Rathausball-Tänze

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Rathausball-Tänze op. 438 is a waltz by composer Johann Strauss II written in 1890 in honor of the inauguration of the new city hall of Vienna or the 'Rathaus'. The event that this waltz was intended to grace was that of the opening of the new banqueting hall (Festsaal) on 12 February 1890 where two rival orchestras were commissioned to provide dance music for the occasion. The first is the Strauss Orchestra under the direction of Eduard Strauss and the other belongs to the family rival Kapellmeister Karl Michael Ziehrer who was head of the Vienna House Regiment 'Hoch und Deutschmeister No. 4'.

This waltz is interesting in the entire history of the Strauss family for two reasons. The first is not so consequential as it marked Strauss incorporation of many snatches of his famous The Blue Danube waltz op. 314 resulting in the entire Coda (tail-piece) being dominated with anticipation of the waltz proper as is Strauss incorporation of Haydn's Austrian hymn Gott erhalte Franz den Kaiser into various sections of the Coda. The result is that the Coda is one of the first waltzes by Strauss not to recall themes from earlier waltz section and can be considered revolutionary.

The second reason of interest is that of his rival Ziehrer's domination of the event with his infectious and rousing waltz dedication Wiener Bürger waltz op. 419. The rival's waltz is so quintessentially Viennese that the equally compelling 'Rathausball-Tänze' was quickly ignored and until today, Ziehrer's dedication remained the more popular of the dedication works presented on that day. This marked the first of the many occasions where after Johann Strauss II's death, his brother Eduard Strauss often found himself struggling to compete with his fierce rival and ultimately compromise Strauss dominance at the turn of the century.

Johann Strauss was evidently bitter at the 'musical defeat' that he has not suffered in such a long time in his entire glorious career. In a letter to his publisher of the waltz, Fritz Simrock, in 1892 (long after the events have transpired) he pointed out an error in the score which he claimed 'spoiled the entire melody and as composer, is the most aggrieved.' He concluded by noting that the publisher had 'effectively mutilated him' before amusingly adding 'after that, was I supposed to be saying with best wishes? Yes, I'll say it anyway!'.

References[edit]

Based on original text by Peter Kemp, The Johann Strauss Society of Great Britain. Used with permission.