Johann Strauss II – Neu-Wien – Walzer, op. 342

Johann Strauss choral waltz Neu-Wien appeared in print from C.A. Spina’s publishing house on 6 March 1870, bearing the composer’s dedication to «Herr Nicolaus Dumba’ (1830–1900), the great industrialist and patron of the Arts who was at that time Chairman of the Wiener Männergesang-Verein (Vienna Men’s Choral Association) and Vice-President of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Wien (Society of the Friends of Music in Vienna). The new work had been written at the request of the Wiener Männergesang-Verein and was first performed by them at their carnival-time ‘Narrenabend’ (Fools’ Evening) in the Dianabad-Saal on 13 February 1870. Writing to his publisher just two days earlier, an 11 February, Strauss notified Spina that he would receive the full score of Neu-Wien the following day, adding: «I am playing ‘Neu-Wien’ next Sunday [= 13 February], in order to winkle out a few banknotes from the gentry». In the event, a previous commitment to provide music for a ball hosted by Prince Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst prevented (Johann and the Strauss Orchestra from presenting the première of the new waltz, and the first performance was instead given by the musicians of the 49th (Baron Hess) Infantry Regiment under the Wiener Männergesang-Verein’s newly-appointed deputy choirmaster, Eduard Kremser 1838–1 914).

The text for Neu-Wien was provided by the Association’s own ‘house poet’, Josef-Weyl (1821–95) a long-term friend of the composer who had also written the texts for Strauss’s previous choral compositions for the Wiener Männergesang-Verein, An der schönen blauen Donau, Walzer op. 314, Sängerslust, Polka française op. 328 and Wein, Weib und Gesang! Walzer op. 333. Weyl’s mocking text for Neu-Wien was inspired by the extension of the city of Vienna which, in 1870, pushed the borders of the Imperial capital up to the ‘Linienwall’ (the old outer defenses of the city), nowadays known as the ‘Gürtell, thereby incorporating a number of former suburbs and giving, rise to districts 2 to 9 of Vienna.

Just ten days after the première of Neu-Wien, the Strauss family—and, indeed, a large part of music-loving Vienna—was shaken to its foundations by the death of mother Anna Strauss (1801–70) on 23 February 1870, following a long illness. The Neues Wiener Tagblatt (25.02.1870) closed its obituary of this popular matriarchal figure with the words: «The glittering careers of her sons more than adequately recompensed the old lady for so much hardship which she had had to endure in her early years». The three grieving Strauss brothers withdrew from public temporarily, reappearing together in the Golden Hall of the Musikverein on Sunday 13 March 1870 to commence their concert season with the Strauss Orchestra with the traditional ‘Carnival Revue». Die Presse carried a report of this orchestral «promenade concert» in its edition of 15 March: «All the dance compositions written by the three brothers during this carnival were performed. The rush of the public to this concert was so colossal that the ticket offices had to be closed at 5.45 pm and thousand of people had to be turned away…But the musical pleasures were plentiful. Tempestuous demand required that all the compositions were repeated Mice or three times and, when Johann Strauss appeared, renewed salvoes of applause resounded time and again. In particular, the waltz ‘Neu-Wien’ met with approval». The reviewer for Der Wanderer (15.03.1 870) concurred: «With his compositions ‘Neu-Wien’ and ‘Egyptischer Marsch’, Johann Strauss caused a sensation and had to repeat them three times».

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