Passion for Russia
The first concerts by Strauss in Russia were held at the Pavlovsk Vauxhall (Railway Station).
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On October 25th, Russia is celebrating the 185th birth anniversary of brilliant Austrian composer Johann Strauss Jr., the so-called Waltz King, whose creative activity also included a specific Russian period, happy and unfortunate at the same time.
Johann Straussí visits to Russia started right after he sprung into popularity among Europeans. Aged 31 and buzzing with vitality and creative ideas, the composer agreed to give regular concerts for the Russian audience, given that the financial benefits appeared more than lucrative. Senior Fellow with the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg Yulia Kantor, who is also a manager of the cityís traditional Grand Waltz Festival, told our correspondent how and where Johann Strauss performed in Russia.
Waltz King Johann Strauss had been visiting St. Petersburg, the then capital of the Russian Empire, over 11 years. Initially, he was invited by the management of Tsarskoselsky Railways to popularize the new transport means. Russiaís first public railroad linked the two imperial residences - Pavlovsk and Tsarskoe Selo outside St. Petersburg. For this reason, the first concerts by Strauss were held at the Pavlovsk Railway Station. Actually, there is a direct analogy between present-day musical traditions of the Grand Waltz Festival and those of the 19th century. In other words, concerts took place at a number of museum-estates around the Russian capital, where Johann Strauss performed either with his orchestra, or with musicians from St. Petersburg. Those were: Tsarskoe Selo, Pavlovsk, Peterhof, the Konstantinovsky Palace in Strelna and the Hall of the Noble Assembly in St. Petersburg.
During one of his visits Johann Strauss was introduced to a charming woman, who also turned out to be an exceptional music writer. That was Olga Smirnitskaya, a young noblewoman and one of the first Russian female composers. Johann Strauss fell in love with her passionately and his seasonal concerts in Russia acquired a new dimension - meetings with his lady.
Unfortunately, Johann Strauss failed to get into his brideís parentsí graces, despite his exalted readiness to overcome hardships even at the expense of his life. His commoner roots determined the fate of the lovers and the composer was ultimately refused by Olga herself.
Although they both later married other people, their love affair continued in the composerís creative work, after he made a number of remarkable musical sketches of Russia. This appeared as a sort of warm-up before writing The Blue Danube waltz - Johann Straussís most renowned masterpiece.
Source: The Voice of Russia