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Emperor Waltz

About the Work

Johann Strauss Jr.
Quick Look Composer: Johann Strauss Jr.
Program note originally written for the following performance:
Fortas Chamber Music Concert: The Nash Ensemble of London Tue., Apr. 1, 2014, 7:30 PM
© Dr. Richard E. Rodda

Among the large number of Arnold Schoenberg's arrangements are three lovely transcriptions for chamber ensembles of waltzes by Johann Strauss, Jr. Two of these-Roses from the South and Lagoon Waltz-were done for a 1921 concert to benefit the "Society for Private Musical Performances," an organization Schoenberg had founded three years earlier to present the latest music in Vienna. In 1925 Schoenberg again ventured into the musical realm of Viennese Schlag and Gemütlichkeit with another waltz transcription. Through his pupil Roberto Gerhard, he had arranged to take his new expressionistic song cycle Pierrot Lunaire on tour to Spain. To finance the trip, Gerhard planned for the visiting performers to present a "Festival de la Musica Viennesa" on April 26th and 28th, including chamber works by Schubert, Beethoven, and Mozart and, as a delectable sweetmeat, Schoenberg's transcription of the Emperor Waltz by Johann Strauss. Schoenberg tailored his arrangement of the waltz to the instruments available in the Pierrot ensemble-string quartet, piano, flute and clarinet.

In devising his transcription, Schoenberg made no alterations in the music of the original Emperor Waltz. Though the instrumentation was a pragmatic consideration, he relished the unusual transparency of sound the small ensemble lent to Strauss' familiar music and the way in which the timbre of the chamber forces illuminated the structure and clarified the musical ideas of this lilting masterwork.