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Johann Strauss II - Wein, Weib und Gesang - Walzer, Op. 333

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Uploaded on May 1, 2011

"Who loves not wine, woman and song, remains a fool his whole life long."

These lines (in translation), written in the mediæval castle of Wartburg in Germany, and attributed to Martin Luther (1483-1546) during his residence there when he began his German translation of the New Testament, provided the title and part of the text for the truly magnificent choral waltz Johann Strauss wrote in 1869 for the Wiener Männergesang-Verein - Wein, Weib und Gesang! But whereas his first choral waltz, An der schönen blauen Donau (By the beautiful blue Danube) of 1867 had been more or less constructed from previously existing sketches, the new work was conceived in its entirety for male chorus and orchestra and, as was noted by the Strauss authority Professor Dr. Fritz Racek, the work "makes up for the absence of a recapitulating Coda by means of an impressive [137 bars] Introduction of almost symphonic proportions". As with An der schönen blauen Donau, the text for the waltz came from the pen of the Association's house poet, Joseph Weyl (1821-95).

Wein, Weib und Gesang! - a particular favourite with Richard Wagner - was given its first performance by the Wiener Männergesang-Verein at their carnival-time 'Narrenabend' (Fools' Evening) held in the Dianabad-Saal, Vienna, on 2 February 1869. The Strauss Orchestra provided the accompaniment, and although the composer did not conduct the première of his new waltz, he was present among the audience, dressed as a pilgrim, while the members of the chorus were attired as negro slaves! Such was the enormous success of the première that Strauss was called for after the Introduction and each successive waltz section, whereupon he mounted the rostrum and "blessed" his admiring public. The new waltz was dedicated "in friendship to Johann Ritter von Herbeck (1831-77), Imperial Royal Court Conductor", who had served the Association as chorus-master from 1856 to 1866 and who had recently been decorated with the 'Knight's Cross of the Order of Emperor Franz Josef', but this carnival performance was conducted by Herbeck's successor as chorus-master, Rudolf Weinwurm. Wein, Weib und Gesang! met with unanimous praise from the press, the general view being summarised by the Vorstadt-Zeitung (4.02.1869) which feit it "belongs to the best that the composer has written for a long time". In similar vein, the Neues Wiener Tagblatt (4.02.1869) opined: "The waltz will make its way in life and will become just as popular as the piece 'An der schönen blauen Donau'. The Introduction is a little musical masterwork ... That the waltz had to be repeated by demand goes without saying".

As a purely orchestral number, the waltz Wein, Weib und Gesang! appeared for the first time on the programme of a "Grand Promenade Concert" given on 16 March 1869 by the Strauss Orchestra under the joint direction of Johann, Josef and Eduard Strauss in Pest, where the three brothers had travelled for two concert engagements at the Redoutensaal. Not until Easter Monday, 29 March, did Vienna hear the orchestral version of Wein, Weib und Gesang! This performance, a "Promenade Concert given by Josef and Eduard Strauss in aid of the Home for the Blind and the City Crèche, with the participation of Johann Strauss", took place in the decorative Blumen-Säle der Wiener Gartenbaugesellschaft (Floral Halls of the Vienna Horticultural Society), and marked the penultimate appearance of Johann and Josef Strauss before they departed for their summer season of concerts in Russia. Before long the delights of Wein, Weib und Gesang! were gaining it admirers elsewhere in Europe and beyond, and on 20 July 1869 the first American performance took place in New York with Theodore Thomas conducting his own orchestra, an ensemble which later became the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

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