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 elder 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 Ill"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 Ill"s magnificent Court balls at the Tuileries.
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 Balls 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 Balls. His orchestra continued to provide dance music for Presidential Balls, 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.
Prestissimo, Galop, Op. 152 (1877)
The various types of dance performed in the nineteenth-century ballroom all had their individual purpose. Whereas waltzes provided the evening"s glamour and romance, galops served not only to provide relief from the prevailing ¾ tempo but also to bring an evening"s enjoyment to a rousing conclusion. For such a purpose there could scarcely have been a better example than the exhilarating Prestissimo, Opus 152, in which the momentum never flags, with the brass instruments making a prominent contribution. It was one of the earliest products of Emile Waldteufel"s exclusive publishing contract with Hopwood & Crew, whose edition portrays a circus rider bursting through a hoop from the back of a horse. The publication carries a dedication to Madame Isaac pereire.
Reverie, Valse, Op. 202 (1885)
By the mid-1880s Emile Waldteufel"s music was well enough established for each new piece to be accepted readily for the programmes of society balls and as material for theatre orchestras and military band. The novelties may not have created quite the same deep effect as the great waltzes of the late-1870s, but each newcomer could be relied upon for the qualities of melodic grace, charm and refinement that typify a Waldteufel waltz. Such was the case with the waltz Reverie, in which an appropriately dreamy air may be detected especially in its lovely main theme and in the first part of the fourth section - both marked espressivo. Other sections bear the usual contrasted markings of a Waldteufel waltz - grazioso, con fuoco, espressivo and energico, before a fanfare heralds the coda"s reprise of the main themes. The work provides an example of how, in London, some of the pieces were not launched in the ballroom but used as diversions in theatrical entertainments. Reverie, for instance, was used in the pantomime The Forty Thieves, produced at the Drury Lane Theatre, London during the winter of 1886 - 1887. The published edition carries a dedication to the Marchioness du Bourg.
Bella bocca (Bonne bouche), Polka I Gourmand-Polka, Op. 163 (1879)
Probably the most widely successful of all Emile Waldteufel"s polkas is the jaunty little Bella bocca, which takes its name from the expression for a "titbit" ? most particularly something with which to end a meal. Curiously, whereas in English the French words "bonne bouche" are used, the French use the equivalent Italian words "bella bocca". Hence the alternative titles of this polka. When later published in Germany, the piece was given the German title of "Gourmand-Polka", reflecting the original Hopwood & Crew title page which shows a gourmand, bib around his neck, relishing what looks like an oyster. The piece was dedicated to M. Jules Tardiveau.
Coquetterie (Princess May), Valse, Op. 218 (1887)
During the 1880s Emile Waldteufel"s exclusive contract with Hopwood & Crew provided for him to supply eight pieces a year. This supply, however, soon seems to have exceeded demand. Thus Hopwood & Crew ceded initial publication rights to the Parisian firm of Durand, Schoenewerk, who duly brought out new pieces more or less as they became available. By contrast Hopwood & Crew, having prepared printing plates, published some of the pieces but allowed others to remain unpublished in Britain for years. Such was the case with the waltz Coquetterie, which Durand, schoenewerk published in mid-1887. By 1893 it was still on Hopwood & Crew"s shelves unpublished; but then the firm of Chappell found itself in need of a waltz to commemorate the marriage of Prince Albert (the future King George V) to Princess May of Teck. The records of Hopwood & Crew show that on 18th May 1893 they sold Chappell the British publication rights of Coquetterie for the sum of £20, plus 17s 4d (87p) for the publishing plates and £1 4s (£1.20) for the engraving, with a further £20 payable if over 10,000 copies were sold. Renamed Princess May, the waltz was published by Chappell and introduced to London Society at a State Ball at Buckingham Palace on 30th June 1893. It contains some majestic themes that make it a particularly apt choice for Chappell"s purposes, though there are also more coquettish themes to justify its original title.
Un premier bouquet (A First Bouquet / Der erste Blumenstrauss), Valse, Op. 201 (1885)
Another waltz from the mid-1880s, Un premier bouquet opens with a charmingly scored and deferential introduction that aptly creates the impression of a young man presenting his beloved with her first bouquet. There then follow the usual string of Waldteufel waltz melodies with contrasted markings ? successively grandioso, energico, risoluto, espressivo, appassionato, espressivo again, risoluto and con fuoco. The espressivo rising theme of the second part of the second waltz section and the con fuoco passage of the fourth waltz section are especially effective. The piece was dedicated to Mlle Leontine Trefeu. Could she, one wonders, have been related to Etienne Trefeu (1821-1903), who later wrote the text for Waldteufel"s vocal waltz Desesperance, as well as many song texts and libretti for Offenbach?
Jeunesse doree (Gilded Youth I Jugendtraume), Valse, Op.175 (1881)
Coming from the time when Emile Waldteufel"s music had finally been accepted internationally, the waltz Jeunesse doree deliciously captures the carefree atmosphere of youth. The scherzando second part of the second waltz section and the con amabile first part of the fourth section are among its most endearing features. The waltz was dedicated to Monsieur N. Vega Llombard.
Nuee d"oiseaux (Cloud of Birds / Zugvogel), Polka, Op. 243 (1890)
In view of the way in which Hopwood & Crew allowed stocks of Waldteufel compositions to build up unpublished during the 18805, it is scarcely surprising that the firm chose not to enter into a new contract when the existing one expired at the end of 1888. Instead Emile Waldteufel signed a new contract with the firm of Cranz, which had just lost the services of its biggest name composer, Johann
Strauss. The jaunty polka Nuee d"oiseaux, offering fine opportunities for individual instruments, was one of the earlier products of the contract, appearing during the first of the two years when Emile Waldteufel directed the music at the Opera Balls.
Tresor d" amour (Love- Treasure / Schatzliebchen), Valse, Op. 199 (1885)
Yet another product of the mid-1880s, the waltz Tresor d"amour reaffirms once more the charm of the typical Waldteufel creation. It offers some particularly effective interplay between the instruments of the orchestra and was dedicated to Mlle Marie Durrieu.
Au revoir (Farewell), Valse, Op.149 (1876)
Au revoir was among the waltzes with which Emile Waldteufel began his London conquest in the mid-1870s. Especially noteworthy is the introduction, which is far more elaborate than was later to become the composer"s norm, with the opening andante maestoso bars leading into a little tone poem that has the atmosphere of a barcarolle. The waltz was dedicated to Princess Achille Murat, a member of the Bonaparte family. As with Coquetterie much later, Hopwood & Crew sold the British publication rights to Chappell & Co.
Author of Skaters" Waltz: the Story of the Waldteufels (1995)