Johann Strauss II

From New World Encyclopedia

Johann Strauss II

Johann Strauss II (Also, Johann Strauss the Younger, Johann Sebastian Strauss) (October 25, 1825 – June 3, 1899) was an Austrian composer known especially for his waltzes and operettas or light comedies which were very popular with the Viennese public. Son of the composer Johann Strauss I and brother to Josef Strauss and Eduard Strauss, Johann II is the most famous composer of the Strauss family. The best known of his many famous waltzes is On the Beautiful Blue Danube, also known as the "Blue Danube Waltz."

Although he faced sometimes bitter rivalry from his father, the younger Strauss is largely credited with building on his father's foundation of popularizing the waltz in Vienna. Together, they elevated the waltz from a lowly peasant dance to sparkling entertainment for the royal Habsburg court.

Known as the Waltz King, Strauss the Younger ultimately enjoyed greater fame than his predecessors in the early waltz movement, such as his father and Josef Lanner. Some of his polkas and marches are also well known, as is his operetta Die Fledermaus.


Early years

Johann Strauss II

Strauss was born in Vienna, Austria. His father, a strict disciplinarian, did not want him to become a musician, but he studied the violin secretly as a child, ironically with his father's first violinist in the Strauss orchestra, Franz Amon. It was only when his father left the family after taking a mistress that Johann II, then 17, was able to concentrate fully on a career as a composer.

He then studied counterpoint and harmony with theorist Joachim Hoffmann, who owned a private music school. His talents were also recognized by composer Josef Drechsler, who taught him exercises in harmony. His other violin teacher, Anton Kollmann, the ballet coach 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 in official circles. He soon formed a small orchestra, recruiting his members at the Zur Stadt Belgrad tavern, where musicians seeking work could be easily found.

Familial conflicts

Johann Strauss I's influence over the entertainment establishments meant that many of them were wary of offering the younger Strauss a contract for fear of angering the elder Strauss. However, Strauss Jr. was able to persuade the Dommayer's Casino to give him his Vienna debut. The local press were soon frantically reporting a “Strauss v. Strauss” rivalry between father and son, and Strauss Sr., furious with the proprietor, refused to play ever again at the Dommayer's Casino, which had been the site of many of his earlier triumphs.

Strauss Jr. thus found the early years of his career difficult, but he soon won over audiences after accepting commissions to perform away from home. The first major appointment for the young composer was his award of the honorary position of Kapellmeister of the 2nd Vienna Citizen's Regiment, which had been left vacant following waltz master Josef Lanner's death two years before.

Political adversaries

Political events led to further alienation between father and son, and also to professional problems for the younger Strauss. During the revolutionary years of 1848-49, the elder Strauss remained loyal to the crown, while Johann Jr. sympathized with the revolutionaries. Around this time, he wrote the waltzes Freiheitslieder (Songs of Freedom) op. 52 and Burschenlieder op. 55, as well as the marches Revolutions March, op. 54, and the stirring Studenten Marsch, op. 56. His sense of patriotism proved to be professionally disadvantageous, however, as the Austrian royalty twice denied him the much coveted KK Hofballmusikdirektor position, which was first designated especially for Johann I. Further, the younger Strauss was also accused by the Viennese authorities of stoking revolutionary feelings by publicly playing the infectious La Marseillaise, but he was later acquitted. Shortly after his acquittal, he composed the Geißelhiebe Polka op. 60, which contains elements of La Marseillaise in its Trio section as a musical riposte to his arrest. Meanwhile, Strauss Sr. remained loyal to the Danube monarchy and composed his Radetzky March op. 228 dedicated to the Habsburg field marshal Joseph Radetzky von Radetz which would become his most well-known work.

When the elder Strauss died from scarlet fever in 1849 in Vienna, the younger Strauss merged both their orchestras and engaged in further tours. He also closed ranks with the political establishment, subsequently composing a number of patriotic marches dedicated to the new Habsburg monarch Franz Josef I, such as the Kaiser Franz-Josef Marsch, op. 67, and the Kaiser Franz Josef Rettungs Jubel-Marsch, op. 126.

