Waves of the Danube
"Waves of the Danube" (Romanian: Valurile Dunării; Serbian: Дунавски валови/Dunavski valovi ;German: Donauwellen; French: Flots du Danube; Russian: Дунайские Волны) is a waltz composed by Iosif Ivanovici (1845–1902) in 1880, and is one of the most famous Romanian tunes in the world. In the United States, it is frequently referred to as "The Anniversary Song", a title given by Al Jolson when he and Saul Chaplin released an adaptation of the song in 1946. "The Anniversary Song" is sometimes confusingly referred to as "The Anniversary Waltz", which is actually the name of a completely unrelated song. As "Waves of the Danube", the song is also confused with the more famous Danube tune "The Blue Danube" by Johann Strauss II.
Rise to prominence
"Waves of the Danube" was first published in Bucharest, 1880. It was dedicated to Emma Gebauer, the wife of music publisher Constantin Gebauer. Composer Emile Waldteufel made an orchestration of the song in 1886, which was performed for the first time at the 1889 Paris Exposition, and took the audience by storm. It won the march prize to mark the exhibition out of 116 entries.
Ivanovici's "Danube Waves" was published in the United States in 1896 and republished in 1903 by the Theodore Lohr Company in an arrangement for piano by Simon Adler. The published version was called "Waves of the Danube." The composition is also known as "Danube Waves Waltz."
"In Praise of Death"
The melody of "Waves of the Danube" was used in what is regarded as Korea's first popular song, "In Praise of Death" by Yun Sim-deok recorded in 1926. The song was recorded in Osaka, where she met and fell in love with a Korean married man. The two boarded a steamship returning to Korea, but ended their lives by jumping into the sea.
"The Anniversary Song"
"Waves of the Danube" became known in the United States only half a century later. Al Jolson and Saul Chaplin published it in 1946 under the name of "The Anniversary Song" ("Oh, how we danced on the night we were wed") and as their own composition. The 1946 sheet music of the song credits the composers as Al Jolson and Saul Chaplin with music by Iosif Ivanovici. Jolson and Chaplin wrote the lyrics while Chaplin adapted Ivanovici's music.
Al Jolson released "The Anniversary Song" on Decca as catalog number 23714. It first reached the Billboard charts on February 7, 1947 and lasted 14 weeks on the chart, peaking at #2. Dinah Shore released a version of the song on Columbia as catalog number 37234; it first reached the Billboard charts on February 28, 1947 and lasted eight weeks on the chart, peaking at #4. A recording by Guy Lombardo was recorded on December 13, 1946 and released by Decca Records as catalog number 23799; it first reached the Billboard charts on February 14, 1947 and lasted 10 weeks on the chart, peaking at #4. Tex Beneke and the Glenn Miller Orchestra featuring Garry Stevens and the Mello Larks on vocals released a version of the song in 1947 on RCA Victor as catalog number 20-2126; it first reached the Billboard charts on February 21, 1947 and lasted eight weeks on the chart, peaking at #3. Artie Shaw and his New Music Orchestra released a version the same year. Joni James released a version of the song on her 1958 MGM album Among My Souvenirs. Andy Russell and Paul Weston released a version on Capitol Records as catalog number 368; it first reached the Billboard charts on March 14, 1947 and lasted two weeks on the chart, peaking at #5. Guitarist Django Reinhardt and the Quintette du Hot Club de France released a version in 1947 on Blue Star as a 78, Blue Star 33. Frank Sinatra performed The Anniversary Song with for radio broadcast. The recording is available on the Frank Sinatra collection The Radio Years. Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Mitch Miller, and Andy Williams, also performed and recorded the song as "The Anniversary Song." In 1959, a rock-and-roll instrumental version entitled "Big River", performed by the Buddy Brennan Quartet, reached the Music Vendor Top 100. In 1972, a rocked up version was released by Traffic drummer Jim Capaldi on his album Oh How We Danced.
"Der Chasene Waltz"
An arrangement by Henry Lefkowitch with Yiddish lyrics by Chaim Tauber was published in 1947 as "Der Chasene Waltz" ("The Wedding Waltz"). However, the online catalog of the Florida Atlantic University Libraries contains a record that has 1941 as publication date for this song.
In 1931, film director Josef von Sternberg used the melody in his film Dishonored, in which Marlene Dietrich mimed several piano performances of it. The tune was next used, without being credited, in the 1934 American comedy film The Circus Clown.
Under the name of "The Anniversary Song" it was featured in Al Jolson's biographical Columbia film The Jolson Story in 1946 and the sequel Jolson Sings Again (1949), as well as in Blondie's Anniversary in 1947. Under the name "Waves of the Danube" the tune was used in Akira Kurosawa's 1949 film Stray Dog.
After World War II the tune was used in 1959 in a Romanian film by Liviu Ciulei dealing with the war, titled, after the song, Valurile Dunării. A cover by The New Vaudeville Band was used in 1968 as the title song for cult British Hammer horror The Anniversary starring Bette Davis. It has also appeared in the movies Mayerling in 1968, Falling in Love Again in 1980, When Father Was Away on Business in 1985, Avalon in 1990, Payback in 1999, Father and Daughter in 2000, and A Guy Thing in 2003.
Fame in other countries
- The tune, along with the corresponding lyrics used in the movie Valurile Dunării, was very popular in China beginning in the 1960s.
- The melody of "Waves of the Danube" has been well known in Korea, since the 1920s, thanks to the soprano Youn Shim-Deok. It is known there as "The Psalm of Death".
- The interlude of "Jeena Yehann Maranaa Yehann" in the Bollywood film Mera Naam Joker uses this tune.
- In Peru, an instrumental recording from Grady Martin is the best known and the most popular. It is played both at weddings and quinceañeras.
- Biography of Iosif Ivanovici at naxos.com
- Iosef Ivanovici at johann-strauss.org.uk
- Whitburn, Joel (1973). Top Pop Records 1940-1955. Record Research.
- Music scores, accession nr. 2005.JPM.1127, Florida Atlantic University Libraries. Accessed on August 13, 2009.
- Lee, Young Mee (2006) The Beginnings of Korean Pop, in Korean Pop Music: Riding the Wave, edited by Keith Howard, England: Global Oriental, 2006, p.3.