Johann Strauss Father (1804–1849) and Son (1825–1899)

The biggest competitor of the father was the son

 Monument Johann Strauss

Once a year a ritual is repeated that is followed on television in over 70 countries. Everyone knows when it’s going to happen. Exactly what’s going to happen not so certain. But one thing is for sure: the Neujahrskonzert (New Year’s concert) will definitely include the Donauwalzer (“The Blue Danube Waltz”) and the Radetzkymarsch (“Radetzky March”), two pieces of music which couldn’t be more different, from two composers who couldn’t have been less similar.

“Good night, Lanner! Good evening, Strauss Senior! Good morning, Strauss Junior!”

The humourist Franz Wiest bids adieu to the two founders of the Viennese waltz in a newspaper article in 1844, and welcomes the new star.

It was no coincidence that Johann Strauss Senior (1804-1849) named his best-known composition

the Radetzky March after a field marshal: he remained loyal to the imperial house for his entire life. His first wife was not so fortunate – after Anna Strauss had borne him six children he left her for the milliner Emilie Trampusch. Anna would never forgive him. As her revenge she made possible the musical education of their eldest son, something his father had strictly forbidden – and so enabled him to become his father’s greatest competitor.

Johann Strauss Junior (1825-1899) is not only the creator of the Donauwalzer, Austria’s unofficial anthem, he also composed the operetta Die Fledermaus and around 500 other waltzes. The Habsburgs were suspicious of the “Walzerkönig” (“Waltz King”) not only because of his permissive lifestyle; he was also an open sympathiser of the revolutionaries.

 Strauß and Lanner statue

Strauß monument from behind

 Danube waltz

And so the friend of the enfant terrible of the Habsburgs, Archduke Johann Salvator, composed the music to the Revolution of 1848 with works such as the Revolutionsmarsch (“Revolution March”). The bon-vivant also knew how to put himself in the spotlight: his largest concert took place in front of an audience of 30,000 people – with an 800-piece orchestra.

And the fame of the two pop-stars of classical music still glitters today. The son plays his violin in a golden tailcoat in the Stadtpark, his father in the company of his colleague Joseph Lanner in the Rathauspark. And with their music they still delight the masses today: there is hardly an Austrian who doesn’t begin the new year with the Donauwalzer.

Text: Agnes Hamberger, Fotos: Christine Wurnig