Johann Strauss II - Kaiser-Walzer (Emperor Waltz), Op. 437

Strauss often played in the glittering Imperial balls, conducting the orchestra and playing the first violin at the same time.   The majestic launch of this fascinating waltz presents the backdrop of the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the hegemony of the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph in 1888. Johann Strauss II was Music Director of the Dance Hesperides of the Imperial Court from 1863 to 1872 and composed on occasion for the celebration of an imperial anniversary. The ingenuity of the melody of the Emperor Waltz, which was originally orchestrated for a full orchestra, is such that it was easily adapted for the four or five instruments of a chamber ensemble by the Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg in 1925. This waltz is a tender and somewhat melancholic work, which at times turns its gaze nostalgically to the old Vienna. The waltz praises the majesty and dignity of the old monarch, who was fully devoted to his people. It begins with a majestic, magnificent march, which soon re

Gershwin - Porgy and Bess

A photo from the first performance of the opera Porgy and Bess in New York in 1935.

Gershwin's unique attempt at opera, created a dizzying combination of classical drama and atmospheric jazz, which remains unsurpassed in contemporary music.

Gershwin loved "black music" as they originally called jazz. Its pulsating rhythms reached the ears of the refined American white society in the early decades of the twentieth century. Gershwin felt that her pure energy lies in the soul of the American people. Many of the songs are deeply influenced by jazz, but his real ambition was to write a great black opera.

Gershwin's attempt to introduce jazz to the opera combined two antidiametric musical genres. Already famous as a songwriter, in 1926, he realized that the material for this challenge was in the popular novel Porgy, which referred to the tragic love of a black beggar from Charleston, South Carolina.

But it took eight years before he started composing, in collaboration with Ira and the book’s author, Edwin DuBose Hayward. They spent two months on Folly island, ten miles from Charleston, to assimilate the atmosphere of the South. Gershwin spent many evenings in neighboring James island listening to the music of Gullah, the effect of which is clear in the final form of the opera, (The Gullah-Geechee are descendants of enslaved West African people who worked on coastal plantations from North Carolina to northern Florida).

A cultural shock

The result was a dramatic tale of passion and murder, told through a series of songs in Gershwin’s unforgettable style.
Gershwin faithfully follows the South Afro-American mode of speech.His refusal to compromise was the main reason for the contradictory reviews the opera received when it was put on a show in 1935. The composer did not attempt to refine the language or the rawness of his story’s emotions, thus conforming to the preferences of his sophisticated white audience.
Porgy and Bess was a cultural shock that preceded several decades of its time. It became a success only after Gershwin’s death and after major revisions. It was only when it became a movie in 1959, starring Sidney Poitier, Gershwin’s mix of classical music and jazz, that found the universal acclaim it deserved.