Émile Waldteufel (German for forest devil) was born at 84 Grand'Rue in the centre of Strasbourg. His grandfather and father were both musicians; his mother Flora Neubauer, originally from Bavaria had been a student of Hummel and had met Haydn; she was a keen singer and dancer also. From a Jewish Alsatian family of musicians, the original family surname had been Lévy. His father Louis had a respected orchestra, and his brother Léon was a successful performer. When Léon won a place to study violin performance at the Conservatoire de Paris, the family followed him there.
Waldteufel received his first lessons from his father and the local musician Joseph Heyberger; after his arrival in Paris he was able to take elementary classes from Laurent at the Conservatoire de Paris, followed by advanced studies under Marmontel. Among his fellow pupils was Jules Massenet.
The young Émile was obliged to halt his studies and work at the Scholtus piano factory owing to the financial situation of the family, but soon took a room in rue de Bellefond in order to concentrate on composing. During his time at the conservatory, Louis Waldteufel's orchestra became one of the most famous in Paris, and Émile was frequently invited to play at important events.
At the age of 27, Émile became the court pianist of the Empress Eugénie. He also led the orchestra at state balls. His appointment by Napoléon III to the musical direction of the balls led him to participation in the events in Biarritz and Compiègne; at the latter he met many other musicians and artists and also accompanied the Emperor playing the violin.
In 1868 he married Célestine Dufau, a former singer from Toulouse who had appeared at the Opéra-Comique. They had three children, Louis René, Émile René and Berthe.
At the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War Waldteufel enlisted and was stationed in the Basses-Pyrénées. After the defeat of France the Second French Empire was dissolved and his home town became part of Germany for the rest of his life. After the Empire, the orchestra still played at Presidential balls at the Élysée. At this time only a few members of the French high society knew of Émile; he was nearly 40 before he became better known.
In October 1874 Waldteufel played at an event that was attended by the then Prince of Wales, future King Edward VII of the United Kingdom. The Prince was enthralled by Waldteufel's "Manolo" waltz, and was prepared to make Waldteufel's music known in Britain. A long-term contract with the London-based editor Hopwood & Crew followed. Part of the company belonged to Charles Coote, director of the Coote & Tinney’s Band, the first dance orchestra in London. Through these means, Waldteufel's music was played at Buckingham Palace in front of Queen Victoria. Waldteufel dominated the music scene in London and became world-famous. During this period he composed his best known works, many of which are still heard today around the world. He became best known for the waltz "Les Patineurs" (The Ice Skaters), composed in 1882.
Waldteufel gave concerts in several European cities, such as London in 1885, Berlin in 1889, where he enjoyed a friendly rivalry with Johann Strauss, and the Paris Opéra Balls in 1890 and 1891. He continued his career as conductor and writing dance music for the Presidential Balls until 1899 when he retired.
On 12 February 1915 Waldteufel died at his home, 37 rue Saint-Georges in Paris, at the age of 77. He and his wife, who had died the previous year, were buried in Père Lachaise.
Waldteufel composed at and for the piano (often for performance at court) before orchestrating each work. He conducted with a stick rather than the then-customary violin bow. The typical Waldteufel orchestra consisted of strings and a doubled woodwind section, two cornets, four horns, three trombones, and ophicleide or euphonium, along with percussion. Waldteufel's music can be distinguished from Johann Strauss II's waltzes and polkas in that he used subtle harmonies and gentle phrases, unlike Strauss's more robust approach.
A biography of the Waldteufel family by Andrew Lamb (Skaters' Waltz: the Story of the Waldteufels) was published in 1995.
His waltz Dolorès (op. 170; 1880) was the basis for the Russian romance Honey, do you hear me (Russian: «Милая, ты услышь меня»).
(with opus number)
- Kamiesch, March, Op. 5
- Myosotis, Waltz (Vergissmeinnicht), Op. 101
- Jean qui pleure et Jean qui rit, Polka burlesque, Op. 106
- Bella, Polka-mazurka, Op. 113 (1867)
- Dans les bois, Polka-mazurka, op. 119
- Les Lointains, Waltz, op. 121
- Mellow waltz op. 123 (1866)
- Carolinen, Polka, op. 124
- Dans les champs polka-mazurka op. 125 In the Fields (1868)
- Madeleine, Waltz, Op. 126
- Desirée, Polka Mazurka, Op. 132
- Térésa (Antoinette) waltz op. 133 (1864)
- Joujou-Polka, Op. 135
- Manolo, Waltz, op. 140 (1874?)
