Emile Waldteufel (1837 - 1915)
Like Johann Strauss, Emile Waldteufel came from a family of dance musicians, being preceded in the business by his father Louis (1801-84) and brother Leon (1832-84). Despite their Germanic surname, the family were French. This is explained by their German ancestry and the fact that they hailed from Alsace, which despite strong German traditions had been fully integrated into France since 1793.
Emile Waldteufel was born in Strasbourg on 9th December 1837, just seven weeks after the eider Johann Strauss gave his first concert on French soil in that very city. When he was seven the family moved to Paris for his brother Leon to take up a place as a violin student at the Paris Conservatoire. Emile Waldteufel was to live in Paris for the rest of his life, and he in turn studied piano at the Conservatoire from 1853 to 1857, his classmates there including Jules Massenet.
Meanwhile the family dance orchestra was becoming one of the best-known in Paris, increasingly in demand for Society balls during Napoleon III"s Second Empire. In 1865 Emile was appointed court pianist to the Empress Eugenie in succession to Joseph Ascher (composer of " Alice, where art thou?"), performing at Court functions not only in Paris but in Biarritz and Compiegne. From 1867 the Waldteufel orchestra played at Napoleon III"s magnificent Court balls at the Tulleries.
After the Franco-Prussian War the orchestra again presided at the Presidential balls at the Elysee. Yet so far Emile Waldteufel"s dances had been known only to a relatively limited Society audience. By the time international fame came he was almost forty. In October 1874 he happened to be playing at a soiree attended by the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII. The Prince complimented him on his waltz Manolo and agreed to help launch his music in London.
The result was a long-term publishing contract with the London firm of Hopwood & Crew. Since the firm was half-owned by Charles Coote, director of Coote & Tinney"s Band, the premier London dance orchestra, this also gave access to the musical programmes of Queen Victoria?s State Bans at Buckingham Palace. For several years Emile Waldteufel"s music dominated the programmes there, generating him world-wide fame as he turned out a string of works that enjoyed huge popularity -including his best-known work Les Patineurs (The Skaters) in 1882.
His French publisher Durand, Schoenewerk was now forced to buy the French rights to these works from Hopwood & Crew. So later did the German firm of Litolff, in whose editions the works sometimes appeared under slightly different German names. In addition, to suit Germanic custom, in 1883 Litolff retrospectively began an opus numbering system. This began at 101 to make arbitrary allowance for early works, and for various reasons many works were numbered out of chronological sequence, thereby providing a source of much confusion ever since.
Waldteufel appeared in London in 1885 and Berlin in 1889, and in 1890 and 1891 he conducted at the Paris Opera Bans. His orchestra continued to provide dance music for Presidential Bans, as well as for other Society functions, until 1899, when he retired. He continued to compose, but his style was by then outdated. He died in Paris on 12th February 1915 at the age of 77. His wife, a former singer Celestine Dufau, whom he married in 1873 and who bore him two sons and a daughter, had died the previous year.
Waldteufel was recognised as a good-natured person, with a ready sense of humour- characteristics that are readily perceivable in his music. Unlike the music of Johann Strauss, Waldteufel"s perhaps scales no great architectural heights, but rather seeks to enchant by the grace and charm of his melodies and their gentle harmonies. By comparison with Strauss"s very masculine creations, there is undoubtedly more of a feminine feel about Waldteufel"s waltzes. Unlike Strauss, he conducted with a baton rather than a violin bow, and he composed at the piano, his works being orchestrated later. The standard Waldteufel orchestration was for strings, double woodwind, two cornets, four horns, three trombones and ophicleide (or tuba), plus timpani and percussion.
After Waldteufel"s death his music continued to hold a place in the affections of ordinary music-lovers alongside that of Johann Strauss. The conductor of these recordings, Alfred Walter, recalls having a lot of Waldteufel"s music at his childhood home in Southern Bohemia -not only for piano but also in arrangements for piano trio which were played in his musical family. If in recent decades Emile Waldteufel"s music has been overshadowed by that of the Strausses, it is with correspondingly greater freshness that we are able to rediscover its grace and charm today.
Unfortunately Paris newspapers did not report the titles of dances played at Society balls. Thus the best available dating of Emile Waldteufel"s works comes from publication records and dates of registration with the French copyright collecting agency S.A.C.E.M. In the following notes, the original French titles are given, together with English translations and the titles under which the works were published in Germany.
Flots de joie (Waves of Joy I Auf Glückes Wogen), Valse, Op.145 (1875)
It was on 1st March 1875 that a contract was signed between Emile Waldteufel in Paris, and Charles Coote and Edward Chappell in London. This provided for the London publisher Hopwood & Crew to acquire a minimum of four waltzes and one other composition each year for a period of eight years, with an option to break every two years. The first year"s batch of four waltzes comprised Taut a vaus, Flats de jaie, Entre nous and Bien aimes, the first three of which were included in the programme for the first State Ball of the 1876 season at Buckingham Palace. There, positioned at one end of the oblong ballroom, Coote & Tinney?s orchestra began the popularisation of Emile Waldteufel"s music that was to spread to such remarkable proportions within only a year or two. As with other waltzes of the time, the introduction of this waltz - in polonaise tempo - is more elaborate than was Waldteufel"s later custom. The published edition bears a dedication to Baroness Erlanger.
