The Kennedy Center

Emile Waldteufel


A French composer, conductor, and pianist, internationally famous for his waltzes, Emile Waldteufel was born in Strasbourg on 9 Dec 1837. He belonged to a musical famly, his father Louis and brother Leon were violinists and dance composers, and his Bavarian mother, a pianist. His father's dance orchestra was prominent in Society circles in Paris. He studied piano from his mother, and also from Joseph Heyberger. He attended the Conservatoire (Paris) in Adolphe Laurent's piano class from December 1853 where his classmates included Massenet. He married Celestine Dufau, a singer in 1871.
At the start, he was a piano tester, gave piano lessons and played at soirees. Eventually, he was assigned as a court pianist to Napoleon III (1865), conductor of the state balls (1866), and director of music in the Biarritz, Compiegne and Tuileries.
He was a volunteer during war of 1870–71. After the War and upon presentation to Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) in October 1874, he became famous at the successful launch of his waltz Manolo (London). This resulted to long-standing publishing contract (1875–88) with Hopwood & Crew a London firm. His series of dances were internationally famous, particularly the waltz, Les patineurs (1882). He was invited to New York (1882) but declined.
He conducted a series of concerts: At Riviere's Promenade Concerts (London, November 1885) in Berlin (1889), Opera Balls (Paris, 1890–91), and took charge of music at Palais de l'Elysee in the presidential balls until 1899 when he retired. While his waltzes were short of the Strausses' rhythm and melody, they were rich in a unique lyrical elegance and appeal. He composed more than 250 dances, particularly famous waltzes: Espana (1886) Estudiantina (1883) and Les Patineurs (Skaters, 1882).
He died in Paris on 12 February 1915.
Oxford Music Online
Emile Waldteufel