Johann Strauss II - Im Sturmschritt! - Polka-schnell, op. 348





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Published on Jul 29, 2011

At the insistence of his first wife, the celebrated opera singer Jetty Treffz (1818-78), Johann Strauss finally made the successful transition from ballroom to theatre stage in 1870, and signed his first contract with the management of Vienna's Theater an der Wien on 26 May of that year. Thereafter he withdrew more and more from the strenuous task of conducting at balls and concerts and concentrated his efforts on the composition of operetta. In January 1871 he even resigned his honorary post of 'Imperial-Royal Court Ball Music Director' on the grounds of "ill-health", whereupon the Emperor Franz Josef of Austria at once conferred upon him the Knight's Cross of the Franz Josef Order" in recognition of his merit as Conductor of Court Ball Music and as composer".

Johann's first operetta for the Theater an der Wien was Indigo und die vierzig Räuber (Indigo and the Forty Thieves), which eventually opened at that house on 10 February 1871 - with Johann conducting. The new work was quite deliberately fashioned by the authors, composer and director after the French style so lucratively popularised by the Cologne-born Parisian, Jacques Offenbach (1819-80), a point not missed by many of the journalists who attended the operetta's triumphant première. Nor did Johann shy away from acknowledging the influence of Offenbach on his music when he subsequently began selecting and arranging material from the score of Indigo as separate orchestral numbers with which to maintain his presence in the ballrooms and concert halls of the Austrian capital. Just as a lively can-can was frequently a feature of an Offenbach stage work, so too Strauss determined to compose an unremitting quick polka which would compete with this breathless dance. The resulting piece also bore an appropriate title: Im Sturmschritt!

The first performance of Im Sturmschritt! took place on 19 May 1871 when, two days after Johann had appeared as guest conductor for a performance of Indigo und die vierzig Räuber at the Stadt-Theater in Graz, Eduard Strauss and the Strauss Orchestra delighted the public in the Vienna Volksgarten with a "May Festival". Alongside works by Eduard himself and Richard Genée, the programme also featured three numbers which owed their origins to his brother's operetta Indigo: apart from the quick polka Im Sturmschritt!, Eduard conducted the waltz Tausend und eine Nacht op. 346 and the Act 3 ballet music.

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