Johann Strauss II : Tausendundeine Nacht

1953 (Audio)

Director: Otto Dobrindt



  • Ilse Mentzel
  • Hertert Ernst Groh
  • Rose Seegers
  • Adi Appelt
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Tausend und eine Nacht (Thousand and One Nights), Op. 346 is a waltz composed by Johann Strauss II in 1871. The waltz’s melodies were drawn from his first-ever operetta Indigo und die vierzig Räuber (Indigo and the Forty Thieves). It was his first attempt at ensuring that the more memorable melodies from the stage works would survive obscurity by finding new life as a new orchestral work, a practice which he would faithfully retain in future stage works. Such a move would also benefit sheet music publishers who can sell the piano editions of the new works to the public who can readily identify individual music pieces.

Nonetheless, the charming waltz was to incorporate the more popular numbers from the operetta itself, with the melody Ja, so singt man comprising the entire infectious first waltz section. The graceful second section was contributed from the Act 2 Bacchanal Lasst frei nun erschallen das Lied aus der Brust.

The waltz’s dreamy Introduction was played by a sonorous clarinet evoking a distinctive Arabian feel. The first waltz section is robust and energetic, with a Trio section of comparatively less-rigorous section. The famous second waltz section is a swirling waltz passage in C major, with a high-spirited fashion. The third waltz section is considerably gentler, with a fierce but exciting Coda or tail-piece. The first waltz theme makes a hesitant entry again, accelerating into its breathless and brilliant conclusion, with repeated chords, with a strong drumroll and brass flourish.

Before eventually reaching the stage on 10 February 1871 as Indigo und die vierzig Räuber (Indigo and the Forty Thieves), Johann Strauss’s début stage work had undergone several changes of name, and one can imagine the confusion in the minds of Vienna’s theatre-going public as they read in their newspapers first of Ali Baba, then Fantaska and then Vierzig Räuber. The Morgen-Post (4.12.1870) found the situation laughable: “They still shilly-shally between the names ‘Fantaska’, ‘Espritta’, ‘Hildalga’, ‘Grazietta’, ‘Gitana’, ‘Varietta’, ‘Amora’, ‘Amanda’, ‘Zizine’, ‘Florinde’, ‘Lorina’, ‘Zerbina’, ‘Bimbona’, ‘Friola’, ‘Dryana’, ‘Uldalma’, and several dozen more sonorous women’s names”. (Thirty-five years later, in 1906, Strauss’s operetta was triumphantly re-worked under yet another title: Tausend und eine Nacht, a name harking back of to Antoine Galland’s original 18th-century translation of this collection of oriental tales, The Thousand and One Nights).

Tausend und eine Nacht was also the evocative title Johann Strauss gave to the splendid orchestral waltz he arranged from melodies in his first-born operetta. The composer had intended to unveil the waltz as his dedication dance for the ball of the powerful Vienna Authors’ and Journalists’ Association, ‘Concordia’, to be held in the Sofienbad-Saal on 7 February 1871. When the date set for the premiere of Indigo was postponed until 10 February, however, he found himself in the embarrassing position of having promised the waltz to the ‘Concordia’, yet wishing to avoid pre-empting the première of his operetta with an orchestral selection of what he knew to be its most charming melodies. In the event, believing that he depended upon the goodwill of the journalists, he presented the Association with his Tausendundeine Nacht-Polka – based on themes from the operetta – which he personally conducted at their ball, and which was later published under the amended title: Shawl-Polka française op. 343. It was therefore left to Eduard Strauss to perform the première of the waltz Tausend und eine Nacht at his Sunday promenade concert in the Golden Hall of the Vienna Musikverein on 12 March 1871. The programme of music also included the Indigo Overture and the Indigo-Quadrille op. 344.

Reviewing the first night of Indigo und die vierzig Räuber in the Fremden-Blatt on 12 February 1871, the journalist Ludwig Speidel observed: “How lightly skipping, how charmingly gossiping, how irresistibly coquettish are his polkas and his quadrilles, how cosy, convivial, piquant and ingenious they are. But if all these charms do not avail, the magician has one last remedy that never fails – he has his waltz! It is his ‘Pied Piper of Hamelin’; there is nothing for it – everyone has to join in. Strauss has proved his magic powers in that Trio of the first Act which culminates in a waltz. It is a Viennese waltz of truly elemental power, born not very far from Lerchenfeld [a suburb of Vienna], stirringly melodic, of piquant, rhythmic features and bewitchingly instrumented”. Another eyewitness, the journalist Josef Wimmer, praised the same vocal waltz: “And when the star number of the evening, the waltz ‘Ja, so singt man, in der Stadt wo ich geboren’ [Yes, that’s how they sing in the city where I was born], was played, the whole house broke out into a jubilant shout, the occupants of the boxes and the stalls began to dance and the gallery was overtaken by a regular Viennese * ‘sell my clothes mood’. One almost believed that Strauss would tear the violin from the hands of the first violinist and strike up the dance as in the days of old at the ‘Sperl’ and the ‘Zeisig’, at ‘Dommayers’ and ‘Unger’, and at the ‘Straussl’ and ‘Schwenders”‘.

Little wonder, therefore, that Strauss should have awarded pride of place to the melody of “Ja, so singt man” in his orchestral waltz Tausend und eine Nacht; indeed, this number provides the music for the entire first waltz section, including the Trio. Waltz 2 comprises material exclusively from the waltz section in the Act 2 (No. 16) Bacchanal, “Lasst frei nun erschallen das Lied aus der Brust”, sung by Fantasca with the chorus of bayadere. Waltz 3A also owes its origins to the Act 2 Bacchanal, to the second waltz tune “Die Freiheit lacht für diese Nacht”, whilst the final waltz section (3B) is to be found with the text “Esel, nur Esel, nur Eseltreiber All”‘ in Act 1 (No. 3), sung by Alibaba, the donkey-driver, and chorus.