Grossvater Tanz

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The Grossvater Tanz (Grandfather's Dance) is a German dance tune from the 17th century. It is generally considered a traditional folk tune. Its real author has been claimed to be Carl Gottlieb Hering (de) (1766–1853),[1] but this attribution seems not to be generally supported.

It is a tripartite tune:

  • 8 bars in 3/8 time, Andante
  • 4 bars of a different theme in 2/4 time, Allegro (repeated)
  • 4 bars of a further theme, in 2/4 time, Allegro (repeated).

The first part was sung to the words:

Und als der Grossvater die Grossmutter nahm,
Da war der Grossvater ein Bräutigam.

For many years, it was regularly played and danced at the end of wedding celebrations, and became known as the Kehraus (sweep-out).[2] It became so associated with marriage that when Louis Spohr wrote a Festival March for the wedding of Princess Marie of Hesse to the Duke of Saxe-Meiningen in 1825, he was required to quote the Grossvater Tanz in it.

Robert Schumann quoted the Grossvater Tanz in two works:

  • the final section of Papillons, Op. 2 (1831)
  • the final section ("Marche des Davidsbündler contre les Philistins") of Carnaval, Op. 9 (1834–35), where he labels the theme "Thème du XVIIème siècle" (Theme from the 17th century).

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky also quotes the tune in act 1 of his ballet The Nutcracker (1892). It appears at the end of the Christmas party. Tchaikovsky was a great admirer of Schumann's music, but it is not clear whether this was meant as some sort of tribute to Schumann or simply as an appropriate tune to use in music depicting the winding up of a happy family event.[3]