J. Strauss II: An Der Schönen Blauen Donau – The Blue Danube (piano solo)

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J. Strauss II: An Der Schönen Blauen Donau – The Blue Danube (piano solo)

Three versions (easy, intermediate and advanced piano solo arrangements): which one do you like the most?

Easy Piano Solo


Intermediate to Advanced

Sheet Music download.

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Johann Strauss II’s Danube Waltz, which has always been popular, was composed in 1866 for a special concert on February 15, 1867 with the Vienna Male Choir. Although The Blue Danube is now firmly established in the classical music hall of fame, it received a rather neutral reception when it was first performed.

After the premiere of the original version, the poet Joseph Weyl added words to the waltz. Since the text was quite long, Strauss composed more music for the waltz. Strauss adapted a purely orchestral version for the Paris World Exhibition in 1867, which we enjoy today. This was much better received, and critics and audiences alike enjoyed this new form that The Blue Danube had taken on.

Although the choral version is sometimes performed, it is mostly the extended orchestral version that is regularly performed. The work can often be heard as a concert opening or encore.

The music

In its entirety, the performance of The Blue Danube lasts between 8 and 10 minutes. Beginning with an extended introduction hinting at the famous theme, the shimmering strings add to the magical atmosphere. The iconic waltz theme is suggested by the horns and answered by staccato wind chords. The music swells but quickly fades away in its soothing character.

A quick contrast acts as a transition before the descending bass motif leads the orchestra into the iconic waltz melody. Strauss provides all instruments with an opportunity to play the theme, passing the melody from the strings to the winds and then to the brass. The instruments engage in a musical dialogue while the waltz tempo lets the music resonate.

A succession of other waltzes is heard, developing the opening waltz theme. Strauss moves through different keys to add interest and excitement to each individual waltz. It glides through D major, B flat major and G major before touching G minor before settling into F major.

A repeat of the original waltz is heard towards the end of the piece, which is now accentuated much more by brass and percussion. The ending has a reflective character, evident in Strauss’ thinner orchestration and the use of certain solo instruments. The idyll is interrupted as the waltz rushes back for a flourishing finale.

Final Thoughts

In live performances, after the main waltz, there are often three additional minutes in which orchestras perform the original waltz, with each repetition getting faster. It has now become quite a tradition in concert halls around the world. A truly iconic piece of music that has earned its place in the classical music hall of fame.

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Johann Strauss II (1825-1899)

Johann Strauss II wrote more than 400 waltzes, polkas, quadrilles and other dance tunes, as well as several operettas and a ballet. During his lifetime he was known as ‘The Waltz King’. The most famous works by Johann Strauss II include ‘The Blue Danube’, ‘Emperor’s Waltz’, ‘Tales from the Vienna Woods’ and the ‘Tritsch-Tratsch-Polka’. Among his operettas, ‘Die Fledermaus’ and ‘Der Zigeunbaron’ are the best known.

The success and popularity of Johann Strauss II eclipsed that of his father. But the son often played works by Johann Senior and openly expressed his admiration for them, although it was no secret to the Viennese that their rivalry was intense and was fueled by the press of the time.

His father, Johann Strauss I died of scarlet fever in Vienna on September 25, 1849 at the age of 45. Hector Berlioz himself paid tribute to the ‘father of the Viennese waltz’ with the words: ‘Vienna without Strauss is like Austria without the Danube’.

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