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


Castanets can be considered as the national musical instrument of Spain, where they have been used since the Middle Ages. Today, as in the past, they relate to flamenco dancers (traditional, Andalusian dance). They are ringed rhytmically or rotary, contributing in particular to the emotional quality of the dance. Many composers of the 19th and 20th centuries used castanets in their compositions to add this particular "Spanish timbre".

Castanets were usually made of chestnut wood (the Latin word castanea mens chestnut). However, today, various other hardwoods are used, such as walnut, rose or ebony. In the past, castanets were also made of ivory. The shellfish shape of the organ is important because it suggests that the first castanets were made of shellfish.

This, in turn, suggests that this instrument was first used by residents of coastal areas. It is believed that these early performers may have been the ancient Phoenicians, although the origin of the instrument is not fully known.

In the orchestra, castanets are usually adjusted to a long handle and played with the instrument's impact on the free hand. Castanets of this type consist of three cymbals, with the central one firm and hollow on both sides.

Alternatively, performers in orchestras use a "mechanical castanet". Here, the two wooden trays are fixed to a piece of wood and rotate separately. It is easier to achieve precise rhythms with this second method than with traditional castanets.

The dancers' castanets are joined by a rope wrapped around the thumb and middle hand and are clogged with fingers. Performers often play two castanets of different sizes. A smaller, "soprano" pair of castanets is played with the right hand and a larger one with the left. The larger pair is called "male" and the smaller "female".

How castanets work

The almost circular wooden "shell" of each instrument has been dug in the center to form a hemispherical cavity, surrounded by a wide flat surface. When castanets are impacted, the two hollow sides come together creating a resonance space that improves the sound of the "hit". Because of this hollow section, castanets and similar organs are sometimes called "beating vessels".