J. Strauss, Jr.: Voices of Spring Waltz, Opus 410

JOHANN STRAUSS, JR.

BORN: October 25, 1825. Vienna, Austria

DIED: June 3, 1899. Vienna

COMPOSED: 1883

WORLD PREMIERE: March 1, 1883 at the Theater an der Wien, Vienna with soprano Bianca Bianchi. The piece was first given in its orchestral guise on March 18, 1883, with Eduard Strauss (the composer’s brother) conducting the Strauss Orchestra in the Goldene Saal of the Musikverein in Vienna.

SFS PERFORMANCES: FIRST—April 1951, in a pops performance led by Arthur Fiedler. MOST RECENT—February 2014. Lan Shui conducted as part of the Chinese New Year concert

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

DURATION: About 7 mins

Voices of Spring (Frühlingsstimmen) began life as a display piece for solo soprano—specifically for Bianca Bianchi, a star of the Vienna Court Opera, who unveiled it at a matinée charity performance in Vienna in 1883. A text was supplied by Richard Genée, who was working with Strauss just then as librettist for the operetta Ein Nacht in Venedig. His poem is, in fact, about singing—specifically the singing of a lark and a nightingale as balmy breezes awaken the fields and meadows, and “spring breaks forth in all its splendor.” The audience loved the piece and demanded that it be encored on the spot.

Strauss lost no time recasting Frühlingsstimmen into a strictly orchestral form, which the Strauss Orchestra (conducted by Johann’s brother Eduard) introduced on March 18, 1883, just seventeen days after the premiere of the vocal version. This, too, found favor with the audience, who cheered until it was repeated. Among the early champions of this work was Baron Jean—the stage name of Johann Tranquillini—a Kunstpfeifer (“artistic whistler”) who never failed to score a hit when he whistled Frühlingsstimme on concerts of Vienna’s Schrammel-Quartett.—James M. Keller