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J Strauss II--"Blue Danube" Waltz--Erich Kleiber (1932)

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Uploaded on Jun 1, 2007

Stauss first performed this piece with a text set to a four-part chorus. It met with limited success. It was an immediate hit at the Paris Exhibition later in 1867 when he performed it in the familar instrumental version.

Performed here by the Orch of the Berlin Opera, conducted by Erich Kleiber.

In 1919, H.L.Menken wrote:
The waltz never quite goes out of fashion;
it is always just around the corner;
every now and then it returns with a bang . . .
It is sneaking, insidious, disarming, lovely. . . .
The waltz, in fact, is magnificently improper..
the art of tone turned lubricious. . .


Kleiber (August 5, 1890 in Vienna--January 27, 1956) was a bit less-known and less appreciated than his more celebrated contemporaries like Walter, Toscanini, Furtwängler and such. He was a perfectionist who studied scores relentlessly, and didn't enjoy the recording process. He shared these traits with his son Carlos, another celebrated conductor.


Kleiber became music director of the Berlin Opera in 1923, and resigned in protest to the Nazis after they denounced Webern's opera "Lulu". Kleiber was offered his old post back after the war, but it was in Russian hands and Kleiber didn't think the communists were much of an improvement over the Nazis. He never took another permanent post. He became an Argentinian citizen in 1938.

He gets this Berlin orchestra playing like a Viennese one for Blue Danube. In particular is his very idiomatic use of the Luftpause or "breath-pause" (not take, but pause for breath) a fermata, a bit of silence to give the listener a kind of release before a faster tempo is taken. You can sometimes detect a tiny Luftpause before the third beat in the waltz time too. Very hard for anyone not born and reared in Vienna those days to employ the Luftpause with this much elegance and authenticity...

And, yes, few top orchestras of the day had women in them. The conductor Beecham declared that if one came into his orchestra, the problem would be "If she is pretty, she'll distract the men, if ugly, she'll distract me!"....Women created their own opportunities by founding and organizing all-female orchestras, of which there were many back then.


Toscanini invited Kleiber to conduct the NBC Symphony in the late 40s, and those were his last trips to the US

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