Vienna remembers Jewish roots of its most famous tune

February 16, 2017 by norman lebrecht


The Blue Danube Waltz – originally titled Donauwalzer – was first heard 150 years ago, on 15 February 1867.

The performance was not within the fashionable Ring but in the Leopoldstadt, the second district, heavily populated by Jewish immigrants and known as Matzah Island. Johann Strauss himself had a Jewish great-grandfather.

The waltz was premiered by the Wiener Männergesangsverein in the premises of a swimming pool, the Dianabad, that doubled at nights as a concert hall.

At an anniversary ceremony on the site of the former pool, the mayor of Leopoldstadt, Uschi Lichtenegger, spoke of the Jewish roots of the Strauss family and the efforts the Nazis made to cover them up.

Comments (10)

  1. John Borstlap says:

    Great Ginzburg playing.

    1. Furzwängler says:

      Absolutely stunning. He’s up there with Josef Lhevinne and the young Brit pianist Benjamin Grosvenor in this piece.

  2. Peter says:

    A Great Grandfather of Jewish faith. Fine. How does that make the compositions of Johan Strauss have “Jewish roots”? Unless someone has racist ideas?
    Wasn’t it actually his great-great grandfather btw?
    If my great grandmother were a Jehova’s witness, would that render all my creations having “Jehova’s witnesses’ roots”? What is this? Why is it necessary to mention this?
    Because the crazy Nazis covered them up? Well, for how much longer are we letting ourselves to be defined by the Nazis and what they did?

    1. John Borstlap says:

      Even Beethoven had unexpected racial roots: he is supposed to have had roots in Africa:

      We all have roots in Africa, where humanity began, including Jews.

      1. Alexander says:

        to Peter and John – I read about our cosmic ancestry , actually I like this version best …. as it is said in one book I’ve read before ” … maybe you were descended from the apes – I believe I was descended from the birds …”

        1. John Borstlap says:

          The greatest feat of humanity thus far is to develop from the apes at all (not everybody quite succeeded, as we can see from the daily news).

          1. Alexander says:

            John, you made me laugh again 😉 I always appreciate humans with good sense of humor.

    2. Robert Holmén says:

      Recognizing Strauss’ Jewish roots would be more like declining to let the Nazis define you since they want you to do otherwise.

      Nazis aren’t just for history books, they’re still active and promoting their unhappy politics.

  3. Bill Ecker says:

    Perhaps a little more authentic than Ginzburg a friend of Johann, Alfred Gruenfeld plays his riff and pastiche of Strauss music starting with the Beautiful Blue Danube.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *