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Strauss

Austrian family of dance musicians and composers, who gave the Viennese waltz its classic expression.

Johann (i) (born: Vienna, 14 March 1804; died: there, 25 Sept 1849), a violinist in Josef Lanner's dance orchestra, formed a band in 1825 which became famous for its open-air concerts with his original dance music and paraphrases on the symphonic and operatic music of the day, all performed with exquisite precision. He took the band on European tours from 1833, creating a sensation with the fire and finesse of his conducting, violin in hand. His music, its Austrian folk flavour refined by a characteristic rhythmic piquancy (cross-rhythms, syncopations, pauses and rests), includes over 150 sets of waltzes, besides galops, quadrilles (which he introduced to Vienna), marches (notably the Radetzky-Marsch op.228), polkas and potpourris.

He had three sons who were composer-conductors. Johann (ii) (born: Vienna, 25 Oct 1825; died: there, 3 June 1899), also a violinist and the most eminent member of the family, directed his own orchestra, 1844-9, in rivalry with his father's; after 1849 the two Strauss bands were merged into one. Vienna's imperial-royal music director for balls, 1863-71, and Austria's beat-known ambassador (the 'king of the waltz'), he was acclaimed by swarms of admirers, especially on European tours, 1856-86, and in the USA (1872). In form, his waltzes resemble his father's - slow introduction, five waltzes and coda - but the sections are longer and more organic; the melodies, often inspired, are wide and sweeping, the harmonic and orchestral details richer and more subtle, even Wagnerian in places. Among his most celebrated waltz masterpieces, dating from the 1860s and early 1870s, are "Accellerationen" op.234, "Wiener Bonbons" op.307, "An die schönen," "blauen Donau" ('The Blue Danube') op.314, "Wein," "Weib und Gesang" op.333 and "Wiener Blut" op.354. Of his 17 operettas, the sparkling "Die Fledermaus" (1874) and the colourful "Die Zigeunerbaron" (1885) deservedly claim a central place in the repertory.

His brother Josef (1827-70), unlike Johann (ii) a melancholy introvert, shared the direction of the family orchestra in the 1850s and 1860s, and composed waltzes in a more serious, Romantic vein, as well as polkas, quadrilles and marches. Their younger brother Eduard (1835-1916), Vienna's imperial-royal music director for balls, 1872-1901, became the best conductor of the family and was much sought after by orchestras throughout Europe.


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