Johann Strauss II: Tausend und eine Nacht
Translated as ‘Thousand and One Nights’, Johann Strauss II composed this famous waltz in 1871. The melodies for this waltz came from his first operetta Indigo und die vierzig Räuber (‘Indigo and the Forty Thieves’). Though a triumph for the composer, the operetta suffered twofold for the weak libretto. As the libretto started to be changed and developed, directors tried to partner the new libretti and Strauss’ music. By 1906, Tausend und eine Nacht was premiered. It received much more positive reviews with one describing it as:
“An oriental operetta of dream interpretation, a sumptuous ballet spectacular with songs. Under the new title, the work won the favour of the public and has achieved success.”
The orchestral work Tausend und eine Nacht was Strauss’ first serious attempt at ensuring that his memorable stage music would be memorable to all audiences. The idea of taking music out of its original context and into the form of a symphonic suite was beginning to become more popular. Composers knew that going to see an opera or a ballet was expensive, which cut off potential new audiences for them. Therefore, orchestral versions were made for concert halls so that their music could be preserved for a longer time.
This charming waltz is full of fragments of melodies from the operetta, however the main two that are used in their entirety are Ja, so singt man and Lasst frei nun erschallen das Lied aus der Brust. A typical performance of this work takes around 8-9 minutes to perform.
Opening with a solo cello that becomes intertwined in dialogue with sonorous clarinets, the opening is dreamy in character. A solo trumpet also joins in the conversation, adding a new timbre to the texture. The lower strings begin the robust first waltz, which, of course, is in 3/4 time. This energetic waltz sees Strauss play with dynamics as the orchestra swells and diminishes together.
Brass accentuate the strong beats of the waltz as the wind and strings push through with the melody. A trio section begins which is much calmer than the waltz that came before it, which shows Strauss’ light and shade writing. This short section soon builds into a swirling second waltz which is light in touch and high-spirited in character.
Throughout each section the 1-2-3 beat never dies away, it is always there keeping the style and the tempo of the music moving. A third waltz begins and this time it is much gentler in its presentation. The first waltz of the piece is heard once more, but this time it is more hesitant. The music begins to gain momentum, which subsequently accelerates to its brilliant conclusion.
Full of memorable melodies, classic waltz rhythms and tempos, Johann Strauss II’s celebratory Tausend und eine Nacht is one of his most celebrated waltzes.
Ⓒ Alex Burns
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