Thursday, 8 February 2018

QUOTE OF THE DAY: FEBRUARY 8, 2018: ANDRÉ GRÉTRY: THE COMPOSER WHO BROKE ALL THE RULES

André Ernest Modeste Grétry
Today’s Quote of the Day comes to us from birthday boy André Ernest Modeste Grétry, born in this 8th day of February 1741 at the Prince-Bishopric of Liège, (present day French-speaking region in southern Belgium), the son of a poor family (his father was a struggling musician who, in all likelihood, assumed the same fate for his son as there existed no means to secure a financial nest for the boy’s future education). André would not only prove his father wrong in terms of future excellence, but would also prove successful where most struggling artists failed – and in a most grand manner – by bravely “breaking the rules” imposed upon society by leading officials during the French Revolutionary war. Certainly, his thought provoking quote: 

“There must be deviations from the rules in order to express almost anything... however only the man who is familiar with the rules may sometimes violate them for he alone can know that in certain cases the rule is not enough.” 

 
…wasn’t solely based on the rigid “rules” of musical style represented by different nations across Europe, but rather – respectively – a strong statement about standing up for oneself, one’s brethren, and the causes near and dear to one’s heart. From the perspective of posterity, Grétry was a man who broke all of the rules – even those that often dictated the son of a pauper and unsuccessful musician would not be taken with any merit should he even attempt to try.

For André, it seemed the rules imposed on society – by those seeking to oppress in order to gain, simply wouldn’t do. He, and he alone would decide what could be accomplished by someone, who by all appearances, would draw the common card of so many in his era - controlled and suppressed through the conventional heavy-handed dictations of an unjust society. Grétry would see before him a series of impenetrable doors, and one by one, smash right through them – not by violence, or threats thereof – but rather, by discipline, perseverance, and by never doubting he would succeed where others had failed.

And succeed, he did: he would find himself in high company (and in high demand), as music tutor to France’s Queen Marie Antoinette (a minor composer herself), who, on more than one occasion would cite the Grétry as her favorite; he would rub shoulders with Voltaire and, notably, would be the first musician who dared to write music for an ancient Roman instrument, previously known as the cornu – in André’s time as the “tuba curva.” 

A Tuba Curva
It was a bold move, especially considering the musical instrument’s stagnant state over millennia – thereby having to improvise on technique in order to make it sing – a chance even accomplished composers wouldn’t dare dram of trying in fear of falling flat on their face and damaging their career. In an age and society – that of Revolutionary Paris – where musicians were still often beggars, paupers, and seen as servants until one could prove himself viable for a handsome wage, to unhaltingly pick up said instrument and give it a go was a huge risk. But it would be a risk that paid off: big time. André would be commissioned to both compose and perform on the tuba curva at Voltaire's internment at the Panthéon.

But how did a man who seemed to have all odds stacked up against him according to the rigid rules of a society that, prior to the revolution, unspokenly dictated that the poor remain poor, and rich become richer?

The first step toward becoming the “most celebrated composer in Paris” in his prime would begin with baby steps: as a youth, it cost the family nothing to send André to the Church of St. Denis back in his hometown of Liège (it would not be until sometime after 1767 that Grétry would relocate to Paris – eventually becoming French citizen). It was there that the former young choirboy became a pupil of some heavy hitters in classical music who, sensing the young man's talent, offered their services in Composition (Jean-Pantaléon Leclerc), lessons on the keyboard (Nicolas Rennekin) – who also offered to André lessons in composition for the instrument, and, as for the pièce de résistance, the up-and-coming music maker was granted tutelage under one Henri Moreau, music master at the collegiate church of St. Paul. 

Below: Sinfonia from Giovanni Battista Pergolesi's "Il Flaminio." The 1735 opera buffa was a major success in Italy, reappearing on the Neapolitan stage over the course of 25 years. This opera - perhaps even this piece - may have been one of the works presented to the student Grétry during his early studies.