- Rose et Marguerites, Waltz, op. 141
- Tout à vous (Yours Very Truly / Dir allein), Valse, Op.142 (1875)
- Bien aimés waltz Op.143 (1875)
- Entre nous waltz op. 144 (1876)
- Flots de joie (Waves of Joy I Auf Glückes Wogen), Valse, Op.145 (1875)
- Grand vitesse (High Speed / Eilgut), Galop, Op. 146 (1876)
- Violettes waltz op. 148 Violets (1876)
- Au revoir (Farewell), Valse, Op.149 (1876)
- A toi, (To Thee / An Dich) waltz, op. 150
- Mon rêve, waltz op. 151 My Dream (1877)
- Prestissimo, Galop, Op. 152 (1877)
- Hommage aux dames, Waltz, op. 153
- Les Sirènes ('The Sirens' / 'Sirenenzauber'), Valse, Op. 154 (1878)
- Pomone waltz op. 155 Pomona (1877)
- Toujours ou jamais ('Ever or Never' / 'Immer oder Nimmer'), Valse, Op. 156 (1877)
- Les Folies (Acts of Folly / Tolle Streiche), Polka, Op. 157 (1878)
- Très Jolie ('Very Pretty' / 'Ganz allerliebst'), Valse, Op. 159 (1878)
- Pluie de diamants / Pluie d'or ('Golden Rain' / 'Goldregen'), Valse, Op.160 (1879)
- La Bercuese, Waltz, Op. 161
- Brune ou blonde (Brunette or Blonde / Braun oder Blond), Valse, Op.162 (1878)
- Bella bocca (Bonne bouche), Polka I Gourmand-Polka, Op. 163 (1879)
- Gaîté, Valse (Gaiety, Waltz / Frohsinns-walzer), Op.164 (1878)
- Ma charmante waltz op. 166 My Charming Lady (1879)
- Autresfois, Waltz, Op. 167
- Minuit, Polka, Op. 168
- Toujours fidèle ('Ever Faithful' / 'Treuliebchen'), Valse, Op. 169 (1879)
- Dolorès waltz op. 170 (1880)
- Chantilly, Waltz, Op.171 (1880)
- Solitude, waltz op. 174 (1881)
- Jeunesse dorée (Gilded Youth / Jugendtraume), Valse, Op.175 (1881)
- Je t'aime ('I Love You' / 'Ich liebe Dich'), Valse, Op.177 (1882)
- La Barcarolle, Valse, Op.178 (1882)
- Naples, Waltz, Op. 179
- La Source waltz op. 180 (1882)
- Trictrac, Polka, Op. 181
- L'Esprit français ('The French Spirit' "Geistesfunken'), Polka, Op.182 (1882)
- Les Patineurs waltz op. 183 The Skaters (1882)
- Mariana, Waltz, Op. 185
- Les Sourires ('The Smiles' / 'Holdes Lscheln'), Valse, Op. 187 (1883)
- Soirée d'été ('Summer Evening' / 'Ein Sommerabend'), Valse, Op. 188 (1883)
- En Garde! Polka militaire, Op. 189
- Les Fleurs ('The Flowers'), Valse, Op. 190 (1883)
- Estudiantina waltz op. 191 Band of Students (1883) (arrangement from Paul Lacome reputed "Duos")
- Pres de toi, Waltz, Op. 193
- Nid d'Amour, Waltz, Op. 195
- Jeux d'espirit, Polka, op. 196
- Camarade, Polka, op. 197
- Joie envolee, Waltz, Op. 198
- Trésor d'amour (Love- Treasure / Schatzliebchen), Valse, Op. 199 (1885)
- Tout en rose ('Through Rose-Coloured Spectacles' / 'In bester Laune'), Valse, Op. 200 (1885)
- Un premier bouquet (A First Bouquet / Der erste Blumenstrauss), Valse, Op. 201 (1885)
- Rêverie, Valse, Op. 202 (1885)
- Retour des champs ('Return from the fields' / 'Heimkehr vom Felde'), Polka, Op. 203 (1885)
- Illusion, Waltz, Op. 204
- Ma Voisine ('My Neighbour' / 'Meine Nachbarin'), Polka, Op. 206 (1886)
- The Grenadiers, Valse militaire, Op. 207, dedicated to Dan Godfrey (the basis of "Escort to the Colour", arr. by Ridings, 1978)
- Dans les nuages ('In the Clouds' / 'In den Wolken'), Valse, Op. 208 (1886)
- Idylle, Waltz, Op. 209
- Tendres baisers, Waltz, Op. 211
- La Cinquantaine / Joyeux Paris ('Merry Paris' / 'Jubel-Polka'), Polka, Op. 215 (1886)
- Les Bohémiens ('The Bohemians' / 'Zigeuner-Polka'), Polka, Op. 216 (1887)
- Tendresse, Waltz, Op. 217
- Coquetterie (Princess May), Valse, Op. 218 (1887)
- Tout ou rien ('All or Nothing' / 'Alles oder Nichts'), Polka, Op. 219 (1887)
- Acclamations (Hoch lebe der Tanz!), Valse, Op. 223 (1888)
