Songbirds

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Tales from the Vienna Woods Miliza Korjus

Miliza Korjus’s father was Artur Korjus, an Estonian lieutenant colonel in the Imperial Russian Army and later Chief of Staff to the War Minister of Estonia. Her mother was Anna Gintowt, who was descended from the Lithuanian-Polish nobility. Miliza was born in Warsaw, Poland (then part of the Russian Empire) during her father’s military posting there in 1909; later the family moved to Moscow. She was the fifth of six children (she had one brother, and four sisters). Her mother and father separated during the Russian Revolution of 1917 and in 1918 she moved from Moscow to Kiev with her mother and sisters where she began her musical training.

Career
As a teenager, Korjus toured the Soviet Union with the Dumka Choir. In 1927, while performing in Leningrad, she managed to cross the border into Estonia, where she was reunited with her father. She then began touring the Baltic countries and Germany, and, in 1929, married Kuno Foelsch, a physicist. Korjus continued her concert career as a soprano in Germany and was eventually engaged by the Berlin State Opera in 1933. Her operatic appearances and recordings quickly propelled her to the forefront of European singers and earned her the nickname “The Berlin Nightingale”. Film producer Irving Thalberg heard her recordings and signed her to a ten year film contract, sight unseen.

Korjus’ first Hollywood film was The Great Waltz (1938), which Frank Nugent of the New York Times called “a showcase for Miliza Korjus” while also noting her resemblance to Mae West. She was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the role.

1aVienna, the waltz, and the Strauss family are inseparable entities. The waltzes of Johann Strauss II. (1804-49) evoked the air of the Viennese countryside, beer gardens, and Heurigen. Those of his eldest son, Johann Jr., at first had the same rhythmic vitality and brief melodies. After 1860, however, this would change. The younger Strauss infused the traditional waltz with a new vitality and sophistication that reflected the glittery, hedonistic spirit of nineteenth century imperial Vienna. He melded the rhythmic drive of his father’s works with Joseph Lanner’s (1801-43) lyricism, and changed the rhythmic emphasis from the beat to the measure. Strauss’ seemingly unlimited melodic invention prompted him to compose melodies that did not fall into the traditional four-, eight-, or 16-measure patterns of earlier waltz tunes. He maintained the basic outline employed by Lanner and his father: a slow introduction, (typically) five pairs of waltzes, and a coda, but increased the length of each section and the organic unity of the whole. Strauss’ orchestration is often picturesque, especially in his introductions, while that of the waltzes themselves approaches a Mozartean clarity.
In 1860 Strauss began conceiving his waltzes with an international audience in mind, occasionally electing to “illustrate” aspects of his homeland. Arguably, the most important of these is Geschichten aus dem Wienerwald (Tales From the Vienna Woods), Op. 325, one of Strauss’ most famous waltzes. The Wienerwald evokes not so much the Vienna Woods theo9pc7ea0b66p6a6emselves as it does the Austrian Heurigen, small establishments outside Vienna that serve partially aged wine and food associated with the countryside. Clearly a concert piece, Wienerwald does not exhibit predictable patterns of repetition or 16-measure melodies, and seems nearly through-composed.

Opening with horns supporting woodwind figures that resemble bird calls, the introduction immediately places the listener outdoors and ushers in the most surprising element of the piece — a zither. The sound of the zither is generally associated with rural Austria and Southern Germany and folk music performed at country inns and homes. The tunes Strauss writes for the zither are not necessarily folk-ish, although the pace of the first melody is slow enough to place the emphasis on every beat, as in a Ländler. The waltz pair performed on the zither, however, is unusual in that the second of the pair has two distinct, eight-measure melodies in two contrasting tempos. After the orchestra enters, six more pairs of waltzes follow, throughout which Strauss seems to be thinking more in terms of symphonic music rather than music for the ballroom. The repeat of the first part of Waltz No. 1, for example, covers only 12 of the original 16 measures before shifting abruptly to the second melody of the pair, which is not repeated. The syncopation of the second half of the third waltz works against the triple meter, while the strings and trumpet share the melody of the second part of Waltz No. 4. The first half of Waltz No. 5 is not repeated, but the second half is, and the second part of Waltz No. 6 is really a slow, legato variation of the first part. Syncopation is also a feature of the seventh waltz, whose first melody has a span of 20 measures. Modulations and thick orchestration create a symphonic atmosphere in the coda, which includes a literal return of the second waltz pair and part of the third, before the first waltz sounds again on the zither. John Palmer All Music

 

This is a very poignant piece of music for me , I feel music can be very important as it bridges the emotional journey we all take together and marks significant stages in all our lives.  My father sang this song to my mother when he was dying and it has stayed with us as a very important memory of his very beautiful passing from this world to the next life where we all hope to meet again some day so that we can sing together with a supernatural voice.

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