As word spread of the André’s increasing musical talents, he was offered a practical tuition after attending a performance produced by an Italian Opera company. Suddenly exposed to the grandeur of Baldassarre Galuppi, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi and their beautiful multi-faceted works, the impressionable (now a young man) decided Italy would be the place he would need to be in order to thrive by undertaking musical education there. Undaunted by the lack of funds provided for such a move, Grétry improvised: I’ll compose a mass, he thought... and I’ll dedicate it to the Canons of the Liège Cathedral – and see what comes of it. The move was a bold one, and the reward was swift: a certain Canon Hurley provided the funds needed for André to not only make his way to Rome, but to study at the capital’s Collège de Liège. For a period of some five years, André studied under the esteemed Italian musician and choirmaster in the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Giovanni Battista Casali.

Under such masterful tutelage, Grétry would compose his first operetta for the Italian stage La Vendemmiatrice, which was met with universal applause. The word about this rags-to-riches-in-process story was now the talk of the town – and not only in Rome or back home in Liège: now, France – the big dog in town for classical music – was calling, inquiring of André: would you consider, perhaps, coming to Paris, and dedicating your life to French comic opera? ... for an appropriate wage, of course. Shortly after New Year’s Day in 1767, André Ernest Modeste Grétry made the move that would change his life forever.

Undaunted by the poverty stricken French capital, Grétry found himself in the company –and in the debt of the nobility, who would provide the composer with all he needed to begin his new life as “the leading composer of comic opera." It would be through the Swedish Ambassador, one Count Gustaff Philip Creutz, that André would be provided with his first libretto- written by the hand of the famed French historian and author Jean-François Marmontel, which, astonishingly, took the Grétry only six weeks to complete. Le Huron, the opera in question, proved to be a smashing success – a trend that seemed to continue with his successive operas – some 50 of them in total during a lifetime marred by an ongoing violent Revolution.

Below: the gorgeous air/duet "Ah! Que tu m'attendris!" from Act II of Grétry's Le Huron:


This is especially significant, as Grétry’s 1784 opera Richard, Coeur-de-lion, a largely “royalist” opera based on the myth of King Richard I of England's captivity at the hands of Leopold, Archduke of Austria and his rescue by the troubadour Blondel de Nesle, Richard’s lowly squire and one determined countess who gathers troops to violently storm the fortress in which the King is imprisoned, and successfully releases him (an opera not exactly in tune with the growing abolitionist and revolutionary movement in France at the time). Undeterred, Grétry was to stand up to his own convictions with the very real possibility he would lose his head in the process, by breaking the cardinal rules of Liberté, égalité, (et) fraternité. Grétry would, unshakingly, allow for an impromptu performance of “O Richard, O mon Roi, l'univers t'abandonne,” an air that appeared in Grétry’s Coeur-de-Lion before a command of French Officers of the Versailles garrison – sung to them by their own bodyguard no less - on October 3, 1789. 

Shockingly, instead of reacting in a state of revilement or erupting into violence (for the air contradicted everything the French Revolutionaries stood for) the Frenchmen commended and, amazingly, respected André’s loyalty to his beliefs and his courage. Of course, one can also see whilst scanning the lyrics of the air similarities to the then-current belief structure in France – although as if reversed through a mirror: it was the opinion of the French, most of whom lived in utter squalor and were rapt by hunger and disease, that the “Austrian” invader (Queen Marie Antoinette) was largely responsible by using state funds to indulge in luxury back at her private apartments at the Palace of Versailles – further stripping the already fragile economy to it’s core. (Just as in Grétry's opera, it was an Austrian Royal who was the villain); and, of course, there is the “lowly” (i.e. pauper) squire who set off the incidences for the Countess – a female warrior (égalité) – to form a band of troops in order to “storm” the fortress which held hostage a man deemed innocent of any crime. If one compares this to the famous storming of the Bastille by the citizens of France, one might come to understand why this bizarre reaction of gratitude was so bestowed upon the composer.

