Strauss J. II: Blue Danube Waltz

Written in 1867, this famous piece, better known as the Blue Danube Waltz, has endured for more than a century. Written for symphony orchestra, the waltz is a regular feature of New Year’s Concerts in Vienna. It also happens to be the waltz whenever one is needed, and you have heard it in the movies 2001: A Space Odyssey, Age of Innocence, Heaven’s Gate and True Lies, just to name a few.

But the piece itself was not always a waltz, let alone the waltz. The Blue Danube started life as a vocal piece for a local choral society. The lyrics, written by a policeman called Josef Weyl, were a plodding verse about the glories of electric street lighting! The piece failed to inspire anyone except civil engineers and was quickly forgotten by everyone except Strauss. A couple of years later, Strauss was commissioned to write something for the Paris exhibition. He dug up his old music, dusted it off and converted it to an orchestral piece. It became a legendary hit, outselling every other piece in the world (in sheet music).

What’s more, Strauss had created a ‘musical dye’, working its magic to turn the grey-brown Danube in Vienna into a lilting, swirling, clear blue river. It is almost impossible to contradict him. Could you?