charitable organizations. His waltzes were gradually developed from a rustic peasant dance into one which posterity would recognize as the Viennese Waltz. They were written in 3/4 time with a short introduction; often with little or no reference to the later chain of the five two-part waltz structure; usually appended with a short coda and concluded in a stirring finish. His son Johann expanded the waltz structure and used more instruments than his father. While he did not possess the musical skills of his eldest son, nor a business mind as astute, he was among the handful of early waltz composers along with Joseph Lanner to actively write pieces with individual titles — with the view to boost sales of their sheet music — which enabled music enthusiasts to easily recognize those pieces. In fact, during his performances at the Sperl-Ballroom in Vienna, where he established his name, he actively pursued the concept of collecting a fixed entrance fee from the patrons of the ballroom instead of the old practice of passing around a collection plate where income was reliant on the goodwill of the patrons.

Johann the Younger often played his father’s works and openly declared his admiration of them, although it was no secret to the Viennese that their rivalry was intense, with the press at that time fueling it. Johann the Elder refused to play ever again at the Dommayer’s Casino, which offered his son his conducting debut, and was to tower over his son during his lifetime in terms of career advancement, although the Younger was to eclipse him in terms of popularity in the classical repertoire. In 1846, Strauss the Elder was awarded the honorary title of K.K. Hofballmusikdirektor (Director of Music for the Imperial and Royal Court Balls) by Emperor Ferdinand I.

Strauss died in Vienna on September 25, 1849 at the age of 45 from scarlet fever contracted from one of his illegitimate children. He was buried at the Döblinger cemetery beside his friend Joseph Lanner. In 1904, both of their remains were transferred to the graves of honor at the Zentralfriedhof. Hector Berlioz himself paid tribute to the ‘Father of the Viennese Waltz’ by commenting that “Vienna without Strauss is like Austria without the Danube”.

Strauss’s most famous piece is undoubtedly the Radetzky March. When it was first played in front of Austrian officers in 1848, they spontaneously clapped and stamped their feet when they heard the chorus. This tradition, with quiet rhythmic clapping on the first iteration of the melody, followed by thunderous clapping on the second, is kept alive today by audience members who know the custom when the march is played in classical music venues:

I have given no end of Viennese recipes in previous posts because Vienna was a center for music, art, and politics for a great many years. I am not likely to run out any time soon, but you will have to decide with classic Viennese pastries, tortes, or strudels are what you want for today, or something else. I will give you Kaiserschmarrn or Kaiserschmarren (Emperor’s Mess) is a shredded pancake, which takes its name from the Austrian emperor (Kaiser) Franz Joseph I. Kaiserschmarren is a light, caramelized pancake made from a sweet batter using flour, eggs, sugar, salt, and milk, baked in butter. Kaiserschmarren can be prepared in different ways. When making Kaiserschmarren the egg whites are usually separated from the yolk and beaten until stiff; then the flour and the yolks are mixed with sugar, and the other ingredients are added, including: nuts, cherries, plums, apple jam, or small pieces of apple, or caramelized raisins and slivered almonds. The last-mentioned ingredients (nuts, cherries, plums, apple jam, or small pieces of apple, or caramelized raisins and chopped almonds) are not in the original recipe but made by some cooks based on their personal preferences. In the original recipe, as in mine, there are only raisins soaked in rum. Kaiserschmarrn is traditionally served with a fruit compote or berry preserves, and you can also add whipped cream.



6 eggs
350–400 ml milk
180–200 g finely ground flour
3 tbsp crystallized sugar
2 tbsp raisins
8 gm vanilla sugar
grated lemon rind
50 g butter (for frying)
1 tbspn butter shavings and crystallized sugar (for caramelizing)
icing sugar and cinnamon (for dusting)


Place the raisins in a bowl and cover with rum. Leave to soak several hours or overnight.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350˚F/180˚C.

Separate the eggs and place the yolks in a mixing bowl. Pour in the milk, flavor with grated lemon rind (to taste) and the vanilla sugar, and add the flour. Mix to form a smooth dough.

Beat the egg whites with the crystallized sugar and a small pinch of salt until they form firm peaks. Fold the beaten egg whites into the dough mix.

Place the butter in one large, or two small heatproof dishes and place them over medium heat to melt the butter. Pour in the dough mix and after the dough has begun to solidify scatter the rum-soaked raisins over the top. Cook the underside until light brown, turn over using a spatula and bake for about 6 minutes in the pre-heated oven until golden brown. Remove from the oven

Tear the cooked pancake into small pieces, using two forks. Scatter the butter shavings over the top, sprinkle with some crystallized sugar, and caramelize under the broiler on high heat.

Remove from the broiler and arrange on pre-heated plates. Dust with icing sugar and cinnamon. Serve with berry preserves or fruit compote.