Below: the air “O Richard, O mon Roi, l'univers t'abandonne,” from Grétry's 1784 opera Richard, Coeur-de-lion:


In fact, this incident alone would set in place the beginning of an enduring legacy: The fédérés (volunteers) of the French revolution, after hearing about the brazen incident, would march into the city of Paris, singing in unison what is now known as the French National Anthem: The Marseilaise, so inspired were they by the expression of loyalty displayed in Grétry’s opera – even though the Monarchy went against everything they believed in. 

Grétry wearing his Légion d'honneur medal,
presented to him by Napoleon.
As happens in war, much of one’s property would become destroyed, held hostage, or looted. In Grétry’s case (whose quizzical public adoration in Paris was unlike any other phenomenon witnessed in the midst of the French Terror), his status as a brave man did not render him exempt from this rule. But, as Grétry so eloquently stated in the quote above, rules are made to be broken

For reasons that many still don’t fully understand today, the successive governments of France would protect the life of the composer by vying for the public to hold him in high regard, regardless of political differences. He would receive numerous distinctions and awards during this period, and the newly formed Republic itself would make him an Inspector of the Conservatoire, and even Napoleon himself granted unto André the much distinguished cross of the legion of honour and gave him a pension to boot!

On July 14, 1795, The Convention accepted “La Marseillaise”, heavily inspired by Grétry’s opera and bravery as the Official National Anthem of France, making it the nation’s first ever anthem. Another rule –and record – “broken” to add to Grétry’s heavily laden belt of successes. The Anthem would experience a brief ban by Louis XVIII and Charles X, and, following this, would be briefly reinstated after the July Revolution of 1830.

At the end of Grétry’s fantastical life, another war would emerge, another “rule” – perhaps inspired by the man himself - smashed though, when the composer was laid to rest in Paris’ famed Père Lachaise Cemetery, much to the chagrin of those residing in the late composer’s hometown of Liège, who incessantly demanded the return of his body.

Bronze statue of André Grétry which contains the composer's heart at Liège.
Parisian and French authorities wouldn’t budge. So heavily steeped in their history, the body of André Grétry was now theirs to keep. 

This led to a litany of lawsuits that lasted some fifteen years until a final (and rather macabre) comprise was made: much like Frédéric Chopin, whose body lay at rest in ­­­­­­­the Père Lachaise Cemetery and his heart (allegedly) ensconced within a pillar at a church in the composer’s hometown of Warsaw (Poland), Grétry’s hometown would precede (and perhaps even influence the Chopin affair) by building from scratch a large bronze statue in the likeness of the composer, ensconced within it: André Grétry's heart - after having been removed from now long dead corpse (which itself would continue to lay at rest in Paris, at the very same future final resting place of Chopin). Finished in 1842, the un-beating heart whose music and tenacity beats heavily in our breast – and the lifelike statue in which it is contained - stands at the forecourt of the Théâtre Royal in Liège.
  
-Rose.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

WHAT RIVALRY? HERREN MOZART AND SALIERI JOIN FORCES TO MOCK MUSICAL VANITY IN HILARIOUS SINGSPIEL (TODAY IN MOZART HISTORY)

Mozart in 1786, the year "The Impresario" held it's private
debut at the Holy Roman Emperor's
Schönbrunn Palace on
the 7th of February.
As if the world needed more evidence that Mozart and Salieri were absolutely not mortal enemies (though at times, as is the case with any competitive duo) the occasional verbal assassinations (note: verbal is the only assassination relative to this dynamic pair), back-stabbery and one-upmanship would occur in an effort to further one’s position at court and fatten one’s wallet – Unraveling Musical Myths reminds the reader of the often unspoken"Der Schauspieldirektor” (The Impresario).