- Papillons bleus, Waltz, Op. 224
- Château en Espagne (Castles in the Air / Luftschlösser), Polka, Op. 225 (1888)
- Dans tes yeux, Waltz, op. 227
- Hébé ('Hebe'), Valse, Op. 228 (1888)
- Etincelles, Waltz, Op. 229
- Roses de Noël, Waltz, Op. 230 (1889)
- Rococo-Polka op. 232 (1888)
- Bagatelle, Polka, Op. 233
- Sur la plage, Waltz, Op. 234
- Vision valse op. 235 Visions (1888)
- España, waltz op. 236 (1886) (after Chabrier)
- Par-ci, par-là ('Hither and Thither'), Polka, Op. 239 (1883)
- Tout-Paris ('Fashionable Paris' / 'Pariser-Walzer'), Valse, Op. 240 (1889)
- Ange d'amour ('Angel of Love' / 'Liebesengel'), Valse, Op. 241 (1889)
- Nuée d'oiseaux (Cloud of Birds / Zugvogel), Polka, Op. 243 (1890)
- Retour de Printemps, Waltz, Op. 244
- Invitation à la gavotte ('Invitation to the Gavotte'), Op. 246 (1891)
- Fontaine lumineuse ('Bright Fountain' / 'Uchtfontaine'), Valse, Op. 247 (1891)
- Zig-zag, Polka, Op. 248 (1891)
- Sous la voûte étoilée (Under the Starry Canopy / Himmelsaugen), Valse, Op. 253 (1892)
- Souveraine (Sovereign), Mazurka, Op. 255 (1893)
(without opus number)
- Amour et printemps (Love and Spring / Liebe und Frühling), Valse (1880)
- Fleurs et baisers, Waltz (1904)
- Béobile, Pizzicato (1908?)
- La fauvette du temple, Valse (1885) (after Messager)
In popular culture
Waldteufel's 1886 waltz España is largely based on Chabrier's España but also includes a section from Chabrier's Une Éducation manquée. Chabrier's rhapsody is also the basis of the melody of the 1956 American popular song "Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity Boom)" by Al Hoffman and Dick Manning, made popular by Perry Como in 1956.
Melody from Estudiantina waltz was used as the tune of an advertising jingle for Rheingold Beer ("My beer, is Rheingold, the dry beer ..."). Estudiantina was played by I Salonisti in James Cameron's 1997 movie Titanic.
- Griffiths, Paul (2004). The Penguin Companion to Classical Music. London: Penguin UK. p. 2721. ISBN 978-014-190976-9. Retrieved 23 December 2016.
- Hering, Pierre. Emile Waldteufel (1837-1915). In: La Musique en Alsace hier et aujourd'hui. Librairie Istra, Strasbourg, 1970, p157-162.
- Jews in Music, Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk.
- Jewish Songwriters and Composers, jinfo.org.
- Filon, Augustin (1920). Recollections of the Empress Eugénie. London: Cassell and Company, Ltd. p. 74. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
To-night [during the "white overalls" riots following the 1869 elections], gala soirée in honour of the Queen of Holland and the Grand-Duchess Marie of Russia.... Everyone seems anxious and ill at ease, and many throw involuntary glances at the windows which look on the Place du Carrousel, over which an angry mob is swarming. Waldteufel's orchestra plays its most entrancing waltzes, and five or six couples venture on the floor. Waltzing, to-night, is an act of loyalty to the Empire.
- "Waldteufel, Emile in Oxford Music Library". Oxford Music Online. Retrieved 2008-10-02.
- Sorel, Alexandre. Booklet notes accompanying DVD SODVD 03 - Émile WALDTEUFEL, le STRAUSS français, 2008.
- Free scores by Emile Waldteufel at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)
- Orchestre de salon Eugénie: A Parisian salon orchestra specialized in French and Parisian dance music between 1850 and 1900 (waltz, polka, quadrilles, schottische). An important part of their activities and performances is dedicated to Émile Waldteufel, Léon Waldteufel (the brother) and Louis Waldteufel's music.