October 25th, 1825 Johann Strauss II was born to composer Johann Strauss, and Maria Anna Streim who supported his musical career throughout his life. His father, whom Strauss Jr. surpassed in productivity and popularity, preferred for his son to have taken up a career in banking. Which Strauss II did, while secretly studying the violin with Franz Amon, who happened to be the First Violinist in Strauss Sr.’s orchestra.
Strauss Sr. eventually left the family and Strauss the younger fully and openly embraced life as a musician. At seventeen, he conducted a band in a Viennese restaurant. A year later, he formed his own band and found himself in competition with his father. He also began to write at this time, going on to compose over 250 works. After his father’s death, Strauss Jr. fused his father’s orchestra with his own, and his conducting and composing caught the attention of the likes of Brahms, Wagner, and Verdi.
Strauss II produced over 500 musical compositions including waltzes, galops, polkas and quadrilles, “The Blue Danube” being among his most famous. Through his 150 waltzes, he revolutionized the art form from lowly peasant dance to revered entertainment at the royal Habsburg court and was forever more dubbed the “waltz king”.
The Later Years
Married three times, Strauss Jr.’s most notable union was his first, with singer Henriette Treffz. Together they toured Russia and England, an adventure that would extend his reputation. He turned over his orchestra to his musically inclined brothers, Josef and Eduard, for a time to focus on composition; specifically the Viennese waltz and operetta. “Die Fledermaus” is arguably his most popular opera, written during this time. The 1870s were also a period of loss for Strauss II, his mother, brother Josef, and wife all died within several years of each other. His final ballet “Aschenbrödel” (Cinderella”), was left unfinished when Strauss II succumbed to pneumonia on June 3, 1899 in Vienna. Composer Josef Bayer finished it in 1900.