The 1786 comic singspiel composed by “Wolfie” at the direct command of Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II that had Salieri and Mozart ‘dueling’ over the beauty of German singspiel with Italian Opera Buffa, as portrayed through two dueling divas.

Fans of the masterful film Amadeus will be undoubtedly familiar with the picture’s many liberties taken – however there are some documented truths in the film: Mozart was vulgar, oftentimes jealous and had a penchant for scatological humor. Salieri, according to many music historians, did indeed, on several occasions attempt to impede and suppress works by Mozart for wider recognition of his own – and that famous scene of Salieri witnessing soprano and love interest/pupil Katerina Magdalena Giuseppa Cavalieri sing her heart out to the tune of "Martern Aller Arten" ("Torture of all Kinds") from Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio where the aging maestro, reflecting back, confesses to his Priest:

"...there she stood…Showing off like the greedy songbird she was. Ten minutes of ghastly scales and arpeggios, whizzing up and down like fireworks at a fairground!” 

actually contained some truth as well, anecdotal as the movie presented the infamous scene. In fact, Mozart’s 1782 singspiel Die Entführung aus dem Serail (which Mozart had, in reality, not only cast Salieri’s prized pupil in the opera, but actually wrote the part of Konstanze specifically for her, to show off her vocal prowess and astonishing coloratura. Allegedly, she had never before showed such astonished skill under the hand of her mentor, Salieri. Yet there she stood, tall and proud on stage one-upping the teacher who didn’t believe she was quite ready for such an incredibly challenging role.

Salieri, 1786.
And that – the dazzling displays of vocal athletics, and the aforementioned one-upmanship of not only composers, preferred languages, and, in this instance, the overzealous vanity and egos of les chanteuses themselves, came to life before a private audience of 80 and the Emperor himself on this day at the the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna in 1786.

The plot, is decidedly simple enough - the arias selected, however - increasingly tempestuous as two highly skilled sopranos are pitted against one another during an audition each attempting to “out-sing” the other by one diva responding to the other’s with rapidly increasing vocal scale and coloratura technique -the duo even taking stabs at each other (written in the libretto) to announce the defeat of the other, whilst the self-styled “winner of the competition" facetiously sings "There tolls the hour of departure," only for the other to retort back with an unkind remark of her own, directed at on the other soprano's inexperience, thus claiming herself the victor in this brazen display of ego.

Below: the famous scene from Amadeus in which Salieri's pupil Cavalieri sings Mozart's "Martern Aller Arten" (sung in English -with a non-exact translation- for the benefit of American audiences):



The setup to the dueling divas begins at the theatre of Frank: an impresario and his cohort, the buffo singer (cleverly named “Buff"), request the two singers  try out for a spot in Frank’s new company. Both ladies scored a spot, so impressed were the judges – but alas, not all was kosher for either diva - each of whom, instead of celebrating what would have been a spot for only one singer, begin to quarrel over which singer will get “Top Billing” (aka the leading role) and, more importantly, who was the most deserving of the duo to earn a more handsome paycheck to rub in the other’s face. They then, unprompted, begin to belt out exceptionally difficult arias in order to further entice the judges into preferring one over the other. Abruptly, amidst all the beautiful chaos, emerges a frustrated tenor by the name of Vogelsang, who has had enough of such embarrassing antics by the clearly talented chanteuses, and intervenes, as the three break into a trio, singing the aria, "Ich bin die erste Sängerin" ("I am the prima donna").

Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II of
Austria commissioned the
competition between Mozart and
Salieri, securing it's premiere on this
7th day of February, 1786 at the
Ruler's Schönbrunn Palace in
Vienna.
It appears Vogelsang’s intervention had formed a truce, as the former duo-cum-trio becomes quartet, with all characters singing the ethereal "Jeder Künstler strebt nach Ehre" ("Every artist strives for glory").

As for the truce?

Equal star billing and two big, fat paycheques, of course.

