This fourth installment in our Top 25 series is the Blue Danube Waltz by Austrian composer Johann Strauss.
You’re more likely to hear the Blue Danube Waltz on New Year’s Day than on October 5th, but it has to be on this countdown because is one of the most popular and well-loved pieces ever written. As a result of this waltz’s success, Strauss was nicknamed “The Waltz King.”
However, the New Year’s Day tradition in which the Vienna Philharmonic performs this waltz to listeners around the globe belies the less-than-pleasant circumstances of its writing. Strauss essentially wrote the waltz to cheer up his country. Austria had just been defeated by Prussia in the Seven Weeks’ War and was in the midst of a post-war economic downturn. He based it on a Karl Beck poem that included the line “By the Danube, the beautiful blue Danube,” and made it his mission to lift the spirits of Austria with a upbeat and memorable waltz.
There are five distinct themes in this waltz. The delightful video for today’s music does a fantastic job of displaying these five themes through ballet.