J. Strauss, Jr.: Furioso; Polka, Opus 260

JOHANN STRAUSS, JR.

BORN: October 25, 1825. Vienna, Austria

DIED: June 3, 1899. Vienna

COMPOSED: 1861

WORLD PREMIERE: September 14, 1861. Vauxhall Pavilion in Pavlovsk Park, near Saint Petersburg, Russia

SFS PERFORMANCES: FIRST AND ONLY—December 2005 as part of a New Year’s Eve program conducted by Edwin Outwater

INSTRUMENTATION: 2 flutes and piccolo, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, snare drum, bass drum, cymbals, and strings

DURATION: About 2 mins

It was for his 1861 season there that Johann, Jr. wrote his Furioso Polka, which carries the subtitle quasi Galopp (“resembling a galop”). Polkas were among the most popular dances in mid-nineteenth century ballrooms, and they fell into various categories. The most commonly encountered in Vienna were the graceful Polka fran├žaise (French polka) the livelier Schnell-polka (quick polka)—both of these were in 2/4 time—and the Polka mazur (polka mazurka), which combined the steps of the polka with the 3/4 meter of the mazurka. The Furioso Polka is a quick polka, but, as the composer notes, it also borders on a galop, another popular, quick dance in 2/4 time. One could use the steps for either dance when the Furioso Polka was played. If it was called out to be a galop, the participants would exert themselves more; the couples, holding each other as if in a waltz, would spring around the room mimicking the galloping of horses. The title page of the first edition of this work—a piano arrangement—depicts two couples “galloping” at full tilt, in the company of naked devils. Galops were so strenuous that they were invariably short, rarely much more than two minutes long, and were often saved to be the final bit at a ballroom evening. The Furioso Polka is a rambunctious example with a touch of Hungarian-style swagger in its main theme.—James M. Keller