Described as a “parody on the vanity of singers", the Emperor had Mozart perform The Impresario from one corner of the room in German, and on the other side of the room, Salieri performed his opera buffa, Prima la musicale e poi le parole (First the Music, then the Words), in the Italian tongue in what would prove to be a tounge-in-cheek back handed slap to the whole German vs. Italian language and style of music.

This is indeed notable, as aforementioned in the largely fictional “Amadeus”, several factual events seeped through – notably, the incessant quarelling over German language Opera versus Italian – a subject long debated at the Imperial Court and across Europe at the time.

Joseph’s clever commission would prove, to humorous effect, the pedantic nature of operatic music in-fighting, and, perhaps, allowed some pause for both Mozart and Salieri’s unconventional familiarity with one another to be taken with a side of jest and a heavy dose of the damaging reality of overzealous egos and unbridled competitiveness.

Listen below to excerpts from the singspiel.(in separate recordings) beginning with with the aria “Da schlägt des Abschieds Stunde” ("There tolls the hour of departure”) sung by the character Madame Herz under Hungarian soprano Magda Nador (as seen in the video below), followed by Kiwi Soprano Kiri Te Kanawa singing the rondo in the role of one Madame Silberklang: "Bester Jüngling" ("Dearest Youth") in response (heard here), ending with a trio of compromise prompted by one fed-up tenor: “Ich bin die erste Sängerin ("I am the prima donna") which can be heard here: Edita Gruberova, Kiri Te Kanawa, Uwe Heillmann trio.




DISCOVER MORE:

  • See and listen to the full singspiel here, with original libretto intact (modern performances completely replace the lyrics to suit modern concerns and fancies).
-Rose.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

JOSEPH LANNER UND DER WALZER: THE KEY THAT UNLOCKED PENT-UP SEXUALITY

Two dancing figures, thought to be Queen Elizabeth I of Tudor fame, and the Queen's favorite Sir
Robert Dudley scandalized (and excited) her invited guests to an impromptu semi-erotic dance
derived from the lowly peasants of Italy. In many countries in Europe, the touching of one's
dance partner was strictly verboten amongst "decent" society. La Volta. however, was a
documented favorite of the Queen.
Before we delve deep into the contributions of Herren Lanner and Strauß II, we must first begin in the centuries that immediately preceded the dance/music craze, by exploring the basis from which Der Walzer (the Waltz) flourished.

We begin with a festive scene in London England, and with it's present ruler, Queen Elizabeth I. In the video below, we see a modern depiction of a dance known as La Volta (from the 1998 British biopic Elizabeth), as performed by Queen Elizabeth I and her alleged paramour, Robert Dudley. Whilst la Volta was seen by many as a dance most untoward a fine lady due to it's semi-intimate nature, the true scandal here is that Dudley was suspected of throwing his wife, Amy Robsart down a flight of stairs to get closer to Elizabeth.

The fall would kill Robsart, breaking her neck at some point during the tumble. To this day, many believe Dudley is considered the main suspect in the alleged murder, which was immortalized in paper by the coroner who cited the manner of death as a "broken neck," and the cause as “Death under mysterious circumstances.”

There is no denying it: he certainly had all the duds: 
 strikingly handsome, the son of a English General,
highly decorated - and certainly most important of
all, Sir Robert Dudley (allegedly) had stolen the
Queen of England's heart.

Whilst Dudley was merely a minor nobleman, (son of the late English General John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland) at the time he met Elizabeth, it seemed the notorious "virgin" Queen was smitten with the handsome noble, even creating for him a position at Court as Master of the Horse in order to be closer to her much besotten forbidden fruit without arousing any suspicion of a Royal cavorting with a mere noble: a huge no-no according to English customs of the era. Elizabeth would later bestow upon his head the Knight of the Garter a mere two years into her tenure on the English throne - a systematic pattern of raising the status of the nobleman which would continue well through the 16th century: in 1562, just two short years after Robsart's untimely death, Sir Dudley would permeate internal governing affairs, becoming Privy Councillor, in 1587, appointed Lord Steward of the Royal Household, and a mere four years after Robsart's alleged murder, allegedly orchestrated by Dudley himself, Elizabeth would promote her Master of Horse to the 1st Earl of Leicester - no meager a gift by any means - being the first to own an Earldom significantly raises the status of it's proprietor.

