THE WALTZ EMPERORS: The Life and Times and Music of the Strauss Family by Joseph Wechsberg

THE WALTZ EMPERORS: The Life and Times and Music of the Strauss Family

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The many illustrations -- excellent photographs, reproductions of contemporary news sketches, paintings, sheet music decoration, broadsides and advertisements, and scraps of Strauss' notations -- more or less drown out Wechsberg's text which at its best (and it's not here) has an empathic delicacy, a sense of time and atmosphere requiring most discreet accompaniment. Intimate biographical material on the Strauss family of Vienna is limited. As Wechsberg points out, the Strausses -- Father Johann, sons Josef, Edward and Johann the Great -- ""had a hectic profession which completely occupied them. . . they kept no diary; they were disorderly people."" Therefore Wechsberg follows their careers in rather an impressionistic fashion, pausing for critiques on their major compositions, lingering over the more important engagements and tours, touching briefly on the messy marriages. The rise of both father and son was fairly rapid and throughout his life the public adulation of Johann the son, particularly, remained constant. In Boston, Johann was confronted by an assignment to conduct 20,000 performers for an audience of 100,000. ""Suddenly,"" he reported, ""there is a cannon shot -- a subtle hint for us twenty-thousand to begin the Blue Danube."" Wechsberg has accumulated commentary from some of Strauss the Younger's eminent contemporaries -- Wagner, Verdi, Berlioz, Offenbach, his friend Brahms, etc. -- to point up their respect for the Waltz King's musicianship, and Wechsberg offers his own analysis of some of the great waltzes and their ""inner tension and beauty."" Although this is not Wechsberg at the pinnacle, the commentary and illustrations produce the unmistakable ta ta ta, tum tum tum.

Pub Date: Nov. 7th, 1973
Publisher: Putnam