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").

http://www.classicfm.com/composers/strauss-ii/guides/story-behind-blue-danube/

The Blue Danube - Choral Lyrics

Donau so blau,
so schön und blau,
durch Tal und Au
wogst ruhig du hin,
dich grüßt unser Wien,
dein silbernes Band
knüpft Land an Land,
und fröhliche Herzen schlagen
an deinem schönen Strand.

Weit vom Schwarzwald her
eilst du hin zum Meer,
spendest Segen
allerwegen,
ostwärts geht dein Lauf,
nimmst viel Brüder auf:
Bild der Einigkeit
für alle Zeit!
Alte Burgen seh'n
nieder von den Höh'n,
grüssen gerne
dich von ferne
und der Berge Kranz,
hell vom Morgenglanz,
spiegelt sich in deiner Wellen Tanz.

Die Nixen auf dem Grund,
die geben's flüsternd kund,
was Alles du erschaut,
seit dem über dir der Himmel blaut.
Drum schon in alter Zeit
ward dir manch' Lied geweiht;
und mit dem hellsten Klang
preist immer auf's Neu' dich unser Sang.

Halt' an deine Fluten bei Wien,
es liebt dich ja so sehr!
Du findest, wohin du magst zieh'n,
ein zweites Wien nicht mehr!
Hier quillt aus voller Brust
der Zauber heit'rer Lust,
und treuer, deutscher Sinn
streut aus seine Saat von hier weithin.

Du kennst wohl gut deinen Bruder, den Rhein,
an seinen Ufern wächst herrlicher Wein,
dort auch steht bei Tag und bei Nacht
die feste treue Wacht.
Doch neid' ihm nicht jene himmlische Gab',
bei dir auch strämt reicher Segen herab,
und es schützt die tapfere Hand
auch unser Heimatland!

D'rum laßt uns einig sein,
schliesst Brüder, fest den Reih'n,
froh auch in trüber Zeit,
Muth, wenn Gefahr uns dräut,
Heimat am Donaustrand,
bist uns'rer Herzen Band,
dir sei für alle Zeit
Gut und Blut geweiht!

Das Schifflein fährt auf den Wellen so sacht,
still ist die Nacht,
die Liebe nur wacht,
der Schiffer flüstert der Liebsten ins Ohr,
dass längst schon sein Herz sie erkor.
O Himmel, sei gnädig dem liebenden Paar,
schutz' vor Gefahr es immerdar!
Nun fahren dahin sie in seliger Ruh',
Schifflein, far' immer nur zu!

Junges Blut,
frischer Muth,
o wie glücklich macht,
dem vereint ihr lacht!
Lieb und Lust
schwellt die Brust,
hat das Größte in der Welt vollbracht.

Nun singt ein fröhliches seliges Lied,
das wie jauchzend die Lüfte durchzieht,
von den Herzen laut widerklingt
und ein festes Band um uns schlingt.

Frei und treu in Lied und Tat,
bringt ein Hoch der Wienerstadt,
die auf's Neu' erstand voller Pracht
und die Herzen erobert mit Macht.

Und zum Schluß
bringt noch einen Gruß
uns'rer lieben Donau dem herrlichen Fluß.
Was der Tag
uns auch bringen mag,
Treu' und Einigkeit
soll uns schützen zu jeglicher Zeit

Danube so blue,
so bright and blue,
through vale and field
you flow so calm,
our Vienna greets you,
your silver stream
through all the lands
you merry the heart
with your beautiful shores.

Far from the Black Forest
you hurry to the sea
giving your blessing
to everything.
Eastward you flow,
welcoming your brothers,
A picture of peace
for all time!
Old castles looking
down from high,
greet you smiling
from their steep
and craggy hilltops,
and the mountains' vistas
mirror in your dancing waves.

The mermaids from the riverbed,
whispering as you flow by,
are heard by everything
under the blue sky above.
The noise of your passing
is a song from old times
and with the brightest sounds
your song leads you ever on.

Stop your tides at Vienna,
it loves you so much!
Whenever you might look
you will find nowhere like Vienna!
Here pours a full chest
the charms of happy wishes,
and heartfelt German wishes
are flown away on your waters.

You know very well your brother, the Rhine,
on its banks grows a magnificent wine,
there is also, day and night,
the fixed and faithful watch.
But envy him not those heavenly gifts
by you, too, many blessings stream down
and the brave hand protects
our homeland!

Therefore let us be united,
joined brothers, in strong ranks,
happy in troubled times;
Brave, when danger threatens us,
Home on the Danube beach,
are the hearts of our band,
To thee for all time
Good and blood are consecrated!

The boat travels on the waves so softly,
still is the night,
love watching only
the sailor whispers in the lover's ear,
that his heart long ago she owned.
O Heaven, have mercy on the loving couple,
protect them from danger there forever!
Now they pass on in blissful repose,
Boat, sail always on!

Young blood
fresh courage,
O how happy,
it unites laughter!
Love and passion
fills the breast –
it's the greatest in the world.

Now sing a cheerful and blessed song,
the jubilation as the air permeates
echoed loudly by the heart
and tie a band around us.

Free and faithful in song and deed,
Bring a height to Vienna city
bought it on the new full glory
and conquered with force.

And in conclusion
brings even a greeting
to our love of the beautiful Danube River.
Whatever the day
may bring us,
Loyalty and unity
is to protect us all the time!

The Blue Danube - Austria 1930's