The Radetzky March by Johann Strauss father

by Katharina Mölk

August 31, 172 years ago: World premiere of the Radetzky March
The Radetzky March (Opus 228 ) composed by Johann Strauss’ father is probably one of the most famous pieces of music in Europe.
But why was this march composed and who was Radetzky?

The Radetzky March (Armeemarsch II, 145) was written in the course of the 1848 revolution. In many areas of Europe, the people rose up against their rulers. This was also the case in Austria: here, struggles took place mainly in Vienna, but also in Italy. The Italians rose up against the Habsburgs, who at that time ruled territories in northern Italy. Thus, Emperor Ferdinand I sent the deserving Field Marshal Josef Wenzel Count Radetzky von Radetz to put down the uprisings. On July 25, 1848, he was victorious over the Piedmontese troops at Custozza and was subsequently also able to regain Lombardy for Austria.

“In honor of the brave army in Italy and in support of the wounded warriors” the first performance of the Radetzky March took place on August 31, 1848 on the Wasserglacis in Vienna. The first piano edition was dedicated to the “great general and the Imperial and Royal Army”. Army.”

The march was immediately very popular. However, there were some adaptations over time, as the march was originally written for 24-28 musicians, the size of Strauss’ orchestra at the time.

The version known today is under criticism, because this reworking by Leopold Weniger dates from the Nazi era. The question is whether one should not return to the original version. This has already been tried out at the New Year’s Concert in Vienna.

Even today the Radetzky March enjoys great popularity: traditionally it ends the New Year’s Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, introduces soccer matches of the Austrian national soccer team and is played by the Vienna Johann Strauss Orchestra on the Austrian National Day.

Here are a few more facts about the piece of music:

– The march is played every year as an encore of the New Year’s Concert: An exception was in 2005 because of the great tsunami disaster in Southeast Asia.

– The tempo of the piece corresponds to the recommended tempo of cardiac massage. Due to its high popularity in Austria, it is therefore used as a mnemonic in first aid courses

– Joseph Roth calls his novel “Radetzky March,” which is about the fall of the monarchy.

Now some more information about Count Radetzky:

The Bohemian nobleman Johann Joseph Wenzel Anton Franz Karl Graf Radetzky von Radetz (1766-1858) was an important commander of the k.k. Army in the 19th century. Since he lived to a very old age, he lived through six regents. In 72 years of service he fought in 17 campaigns and won 146 orders (including the Military Order of Maria Theresa, the Bavarian Military Order of Max Jospeh and the Order of the Golden Fleece). He was retired at the age of 90. His farewell petition to Emperor Franz Joseph, dated December 17, 1856, reads as follows:

“Your Majesty, the laws of nature compel me, after 72 years of service and 90 years of life, to ask Your Majesty for the Allergnaedigste Enthebung von meinem Dienstposten Allerunterthänigst. Your Majesty deigns to grant me this dismissal with that most exalted grace and mercy with which they have so often showered upon me, and on this occasion allow me Your Majesty’s most exalted grace and imperial benevolence [… My old age has paralyzed my activity, but until my last breath I will implore the Almighty’s blessing for the sublime house and the glorious throne of my beloved monarch, who I die in deepest humility. “

His marriage to Franziska, Countess Strassoldo-Graffemberg, produced five sons and three daughters, of whom, however, only one son and one daughter survived their father.

Radetzky died in Milan on January 5, 1858. He was brought to Vienna and blessed in St. Stephen’s Cathedral. He had bequeathed his body to Joseph Gottfried Pargfrieder, who had settled his gambling debts and wanted to erect a hero’s memorial on Heldenberg in Lower Austria. Radetzky was buried there in a tomb.

Supposedly, he also brought the Wienerschnitzel from Italy to Austria. But this is a completely different story.

Read more:

The Sachertorte

The origins of the operetta

The life of Ida Presti

Der Leiermann

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