top of page

Exploring Music: Famous Waltzes

The MHS Review 375 Vol. 10, No. 15 • 1986

click on the cover to return to the table of contents

David M. Greene


not yet released.png

Perhaps no form of music better illustrates the divergence in our time of "classical" and "popular" (a difference that once did not exist) than does the waltz. its origins, which are not entirely clear, were among the peasants of Bavaria, Bohemia, or Austria. The verb walzen, meaning "to roll," described the turns made by the dancing couples who --rather suggestively , well-bread people thought--performed them while embracing face to face. By the late 18th cen­tury, however, the dance was making in­roads among Viennese sophisticates. Shortly it was taken up by such compos­ers as Beethoven and Schubert; after 1825, thanks to the popularity of the dancc-orchcsll"'.t rivals Joseph Lanner and the cider Johann Strauss, it reached epidemic proportions all over the world

The waltz became a natural concomit­ant of the operas of Verdi and the sym­phonies of Tchaikovsky. The choral waltz in (Gounod's Faust was an enor­mous hit So was Juliet's waltz-song in his Romeo et Juliette, and when he failed to include one in Mireille, the soprano Mme. Miolan-Carvalho made him sup­ply her with one. The young Wagner was addicted to the waltzes of Johann Str:tuss, Jr.

Today the majority of people would assume that the contents of these re­cords arc "classical" works fraught with deep meaning and soporific powers. However, a good many elderly persons (40 and above) will recognize that this collection-though it omits the Strauss superfavorites-is quite correctly named. These are the waltzes that every­one once knew well enough to whistle. Lest, however, you think you're being shortchanged with three waltzes to a record side, you should know that these arc not dance versions, but the full­-length concert arrangements with ex­tended introductions and postludes on the Strauss pattern.

Nor are they all Viennese waltzes, through they run the Viennese games chronologically from the lean ones of Lanner to a couple of Hollywoodish effusions frfom Franz Lehar. But there are also representatives from Germany (Weber, orchestrated by Berlioz), Czech­oslovakia (Karel Komzak), Romania (Ivanovici), and Mexico (Rosas). I am grateful at long last to know who Rosas, composer of "Over the Waves," was. His first name was Juvcntino, he was a full-­blooded Indian, and he died at 26. The orchestra of the Vienna Volksoper (Pop Opera), which specializes in lighter works, is, of course, to the manner born.

Review of Famous Waltzes Played by Orchestra of the Vienna Volksoper pg 1

bottom of page