Career advancements

Strauss would eventually surpass his father's fame and become the most popular of waltz composers of the era, extensively touring Austria, Poland and Germany with his orchestra. He also made visits to Russia where he performed at Pavlovsk and wrote many compositions there, later retitling them to suit his Viennese audiences back home, Britain where he performed with his first wife Jetty Treffz at the Covent Garden, France, Italy, and the United States later in the 1870s, where he took part in the Boston Festival and was the lead conductor in the Monster Concert of over 1,000 musicians.

Among the more popular dance pieces Strauss wrote in this period were the waltzes Sängerfahrten op. 41, Liebeslieder op. 114, Nachtfalter op. 157, Accelerationen op. 234 and the polkas Annen op. 117, and Tritsch-Tratsch-Polka op. 214.


Johann Strauss II with full beard

He married the singer Jetty Treffz in 1862 and applied for the KK Hofballmusikdirektor Music Director of the Royal Court Balls position which he eventually achieved, in 1863, after being denied several times before for his frequent brush with the local authorities. His involvement with the court balls meant that his work has been elevated to be even heard by the royalty.

His second wife, Angelika Dittrich (an actress) whom he married in 1878, was not a fervent supporter of his music and their differences led him to seek a divorce. Denied a divorce by the Roman Catholic Church Strauss changed religion and nationality, becoming a citizen of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha on January 28 1887. His new wife, Adele (whom he married on August 15, 1887), encouraged the creative talent to flow once more in his later years, resulting in much fine music such as those found in the operettas Der Zigeunerbaron and Waldmeister and the waltzes Kaiser-Walzer, Kaiser Jubilaum, Märchen aus dem Orient op. 444, and Klug Gretelein op. 462.

Family musical business

After establishing his first orchestra prior to his father's death, Strauss founded many others for the various entertainment establishments, such as the Sperl ballroom as well as the Apollo, where he dedicated appropriately-titled pieces to commemorate the first performances there. Later, he accepted commissions to play in Russia for the Archduke Michael and Tsar Alexander II especially in Pavlovsk, where a new railway line was built. When the commissions became too much to be handled by him alone, he sought to promote his younger brothers Josef and Eduard as deputies to work in his absence from either poor health or a busy schedule. Josef went on to make his own mark as a waltz composer and this fresh rivalry stimulated Johann to consolidate his position as the "Waltz King" with his exquisite The Beautiful Blue Danube waltz.

Musical rivals and admirers

Johann Strauss and Johannes Brahms photographed in Vienna

Johann Strauss was still not without rivals. Stiff competition was present in the form of Karl Michael Ziehrer and Emile Waldteufel. Phillip Fahrbach denied the younger Strauss the commanding position of the KK Hofballmusikdirektor when the latter first applied for the post.

The German operetta composer Offenbach, who made his name in Paris, posed a challenge to Strauss in the operetta field. Later, the emergence of operetta maestro Lehár would usher in the Silver Age in Vienna and most certainly sweep aside any lingering Strauss dominance in the operetta world. Ziehrer would eventually eclipse the Strauss family after Johann and Josef's deaths.

On the other hand, Strauss was greatly admired by prominent composers of the day, including Richard Wagner, who once admitted that he loved the waltz Wein, Weib und Gesang op. 333. Johannes Brahms was a personal friend of Strauss, to whom he dedicated his waltz Seid umschlungen Millionen or 'Be Embraced Millions' op. 443, inspired from a poem by Friedrich Schiller. Other admirers include Richard Strauss (unrelated to the Strauss family).

Stage works

Strauss' operettas have not had as much enduring success as have his dance pieces and much of the success was reserved for Die Fledermaus and Der Zigeunerbaron. Notwithstanding the lack of popularity of his operettas, many dance pieces drawn from his lukewarmly-received operettas have gained lasting recognition such as Cagliostro-Walzer op. 370 and Rosen aus dem Süden Walzer, op. 388. He also wrote an opera, Ritter Pásmán. His most successful operetta was Die Fledermaus (1874).

Death and legacy

Johann Strauss II died from pneumonia in Vienna in 1899 at the age of 74 and was buried there in the Zentralfriedhof. At the time of his death, he was still working on his unfinished ballet, Aschenbrödel.

Strauss' music is now regularly performed at the annual Neujahrskonzert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, as a result of the efforts by Clemens Krauss who performed a special all-Strauss program in 1929, with the Viennese orchestra. Many distinguished Strauss interpreters include Willi Boskovsky who carried on the "Vorgeiger" tradition of conducting with violin in hand as was the Strauss family custom; as well as Herbert von Karajan and the opera conductor Riccardo Muti.

