Austria consists of nine federal states, one of which is Vienna. Each federal state has its own coat of arms and flag. And also an anthem by which the inhabitants of the respective region express their identity. Vienna has its coat of arms (a white cross on a red shield), it has its flag (two horizontal stripes of equal width, red at the top, white at the bottom), but it does not have an anthem.
It is actually a paradox that Vienna, which is often called the city of music, where many famous composers were born or where they lived, and yet none of them has composed an anthem for this city. So Vienna does not have an official anthem, but it has an unofficial one, and what is more, the whole world knows it! You probably already know what I am talking about. It is a famous waltz (what else, for a city where up to 400 balls take place in one season?!), composed by Johann Strauss Jr. for a carnival concert by the Vienna Men’s Choral Association in two versions – one as an orchestral composition, titled The Blue Danube (An der schönen, blauen Donau). Many consider it not only the unofficial anthem of Vienna but even of Austria.
And another paradox – the first introduction of the waltz in February 1867 had not been a great success, although it was by no means a failure. The original text was rather ironic and not very imaginative, its author was the police commissioner Josef Weyl, the internal lyricist of the Association. In the same year, Strauss performed his song at the World’s Fair in Paris, and, when he had conducted over 60 promenade concerts in London’s Covent Garden in the fall, the waltz became a hit and Strauss’s publisher was barely able to send its sheet music to the world.
In 1890, Franz von Gerneth, a senior regional court councillor, wrote a new text that better expressed the relationship between the river and the city. It sings about how Vienna greets its river and no matter where the Danube flows, it will never find another city like this… It is in the first verse that the blue color of the river is referred to. This is yet another paradox since even today the Danube is not completely blue, its color changes according to the season, the weather, the clouds in the sky which are reflected on the surface and so on. The observation reports of the Hydrographic Institute in Vienna most often mention the following colors: steel-green, clay-yellow, emerald-green, brown and off-green. Maybe that is why the world-famous waltz is played only as a purely orchestral composition without lyrics. The Austrian national television broadcasts it after the ringing of the Pummerin bell from the St Stephan’s Cathedral which announces the beginning of the new year on New Year’s Eve after midnight and is traditionally played as an addition to the New Year’s Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, which is broadcast all over the world.
I like cities with rivers. In Vienna, although the Danube is aside of the city center, in addition to the main stream, there are the branches of the New and Old Danube, the Canal and the Danube Island as well. This whole part of Vienna is a superb relaxation zone, you can swim and fish in the Danube, and there are also various water sports and activities possible. Just look at the following photos:
And what about Johann Strauss? Part of his famous waltz is immortalized on the house no. 10 in a street named after him in Vienna’s 4th district, where the house where Strauss lived from 1878 and died in 1899 is only a few steps away – the address of the said house is: Johann-Strauss-Gasse 4. And his gilded statue in the City Park (Stadtpark) is by far the most photographed statue in the whole of Vienna.
You may not have known:
The text of the Austrian national anthem was changed in 2012, as only the sons of the motherland had been glorified before. This discrimination opened a nationwide debate which resulted in the adoption of an amendment to the text by the Austrian National Council in December 2011 – the word “daughter” was added to the anthem and the fraternal choirs were changed to exulting choirs, giving both sexes (at least within the national anthem) equal rights.
Text: © Copyright Ingrid, Travelpotpourri
Fotos: © Copyright Ingrid, Travelpotpourri