Johann Strauss II: Pizzicato Polka
Composed for his brother, Josef Strauss, in 1869, Johann Strauss II’s Pizzicato Polka was published in 1870. Originally intended for his brother to use in concerts throughout his tour of Imperial Russia, Pizzicato Polka became a crowd-pleaser for Strauss himself, with many of his European concerts including it on the programme. As the title suggests, Pizzicato Polka is written for plucked strings and also a glockenspiel. Today, the piece is most often heard at New Year Galas, along with other famous works by the Strauss dynasty such as The Blue Danube, Tritsch-Tratsch Polka and Radetzky March.
Strauss works in four different melodies into Pizzicato Polka. The opening melody is hesitant before settling into the cheeky melody. Strauss uses contrary motion between the upper and lower strings to create big gaps between the plucks so that you can easily hear all of the voices in the mix. During the second and third melodies, the glockenspiel emerges and creates a comedic sparkle over the strings. The piercing tone of the glockenspiel is very noticable and adds a fun element to the music.
Once all four melodies have been played, the opening motif is heard once more as the music heads into the coda section. The interplay between the strings is intricate and playful, with Strauss also playing with dramatic dynamic changes.To close the piece, the strings finally unite for an exciting descending pattern before ending back in the home key. A playful favourite a concerts, Pizzicato Polka mixes music and comedy to create an accessible piece for all.
Ⓒ Alex Burns
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