Most of the original manuscripts of the most familiar Strauss works were lost when Eduard Strauss destroyed much of the original Strauss orchestral archives in 1907. Eduard, then the only surviving brother, took this drastic precaution to prevent Strauss works from being claimed as another composer's own. The Johann Strauss societies around the world have painstakingly pieced together a large body of these destroyed works to be appreciated by future generations.

A new generation was introduced to the music of Johann Strauss II by film American film director, Stanley Kubrick, who used Strauss' most well-known composition, On The Beautiful Blue Danube Waltz, in the score to his 1968 film, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Selected works of Johann Strauss II


listed chronologically within category (with date of composition or first performance)

  • Indigo und die Vierzig Räuber Indigo and the Forty Thieves (1871)
  • Der Karneval in Rom The Carnival in Rome (1873)
  • Die Fledermaus The Bat (April 5, 1874, at Theater an der Wien, Vienna)
  • Cagliostro in Wien Cagliostro in Vienna (1875)
  • Prinz Methusalem (1877)
  • Blindekuh Blind Man's Buff (1878)
  • Das Spitzentuch der Königin The Queen's Lace Handkerchief (1880)
  • Der lustige Krieg The Merry War (1881)
  • Eine Nacht in Venedig A Night in Venice (1883)
  • Der Zigeunerbaron The Gypsy Baron (1885)
  • Simplicius (1887)
  • Fürstin Ninetta Princess Ninetta (1893)
  • Jabuka (1894)
  • Waldmeister Woodruff (1895)
  • Die Göttin der Vernunft The Goddess of Reason (1897)
  • Wiener Blut (1899)


  • Ritter Pásmán Knight Pásmán (1892)


  • Aschenbrödel Cinderella (1899)


  • Sinngedichte op. 1 Epigrams (1844)
  • Gunstwerber op. 4 Favour solicitor (1844)
  • Faschingslieder op. 11 Carnevalsongs (1846)
  • Jugendträume op. 12 Youth dreams (1846)
  • Sträußchen op. 15 Bouquets (1846)
  • Sängerfahrten op. 41 Singers' Journeys (1847)
  • Lava-Ströme op. 74 Streams of Lava (1850)
  • Rhadamantus-Klänge op. 94 Echoes of Rhadamantus (1851)
  • Mephistos Höllenrufe op. 101 Cries of Mephistopheles from Hell (1851)
  • Liebeslieder op. 114 Lovesongs (1852)
  • Phönix-Schwingen op. 125 Wings of the Phoenix (1853)
  • Schneeglöckchen op. 143 Snowbells (1854)
  • Nachtfalter op. 157 Moths (1855)
  • Man lebt nur Einmal! op. 167 Man only Lives Once! (1855)
  • Accelerationen op. 234 Accelerations (1860)
  • Immer Heiterer op. 235 Always Cheerful (1860)
  • Karnevalsbotschafter op. 270 Carnival Ambassador (1862)
  • Leitartikel op. 273 Leading Article (1863)
  • Morgenblätter op. 279 Morning Journals (1863)
  • Studentenlust op. 285 Students' Joy (1864)
  • Feuilleton op. 293 (1865)
  • Bürgersinn op. 295 Citizen Spirit (1865)
  • Flugschriften op. 300 Pamphlets (1865)
  • Wiener Bonbons op. 307 Viennese Sweets (1866)
  • Feenmärchen op. 312 Fairytales (1866)
  • An der schönen blauen Donau op. 314 On the Beautiful Blue Danube (1867)
  • Künstlerleben op. 316 Artists' Life (1867)
  • Telegramme op. 318 Telegrams (1867)
  • Die Publicisten op. 321 The Publicists (1868)
  • G'schichten aus dem Wienerwald Tales from the Vienna Woods op. 325 (1868),
  • Illustrationen op. 331 Illustrations (1869)
  • Wein, Weib und Gesang op. 333 Wine, Women and Song (1869)
  • Freuet Euch des Lebens op. 340 Enjoy Life (1870)
  • Neu Wien op. 342 New Vienna (1870)
  • Tausend und eine Nacht op. 346 Thousand and One Nights (1871)
  • Wiener Blut op. 354 Viennese Blood (1873)
  • Bei uns Z'haus op. 361 At Home (1873)
  • Wo die Zitronen blühen op. 364 Where the Lemons Blossom (1874)
  • Du und du op. 367 You and you (1874)
  • Cagliostro-Walzer op. 370 (1875)
  • O schöner Mai! op. 375 Oh Lovely May! (1877)
  • Rosen aus dem Süden op. 388 Roses from the South (1880)
  • Nordseebilder op. 390 North Sea Pictures (1880)
  • Kuss-Walzer op. 400 Kiss Waltz (1881)
  • Frühlingsstimmen op. 410 Voices of Spring (1883)
  • Lagunen-Walzer op. 411 Lagoon Waltz (1883)
  • Schatz-Walzer op. 418 Treasure Waltz (1885)
  • Wiener Frauen op. 423 Viennese Ladies (1886)
  • Donauweibchen op. 427 Danube Maiden (1887)
  • Kaiser-Jubiläum-Jubelwalzer op. 434 Emperor Jubilation (1888)
  • Kaiser-Walzer op. 437 Emperor Waltz (1888)
  • Rathausball-Tänze op. 438 City Hall Ball (1890)
  • Gross-Wien op. 440 Great Vienna (1891)
  • Seid umschlungen Millionen op. 443 Be Embraced Millions (1892)
  • Klug Gretelein op. 462 Clever Gretel (1895)


