Tales from the Vienna Woods

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Zither solo into the waltz

Tales from the Vienna Woods (German: Geschichten aus dem Wienerwald) refers to several landmark works in German-language culture, including:

Although Strauss originally used the contracted spelling G'schichten for his waltz, the name is also commonly cited as Geschichten, which is also the version by which some of the subsequent works are known.


Courtesy of Musopen

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Composed in 1868, G'schichten aus dem Wienerwald, op. 325 was one of six Viennese waltzes by Johann Strauss II which featured a virtuoso part for zither. The waltz's premiere that year reiterated the ascendancy that the dance had made from its humble village origins to become one of the pleasures of fashionable Viennese society, largely thanks to the performing and composing talents of the Strauss dynasty. Nevertheless, the title of Strauss' dance recalls the folk music of the inhabitants of the Vienna Woods.

The waltz's introduction is one of the longest he ever wrote for a waltz, 119 bars in the musical score. The first part of the introduction starts off in C major, intertwining with F major before gaining ascendancy in volume and mood, finishing with a lunga direction. The second part, which is the more reflective, is in the key of G major with a solo violin incorporating bits of material which appear again in successive waltz sections. A short flute cadenza invoking birdsong comes in which moves on to the zither solo, marked moderato. The zither part involves two sub-sections of its own; the slowish ländler tempo and its more vigorous counterpart, with the direction of vivace (quickly). If the zither is unavailable, a string quartet plays the zither themes, instead. Loud orchestral chords brings the waltz back to reality, and the familiar waltz theme in F major is played.

Waltz 2A and 2B are in B-flat major, whereas waltz 3A is in the key of E-flat major with a quick section in B-flat in waltz 3B. The entire waltz section 4 is in B-flat as well, whereas waltz section 5 is wholly in the E-flat key. Waltz 5B contains the customary climax with cymbals and is loudly played. After a brief and tense coda, waltz 1A and 2B makes a re-entry. As the waltz ushers closer to its end, the zither solo makes another appearance, reprising its earlier melody in the introduction. A crescendo in the final bars dispels the tranquility and the waltz is concluded with a brass flourish and snare drumroll.


In allusion to Strauss' waltz, Ödön von Horváth wrote a play of almost the same name (Tales from the Vienna Woods) in 1931, for which he was honored with the prestigious Kleist Prize that year. This Volksstück (de) (popular play) was based in the contemporary setting of Wachau, Josefstadt, and the Vienna Woods just before the Austrofascist takeover. It tells the fate of a naive young woman named Marianne, who breaks off her reluctant engagement with Oskar the butcher after falling in love with a fop named Alfred who, however, has no serious interest in returning her love. For this error, she must pay bitterly. Werner Pirchner composed the incidental music to the play.


The play was filmed for cinematic release in 1961 by director Erich Neuberg (de), starring Johanna Matz (Marianne), Walter Kohut (Alfred), Helmuth Lohner, Hans Moser (reprising his role of Marianne's father from the 1931 Berlin premiere), Helmut Qualtinger (Oskar) and Jane Tilden (Valerie), among others.[1] Another version was made for television in 1964.[2]

A 1979 remake was undertaken by director Maximilian Schell, this time featuring Birgit Doll (de) (Marianne), Hanno Pöschl (Alfred), Helmut Qualtinger (Zauberkönig), Jane Tilden (Valerie), Adrienne Gessner (Alfreds Großmutter, i.e. Alfred's grandmother), Götz Kauffmann (de) (Oskar), André Heller (Hierlinger) and Robert Meyer (actor) (de) (Erich).[3]

An unusual adaptation of the waltz appears in the first half of Bob Clampett's 1943 cartoon A Corny Concerto. Set to the tune of the waltz, Porky Pig and his dog are "...hunting that @!!*@ rabbit." The rabbit of course is none other than Bugs Bunny, who proceeds to play a series of tricks on the aforementioned characters. The second half of the cartoon focuses on The Blue Danube, another famous composition by Johann Strauss II. The cartoon was incorporated into the 1975 documentary Bugs Bunny: Superstar.

A small piece of Tales from the Vienna Woods was featured in the 1987 film Escape from Sobibor each time a train of Jews arrived at the death camp's railway station, apparently for the purpose of providing a calming atmosphere in order to ally fears and ensure compliance amongst the new arrivals to the camp.[4]


  1. ^ G'schichten aus dem Wienerwald (1961) at the Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ Geschichten aus dem Wienerwald (1964, BR TV) at the Internet Movie Database
  3. ^ Geschichten aus dem Wienerwald (1979) at the Internet Movie Database
  4. ^ Escape from Sobibor (1987, soundtrack) at the Internet Movie Database

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