The Danube and Austrian Culture
General Culture of Vienna and Austria
Austria, like much of the Danube countries, is a country that boasts a vibrant and entertaining culture.
The Danube is a popular subject of Austrian art culture. The river is mentioned in the nataional anthem of Austria. Vienna and the 'Blue Danube' go hand in hand thanks to the memorable waltz by Johann Strauss II. The Danube does not flow through the city centre, but still, it has played an important role in the history and culture of Vienna and Greater Austria.
The Danube has also been the subject of Austrian and German literature, historical writings and folklore. The Autrian publishihing house, Wieser, has published a book entitled, "Donau: epic anthology with Danube theme", as part of the Europa Erlesen series. The book contains more than 600 pages of abridged text in German about the Danube. For more information on this collection of literature see: http://www.icpdr.org/main/publications/donau-epic-anthology-danube-theme
The city is home to many festivals and balls each year, one of which is held on Danube Island (Donauinsel) in June. This festival, Donauinselfest, is a favourite among both locals and visitors - It attracts up to 3 million tourists each year.
The Blue Danube
The Blue Danube (An der schönen blauen Donau, Op. 314) is perhaps the most famous waltz ever written. Indeed, it is actually not one single waltz, but a chain of five interlinked waltz themes. Many recognise it as Austria’s second national anthem. It is the inescapable conclusion to each New Year’s Day concert in Vienna.
In 1865, Austrian composer Johann Strauss II was commissioned to write a choral work; due to the composer’s other commitments the piece wasn’t even started. The following year, Austria was defeated by Prussia in the Seven Weeks’ War. Aggravated by post-war economic depression, Viennese morale was at a low and so Strauss was encouraged to revisit his commission and write a joyful waltz song to lift the country’s spirit.
Strauss recalled a poem by Karl Isidor Beck (1817-79). Each stanza ends with the line: ‘By the Danube, beautiful blue Danube’. It gave him the inspiration and the title for his new work – although the Danube could never be described as blue and, at the time the waltz was written, it did not flow through Vienna.
When the waltz premeired as a choral piece in 1867, its reception was muted in comparison to its subsequent popularity. However, later that year, when Strauss introduced the waltz in its orchestral garb to Paris at the World Exhibition, it created a sensation.
It’s said that Strauss’s publisher received so many orders for the piano score that he had to make 100 new copper plates so that he could print over a million copies. Twenty-three years later, Franz von Gernerth, a member of the Austrian Supreme Court, composed a more dignified text for the melodies of the waltz: "Donau, so blau, so blau" ("Danube, so blue, so blue").
The Blue Danube - Choral Lyrics
Donau so blau,
Danube so blue,