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Johann Strauss, Jr. is referred to many different ways, including Johann Strauss II and Johan Strauss the Younger. Whichever style you prefer, Strauss was the son of Johann Strauss Senior, also known as Johann Strauss, I, and both father and son were Austrian composers.
Strauss, Jr. was born In Vienna, Austria in 1825. Because his father hoped that he would become a banker rather than a musician, Strauss, Jr. kept secret his childhood study of the violin under the tutelage of the first violinist in his father’s orchestra. Upon discovering his son practicing, the father reportedly whipped him. After Strauss, Sr. left the family, Strauss, Jr. was able to pursue a music career openly with his mother’s support.
His violin studies continued, and he studied composition as well. Having secured a performing license, he created a small orchestra, but his father’s influence meant that people were afraid of hiring the son. A casino that allowed Strauss, Jr. to perform his debut concert in 1844, thereby incurred the elder Strauss’s wrath, and though he had frequented it, he never performed there again. The critics, however, approved, if his father did not.
Strauss, Jr. was hired as Kapellmeister of the 2nd Vienna Citizen’s Regiment. But difficult times for him arose around the revolution of 1848, because he sided with the revolutionaries, while his father was loyal to the monarchy, incurring the displeasure of both. After his father died, Strauss, Jr. was able to merge his father’s orchestra and his own and go on tour. His orchestra made yearly trips to Russia from 1856 to 1865, and also toured the United States.
The works for which Strauss, Jr. is best known include waltzes, most notably “Blue Danube,” as well as operettas. The best known of these are Die Fledermaus or The Bat, which non-opera lovers may even recognize because it is the opera from which young Bruce Wayne begs his parents to leave in the early part of the film Batman Begins. It premiered in 1874 in Vienna. Another of his operas that is still performed, but is perhaps best known today for its overture is Der Zigeunerbaron or The Gypsy Baron, which premiered in Vienna in 1885.
In 1899, Strauss, Jr. contracted double pneumonia as he was composing the ballet Aschenbrödel or Cinderella. He died in June of that year, having composed over 500 dances, including polkas, waltzes, and other dances.
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