Prior to Robsart’s death, the obviousness of Elizabeth’s favoritism to the handsome Earl (who was said to have free reign over the Queen's sacred and private chambers - sometimes entering at nightfall and not re-emerging until dawn!) allowed much room for rumor to spread: “She will marry him!,”  became the hot gossip both within and outside of Royal circles - of course, only, they concluded, "...in the case his wife should die.” Dudley, who desperately wanted Elizabeth and a royal seat, had overheard these rumors. It was not long after he became aware of them that Amy Robsart 's corpse was found mangled at the foot of a tall set of stairs. Could Dudley have been so power-hungry and lustful as to murder his wife? Or could it be that someone, who had overheard the rumor that the frustratingly "celibate" Queen might wed the Earl, expedited the potential “marriage” (which would have never happened anyway, Dudley being too "low-born") in order to create an heir to the English throne? Perhaps it was suicide?

No one really knows for sure – what is known is that Elizabeth openly flaunted her lust for the newly minted Earl of Leicester, often engaging him in dance, as we can see by the contemporary illustration at the beginning of this post (above left) of the duo performing Elizabeth’s favorite dance, "la Volta" (Italian for ‘the turn(ing)”: (It should be noted that after a brief 'banning' from court (merely for show), Dudley would return to Elizabeth's palace, it was at this time, after Robsart's alleged murder, that Dudley was knighted 1st Earl of Leicester - a mere four years after his spouse's untimely death!)



As one can clearly see, this 16-17th century dance involved some moments of intimacy formerly considered inappropriate and lewd during it’s time. The style originated in Italy and would soon find fame in the royal Courts of France and Germany. It was considered a tad risqué for the man to place his arms about the waist of the woman, lifting her in to the air, as close body contact was, for the most part, strictly verboten during this era. Once Elizabeth chose the dance for her ball with a lowly Dudley as her partner – a noble touching a Royal – it became less than dignified – just shy off a full-blown scandal.

Such rules of limited engagement weren't country-specific: here is a clip from the excellent film The Countess, also depicted in the 17th century, which showcases the alleged serial murderess/bloodthirsty Hungarian noble and warlord Erzebet Báthory engaged in a similar dance sometime during the 16th and 17th century:




Herr Joseph Lanner, the TRUE master of the
Waltz
But, things weren’t always so chaste – at least they soon wouldn’t be. Enter one Joseph Lanner, composer of Austria, and his likeminded musical ‘rival’ Johann Strauß II (aka 'the younger) of Germany, who composed music especially for dance, and in Lanner’s case, transformed the simple peasant’s dance, known as the waltz, into an incredibly intimate dance dignified enough for the higher middle and upper classes. Der Walzer – German for “the turn(ing)" is often likened as a more intense version of La Volta - originating from the impoverished streets of Italy - that seemingly broke all the rules of decorum. That it was founded and celebrated in Austria and Germany is no small surprise: if the reader will recall, it was in Germany that the Royal Courts celebrated the 16th century Italian dance la Volta, popularizing it during the 17th century. As you can see from the videos of the popular dances of the era above, rules - however minor the may be - were often broken in terms of just how intimate or close the dancing couples could be from one another without getting caught.

