Friday, October 10, 2008

Johann Sebastian Strauss And The Viennese Waltz

The Vienna Operetta Orchestra will be staging a performance on November 1 2008 at 8.30 pm at the Auditorium Majlis Bandaraya in Shah Alam, Selangor. Under the baton of conductor Siegfried Andraschek, together with featured vocalists Michael Suttner (tenor) and Izabela Labuda (soprano), the orchestra will perform favourites composed by the great composers like Johann Sebastian Strauss and Franz Lehar. The orchestra will be joined on stage by local singer and actress Amy Mastura. Together they will be entertaining the audience to an evening of authentic Viennese song and dance.

Franz Lehar (born 1870) was an Austrian of Hungarian descent. He is best known as a composer of operettas; the most famous of which is "The Merry Widow". Besides operettas he also wrote sonatas, marches and waltzes including the popular "Gold And Silver". Lehar died in 1948 in Bad Ischl near Salzburg where he is also buried. Johann Sebastian Strauss (1825-1899) was an Austrian composer well known for his waltzes. Besides the waltz, Strauss also wrote polkas, marches and operettas. Die Fledermaus which was composed by Strauss in 1874 remains the quintessential Viennese operetta.

It is of course the waltzes for which Strauss is most famous for. Known as the "Waltz King", Strauss composed more than 60 waltzes, amongst them the Blue Danube Waltz, Tales From The Vienna Woods Waltz, Emperor Waltz, Voices Of Spring Waltz, Wine, Woman And Song Waltz and Artist's Life Waltz. It must be remembered that the great waltzes were published in concert, not dance arrangements and the original compositions are generally not suited for dancing the International Viennese Waltz due to the tempo changes, pauses and long playing time. The Blue Danube, Tales From The Vienna Woods and Emperor have a playing time of more than 10 minutes each!

The versions of the great waltzes that people dance to nowadays have been rearranged by other musicians, abridged to about 3 minutes playing time and set to strict Viennese waltz tempo. Several modern songs have of course been composed with strict Viennese waltz tempo. My favourite is "A Summer Place", whether it is the instrumental version by the Percy Faith Orchestra or the one sung by Andy Williams. There is something very special about this song that can evoke strong emotions for me. Whenever I hear this song being played in a dance hall I just have to step out on to the floor with my partner and dance the Viennese waltz. It's just pure bliss! Happy Dancing!

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