Chateau en Espagne (Castles in the Air / Luftschlösser), Polka, Op. 225 (1888)
On 30th November 1881 the contract with Hopwood & Crew was renewed until31st December 1888, this time on the basis of six waltzes and two polkas per annum. Among the pieces that emerged towards the end of the renewed contract was the lively Chiiteau en Espagne polka, which aptly captures the spirit of the attainable dreams and aspirations of the title.
Gaite, Valse (Gaiety, Waltz / Frohsinns-walzer), Op.164 (1878)
Dating from the period of Emile Waldteufel?s greatest successes, the waltz Gaite was never quite the success of some of its immediate contemporaries. Its attractions now are all the greater for its lack of familiarity. The slow introduction, full of pauses and variations of tempo, scarcely suggests the gaiety of the title, which comes through only when the waltz proper starts. The leggiero second theme of the third waltz section is curiously anticipatory of the second theme of Les Patineurs of some four years later. Like the almost exactly contemporary waltz Hommage aux dames, this bears a dedication to Mme de Girardin, possibly the second wife of Emile de Girardin (1806- 81), founder of La Presse.
Tout a vous (Yours Very Truly / Dir allein), Valse, Op.142 (1875)
Of the works that resulted from Emile Waldteufe1"s exclusive contract with Hopwood & Crew, Tout a vous was by a long way the first to appear. It was published on 25th May 1875, and first performed by Coote & Tinney"s Band at the State Ballon 3rd June that year. The introductory cornet solo is one of the composition"s most noteworthy features, but there is a fine sweep about the whole piece. The amabile second part of the second waltz section, with its busy accompaniment, is especially enchanting. The published edition carries a dedication to Mademoiselle Marie de Montalvo.
Bella, Polka-mazurka, Op. 113 (1867)
Before Emile Waldteufel entered into his contract with Hopwood & Crew, the family customarily published their works themselves. Such was the case with the delicate little Bella polka-mazurka, with its enchanting air of hesitancy. It appeared in 1867, the year of Napoleon III"s great Exposition Universelle and the year in which the Waldteufel family orchestra first played at the Imperial Balls. One can well imagine the piece being played to warm approval at those Tuileries balls. The published edition bears a dedication to Monsieur Theodore Thurneyssen.
Brune ou blonde (Brunette or Blonde / Braun oder Blond), Valse, Op.162 (1878)
Having secured an exclusive contract with Emile Waldteufel, the publisher Hopwood & Crew curiously chose to sell some works on to other London publishers. Thus the waltz Brune ou blonde was published in London by the firm of Enoch and Sons. They got a good bargain, for this is a delightful waltz, right from its will-o"-the-wisp opening theme, which leads into an anticipation of the waltz"s magnificently invigorating main theme. The second part of the second waltz section, with its engaging instrumental interplay, is particularly captivating. The waltz was dedicated to Madame Louis Cartier.
Acclamations (Hoch lebe der Tanz!), Valse, Op. 223 (1888)
The Waldteufel waltzes of the 1880s generally failed to sustain the same high level of invention of the works of the late-1870s. However, this was certainly not the case with the waltz Acclamations. Known in German as Hoch lebe der Tanz! (Long Live the Dance!), this is truly one of the finest Waldteufel waltzes. The principal theme is of interest in that it repeats the four-note rhythmic pattern also to be found in the waltzes Les Sirenes and Les Patineurs. Where this waltz particularly appeals is in a couple of striking themes that lift the heart at just the point where, in lesser waltzes, the attention may be beginning to flag. In the second part of the second waltz section the sly, seductive break in rhythm in the third bar is especially effective. In the following waltz section the insistent repeated notes, again in the third bar, achieve a particularly beguiling effect, which is heightened by the moto perpetuo quaver figure that leads into the repeat of the theme.
La BarcarolIe, Valse, Op.178 (1882)
Another lovely waltz that has never fully received its due is La BarcaroIle. Its graceful main theme, played on cornet over a figure depicting gently lapping water, is merely the prelude to a sequence of contrasted melodies of which the con fuoco first theme of the third waltz section is especially arresting. The pub1ished edition carries a dedication to Baroness Preecha Kon-la-Karn, quoting also her maiden name as the rather less exotic Fanny Knox.
BeobiIe, Pizzicato (1908?)
Not only is the pizzicato Beobile totally atypical of Emile Waldteufel"s normal output, but its origins are obscure. It has survived in the music 1ibrary of the British Broadcasting Corporation in London, in the form of a manuscript from which the work received several BBC broadcasts over the years before first being recorded commercially. The significance of the title is a puzzle, and no such title is to be found in the otherwise comprehensive list of Emile Waldteufel"s published and unpub1ished compositions registered with S.A.C.E.M. What is to be found there is a work Babiole (Trif1e), described as "pizzicati" and apparently pub1ished by Fonotipia of Milan in 1908. The coincidence of two works in the same pizzicato style having titles which, when handwritten, could readi1y be mistaken for one another raises the question of whether the two might be one and the same. Unfortunately no copy of Babiole is known to exist to enable us to resolve the matter one way or another. We are left with this charming piece p1ayed on plucked strings -a trif1e certainly, but a most diverting one.
Author of Skaters" Waltz: the Story of the Waldteufels (1995)