By the 18th century, Lanner had seen enough ‘law-breaking’ to become both frustrated and profiteering. He would single-handedly exploit the frustrations of the dancers and the demeaning class distinctions which decided who could or couldn’t perform the couples dance, and transformed it into the waltz. He would now compose, specifically for the newfound 18th century dance (Der Walzer) – which was incredibly intimate – allowing couples to hold each other so close as to be breast to breast, and with a much relieved sigh of long awaited delirium at finally being able to hold their lover and display a little PDA in public, the lusty couples would twirl: maniacally, dizzily – about the ballroom floor.

Der Walzer had it’s critics, to be sure – but those who wanted to dance, danced - with nary a second thought as to outdated religious and discriminatory disciplines that separated the “peasants” or lowborn nobles from the entertainments of the Royals.

Listen: Lanner's Die Schönbrunner Walzer,  so named and dedicated by the composer for the beautiful Schönbrunner Palace, performed
here by the Wiener Philharmoniker under maestro Lorin Maazel for the 1994 annual Neujahrskonzert (New Year's concert) at Vienna, was
all the rage in Europe prior to Strauß' The Blue Danube penned in the late 19th century. It was also one of the last works written by Lanner,
and was so beloved by the masses, it is said the maestro was forced into performing it a whopping 21 more times before he could step down
from the podium in 1842. Sometime later, avant-garde composer Igor Stravinsky would return to the six-decades old waltz, and borrow parts
of the score for his ballet Petrushka



So popular (and I daresay, so long awaited and relieving) a dance was the waltz, that by 1760, Teresa Cornelys, a popular Venetian (imagine!) opera singer created the first ever public dance hall in Europe. A new establishment born unto the world, thanks to Lanner’s bravery, his music, and the music of his sometime running mate Joseph Strauß II - who quickly caught onto the sexy trend, and whose fame would outshine Lanner’s due to his ability to travel and perform across Europe.

Cornelys’ public dance hall was dubbed the “Carlisle house.” Although it was an exclusive club, it would be Cornelys who would assist Lanner in gradually breaking out of subjective stereotypes without inciting a riot by those opposed to the new musical tradition. She did this by allowing the ‘sinful’ acts of playing cards, and opting to either listen and watch the couples dance the waltz or join in if they so chose – in total contrast to when it was mandatory for all couples in a royal setting to dance in a display of reverence and servitude.

The dance hall idea proved so successful, by the early 1800’s five of them had already popped up in Vienna. Younger generations formerly unable to mingle with upper classes, flooded the ballrooms to get their sexy groove on. It is said that by 1832, over half of the population of Vienna had joined a dance hall and remained members for decades to come. It would mark an ingenious and highly profitable move for Lanner.

Emperor Franz Josef I, Emperor of Austria and King of
Hungary, is seen here performing the waltz at
the Hoffburg Palace in in 1906 Vienna.
Johann Strauß the Elder, and the younger would create music for the waltz themselves, the most famous of which is the younger’s “The Blue Danube” (1866, seen in the video below), which remains a favorite piece of work to this very day.

Herr Straß II's The Blue Danube. One with a keen eye will notice the ever
escalating erotic nature of the improved la volta - der walzer - as centuries
passed and the religious public came to accept the new trend sweeping
across the globe.


The freeing dance proved so popular, it became a craze in the Far West: American soldiers were known to have embraced it during the hardships of the Civil War, and even added their own spin on the dance itself, two of the most famous being the Boston Waltz and the Boston dip.

It also enchanted the Far East: Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky famously included the waltz in his most popular ballets: Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and the Nutcracker.

Today, we recognize Johann Strauß the younger as the "King of the Waltz," largely due to his ability to travel over Lanner, and, undeniably, due to the catchiness of his music – but, according the author of this blog, neither Der Walzer, nor public dance halls, nor Strauß himself would have been - and remain in - such high reverence were it not for Lanner’s early innovations and for his daring tenacity to turn a simple peasants-only dance from the streets of Italy into a sensation that continues to dominate ballrooms across the globe to this very day.

Joseph Lanner, I salute you.

-Rose.