J. Strauss, Jr.: Thunder and Lightning, Quick Polka, Opus 324

JOHANN STRAUSS, JR.

BORN: October 25, 1825. Vienna, Austria

DIED: June 3, 1899. Vienna

COMPOSED: 1868

WORLD PREMIERE: February 16, 1868. At the ball of the Vienna Artists’ Association “Hesperus” in Vienna’s Dianabadsaale, under the title Sternschnuppe

SFS PERFORMANCES: FIRST—December 1964. Josef Krips conducted at Night in Old Vienna concerts. MOST RECENT—December 2013. Michael Francis conducted as part of a New Year’s Eve concert

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

DURATION: About 3 mins

A Strauss waltz that premiered in February 1868 under the title Sternschnuppe (Shooting Stars) at the Vienna Artists' Association Hesperus Ball seemed to have evaporated, but musicological detective work revealed that the piece did not disappear—it was just retitled. It was programmed a month later with the title Unter Donner und Blitz (always called just Thunder and Lightning in English), and a press account clarifies that this was the piece played previously at the Hesperus Ball. Atmospheric sparkle was on Strauss’s mind in this quick polka, but we will probably never know what inspired him to sacrifice shooting stars in favor of thunder and lightning. Possibly he wanted to avoid confusion with a Sternschnuppen waltz brother Josef had composed in 1860. In any case, the rumbling drums and crashing cymbals are pertinent to the subject.—James M. Keller