Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Polka for a Princess

I found a rather interesting article about the creation of Johann Strauss's "Olga-Polka". Strauss is one of my favorite composers and Olga-Polka one of my favorite music. I was amazed to find out that it was actually composed by Strauss as a dedication to Grand Duchess Olga Feodorovna of Russia, sister-in-law to Tsar Alexander II.

This is what the article says about the music:

The Olga-Polka was created because of a Russian imperial wedding which took place in St. Petersburg on August 20, 1857. On that day, the music-loving Grand Duke Mikhail Nikolaievich, youngest brother of Tsar Alexander II, married Princess Cecilie of Baden. At that time, Johann Strauss was giving concerts in Pavlovsk. He used the opportunity occasioned by the event to enhance his already enviable popularity with the Russian imperial family and composed the Cecilien-Polka in honour of the lovely young bride. Indeed, it is clear from a letter which Johann wrote in late July 1857 to Carl Haslinger, his publisher in Vienna, that the new polka had been prepared well in advance of the wedding (the fair copy of the full orchestral score made for the publisher's engraver is dated 9 August) and was enjoying success even before the royal couple's official engagement on August 16, 1857. The performance of the Cecilian-Polka in Pavlovsk caused a sensation in St. Peterburg, and was praised for its "truly genial Viennese sounds full of verve and melody".

Since tradition demanded that the German princess Cecilie adopt a Russian name - Olga Feodorovna - before her marriage, so Johann's Cecilien-Polka also underwent a change of identity. On December 8, 1857 Carl Haslinger announced the publication of Strauss's Olga-Polka, on the title page of which is the inscription: "Dedicated to her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Olga, née Princess of Baden". It was under this title, too, that Johann himself first conducted the work in Vienna at a concert in the Volksgarten on November 1, 1857, shortly after his return from Russia. Reporting on this event, the Wiener Allgemeine Theaterzeitung observed: "The Olga-Polka is a most delightful, fragrant musical bouquet, full of fine, gracious rhythms".

Grand Duchess Olga Feodorovna of Russia
nee Princess Cecilie of Baden


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