Johann Strauss II, (born October 25, 1825, Vienna, Austria—died June 3, 1899, Vienna), is an Austrian composer famous for his Viennese waltzes and operettas.
Strauss was the eldest son of the composer Johann Strauss I. Because his father wished him to follow a nonmusical profession, he started his career as a bank clerk. He studied the violin without his father’s knowledge, however, and in 1844 conducted his own dance band at a Viennese restaurant. In 1849, when the elder Strauss died, Johann combined his orchestra with his father’s and went on a tour that included Russia (1865–66) and England (1869), winning great popularity. In 1870 he relinquished leadership of his orchestra to his brothers, Josef and Eduard, in order to spend his time writing music. In 1872 he conducted concerts in New York City and Boston.
Strauss’s most famous single composition is An der schönen blauen Donau (1867; The Blue Danube), the main theme of which became one of the best-known tunes in 19th-century music. His many other melodious and successful waltzes include Morgenblätter (1864; Morning Papers), Künstlerleben (1867; Artist’s Life), Geschichten aus dem Wienerwald (1868; Tales from the Vienna Woods), Wein, Weib und Gesang (1869; Wine, Women and Song), Wiener Blut (1871; Vienna Blood), and Kaiserwaltzer (1888). Of his nearly 500 dance pieces, more than 150 were waltzes, and he was thus called "the Waltz King."
In the winter of 1882/83 Johann Strauss was invited to compose a vocal waltz for the Heidelberg-born coloratura soprano, Bianca Bianchi (1855-1947, whose real name was Bertha Schwarz), an acclaimed member of the Wiener Hofoperntheater (Vienna Court Opera Theatre) at that time.
The waltz was to be given its first performance on 1 March 1883 at a grand matinée charity performance at the Theater an der Wien in aid of the Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth Foundation for Indigent Austro-Hungarian Subjects in Leipzig'.
Strauss, after his success with choral waltzes, was excited by the challenge of writing a waltz for solo voice. The librettist, Richard Genée, with whom the composer was at that time collaborating on the operetta Eine Nacht in Venedig (1883), signified his willingness to provide the text to the waltz. In the event he was responsible also for the vocal setting of the new work.
Late autumn 1882 saw Johann Strauss in Budapest, Vienna's sister city on the River Danube, for the first performance there of his operetta Der lustige Krieg (The Merry War, 1881). He was accompanied for the first time by Adèle Strauss (née Deutsch), a young widow who was to become his third wife.
According to contemporary reports, it was at one of the private soirées given in his honour during this visit that Johann gave an impromptu concert and played piano duets with another of the guests, Franz Liszt. The two men had known each other well for more than thirty years (Strauss had dedicated his waltz Abschieds-Rufe op. 179 to Liszt in January 1856) and had met on a number of occasions. It seerns highly probable that it was this visit which provided the impetus for writing the waltz Frühlingsstimmen, a work which is by no means a typical 'Violin waltz' but rather a waltz for the piano.
The following February Strauss returned to Budapest to conduct another performance of Der lustige Krieg and, on 4 February , met Liszt again when the two men were among the guests at a soirée hosted by the Hungarian writer Gustav Tarnoczy.
The Fremdenblatt (7.02.1883) was one of several Viennese newspapers which carried a report, reprinted frorn the Hungarian press, of the improvised concert which took place on this evening. The entertainment began with Weber's Jubel Overture, played as a piano duet by Liszt and the lady of the house. "Strauss turned the pages. After this Strauss sat down at the piano and played his latest, as yet unpublished, compositions. After the concert there was a whist party, at which Liszt and Strauss sat opposite Messrs Moriz Wahlmann and Ignaz Brüll; as always, here also luck smiled on the Piano King Liszt. The soirée ended with dancing, for the commencernent of which Strauss himself gave the signal by sitting at the piano and playing several of his waltzes. After that a gypsy band played until four o'clock in the morning. "
Johann was justifiably pleased with his Frühlingsstimmen Walzer and in February he notified interested parties of its publication by Cranz. He even sent a copy to a member of the Austrian Imperial Household, the Archduke Wilhelm Franz Karl who, on 17 February, replied to "Dear Strauss!", thanking him for his "exquisitely successful concert waltz". He continued: "Yesterday evening I couldn't get enough of playing these capitivating melodies and had to begin again and again da capo. Please number among the most ardent and oldest adherents of your musical creations your grateful Archduke Wilhelm".
Johann Strauss himself conducted the theatre orchestra at the première of Frühlingsstimmen on 1 March in the Theater an der Wien, and the performance was so well received by the audience that Bianca Bianchi had to repeat it immediately.
In its purely orchestral version the Frühlingsstimmen Walzer was played for the first time on 18 March 1883 when the composer's brother, Eduard Strauss, conducted it with the Strauss Orchestra at one of his regular Sunday afternoon concerts in the Goldene Saal (Golden Hall) of the Musikverein building in Vienna. This première also met with great success and the waltz had to be encored.