This biographical study explores the times which formed Strauss
and in turn succumbed to his influence. The Straussian presence and
contribution to nineteenth-century Europe are significant beyond
the lilting melodies and the cliche-ridden image of the "waltz
king" because these foreshadow the collision of the old order with
the new. Johann Strauss "fiddled" as the Habsburg empire sank into
a quagmire, mostly of its own making.
It was Strauss, more than Schubert, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven,
Brahms, Mahler, or Schoenberg, who made Vienna and the waltz
household words throughout the world. Yet the very spirit of his
art, its joyous naivete, gave his era a false face, a mask of
lighthearted well-being that was not consonant with the repression,
persecution, hunger, inefficiency, martial and diplomatic defeats,
and political ineptness which gave the period a more sinister cast.
Oblivious of the turmoil that was to bring down one of the greatest
ruling houses of Europe, Strauss spread his glorious music like a
mantle of gold, prompting historians to aver that with the death of
Johann Strauss, Emperor Franz Joseph ceased to reign--although the
monarch outlived the musician by seventeen years.
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