Satire and Sarcasm

YOU’LL HAVE TO LOOK BACK 150 YEARS AGO to February 28, 1867 to find words of Satire and Sarcasm (Ger. die Satire und der Sarkasmus) flung by critics of the day at a piece of music that would eventually become the virtual anthem of their country.

The questions I pose are: Which piece of music? Which capital city? Which country? Which composer? Let’s explore the evidence in reverse order.

The composer was born in 1825 and died in 1899. Although he wrote essentially popular music, his best compositions have such artistic merit that they often appear to this day on symphony programs, directed by the foremost conductors. His father was also famous as a composer of dance music and conductor of salon and popular music.

The son made his  début in 1844 as a conductor in a café in his hometown and soon became an idol there as well as the voice and symbol of his country.

In 1872 he appeared in the United States in mammoth performances of his works. The 50th anniversary of his début as a conductor was celebrated in 1894 for an entire week in his country’s capital city.

Apart from his most famous piece of music, he wrote some of my favorites, namely, Artist’s Life (Künsterleben); Morning Journals (Morgenblätter); Roses from the South (Rosen aus dem Süden); Voices of Spring (Frülingsstimmen); and Wine, Women and Song (Wien Weib und Gesang).

As a final clue, below is an 1876 picture of the gentleman taken 32 years after his début concert in Europe and 4 years after his celebrated appearances in the U.S. that year.


That famous piece of music can be heard in its entirety here, and it was its title, An der schönen blauen Donau, that caused such a kerfuffle in the first place, as it was claimed that the subject in reality bore no resemblance in actuality – neither as to its beauty nor to its color: hence the satirical and sarcastic commentary.

References: Wikipedia; Encyclopedia of Concert Music by David Ewen

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