Johann Strauss started out as a bank clerk to please his father although he did also receive a solid musical education. Studying in secret so as not to cast a shadow over his father, the young Johann composed his first waltz at the age of six and founded his first music ensemble in order to play his compositions at the age of nineteen.
His immediate success gained him quick recognition. In 1863, he was appointed director of the court balls. In the United States in 1872, he gathered together 10 000 musicians and a chorus of 20 000 to celebrate his waltzes marking the occasion of the French-German jubilee. A friend of Johannes Brahms, Johann Strauss was also responsible for establishing Richard Wagner's music at the Vienna Opera. Admired by Franz Liszt, Gustav Mahler, Arnold Schoenberg and Alban Berg, Strauss brought the Viennese waltz to its highest level.
Music of unchanging and charming refinement, the composer left around 170 waltzes and 140 polkas. The Blue Danube or a page from the Emperor Waltz demonstrates how the composer had grasped the music of his time and place. He established symphonic scope in music hitherto solely played in salons. Admired by musicians as different as Maurice Ravel and Franz Lehár, Johann Strauss died in Vienna, a city which he had characterised like nobody else.
Zubin Mehta's 80th birthday celebration
Johann Strauss Waltzes arranged by Schoenberg, Berg and Webern
London Philharmonia Orchestra, Charles Mackerras