  • Explosions-Polka op. 43
  • Annen op. 117 (1852) Anna
  • Champagne-Polka op. 211
  • Tritsch-Tratsch-Polka op. 214 (1858) Chit-chat
  • Maskenzug op. 240 Masked Ball
  • Demolirer op. 269 Demolition Men (1862)
  • Vergnügungszug op. 281 Journey Train (1864)
  • S gibt nur a Kaiserstadt,'s gibt nur a Wien! op. 291 Only an Imperial City, one Vienna
  • Kreuzfidel op. 301 Cross-Fiddling
  • Lob der Frauen Polka-mazurka op. 315 Praise of Women
  • Leichtes Blut Galop op. 319 Light Blood (1867)
  • Figaro-Polka op. 320
  • Ein Herz, ein Sinn! Polka-mazurka op. 323 One Heart, One Mind!
  • Unter Donner und Blitz op. 324 Thunder & Lightning (1868)
  • Freikugeln op. 326 Free-shooter (1868)
  • Fata Morgana Polka-mazurka op. 330
  • Éljen a Magyar! polka schnell op. 332 Long live the Magyar!
  • Im Krapfenwald'l op. 336 In Krapfen's Woods French Polka
  • Im Sturmschritt op. 348 At the Double!
  • Die Bajadere op. 351 The Bayadere
  • Vom Donaustrande op. 358 By the Danube's Shores
  • Bitte schön! op. 372 If You Please! (1875)
  • Auf der Jagd! op.373 On the Hunt! (1875)
  • Banditen-Galopp op. 378 Bandits' Galop (1877)


  • Kaiser-Franz-Josef-Rettungs-Jubel op. 126 Joy at Deliverance of Emperor Franz Josef
  • Napoleon op. 156
  • Persischer op. 289 Persian March (1864)
  • Egyptischer op. 335 Egyptian March (1869)
  • Jubelfest op. 396 Jubilant Festival
  • Russischer Marsch op. 426 Russian March (1886)
  • Spanischer Marsch op. 433 Spanish March (1888)
  • Deutschmeister Jubiläumsmarsch op. 470
  • Auf's Korn! op. 478 Take Aim!

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Levine, Lawrence W. Highbrow/Lowbrow, The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America. First Harvard University Press, 1988. ISBN 0674390776.
  • Pastene, Jerome. Three-Quarter Time: The Life and Music of the Strauss Family of Vienna. New York: Abelard Press, 1951. OCLC 1542388
  • Strauss, Johann. Johann Strauss II: His Story and his Music. Providence, RI: SQN Productions, 1979. OCLC 7956399
  • Strauss, Johann, and Willi Boskovsky. Johann Strauss II waltzes, Hayes, Middlesex, England: EMI, 1991. OCLC 27965228

External links

All links retrieved August 1, 2022.


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