Strauss (strous, Ger. shtrous) [key], family of Viennese musicians. Johann Strauss, 1804–49, learned to play the violin against his parents' wishes. In 1819 he joined the dance orchestra of Josef Lanner (1801–43), whom he later rivaled. In 1826 Strauss organized his own orchestra. His waltzes won him fame that was extended over all Europe when he toured Austria (1833) and played in Berlin (1834) and in Paris and London (1837–38). His son, Johann Strauss, 1825–99, followed a musical career against his father's wishes. In 1844 he formed an orchestra that was immediately successful and became the rival of his father's. After the elder Johann's death, the son combined the two orchestras. He composed more than 400 waltzes, on which his fame largely rests and which include the enormously popular Blue Danube (1866) and Tales from the Vienna Woods (1868). With these he brought the Viennese waltz to a height of musical artistry, endowing it with new melodic, rhythmic, and orchestral richness. He also composed a number of operettas of which Die Fledermaus [the bat] (1874) and Der Zigeunerbaron ( The Gypsy Baron, 1885) are outstanding. His other works for the stage were hampered by their inadequate librettos and a lack of dramatic interest. Two of his brothers, Josef Strauss, 1827–70, and Eduard Strauss, 1835–1916, were also successful composers and conductors.
See biography of Johann (father and son) by H. Fantel (1972). See also biographies of the Strauss family, by J. Pastene (1951, repr. 1971) and J. Wechsberg (1973).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.