I have many reasons for being happy to live in Canada, but one of the most important to me is our climate. Even though our climate is changing and we are having more frequent bouts of extreme weather, for the most part our climate remains fairly temperate. What I specifically enjoy about that is that we get to enjoy distinct seasonal changes. At the moment, we are transitioning from winter to spring. For some of you, the beginning of spring may just be a date on a calendar and nothing more. But to those of us from Canada, the dawn of a new spring is a cause for celebration. I have never really been a winter person, so I find the melting of the snow that has blanketed my world to be emotionally and psychologically uplifting. My spirits soar with every twitter from a robin, with each blade of green grass that pokes out above the disappearing snow and every bud that appears on our trees. The air feels warmer on my skin, we are no longer as housebound as Mother Nature has compelled us to be, and the sun seems to shine brighter and for longer periods of time, too. Everything just seems better with the coming of spring. There is a reason that my favourite colour is green.
Today’s featured composition was written in the mid-1800s by the Waltz King, himself, Johann Strauss II. I featured Johann Strauss II in a previous post regarding his famous waltz entitled “The Blue Danube”. (You can read about his background and about that waltz here). His “Voices of Spring” waltz has been written in three forms: for voice, for piano and as the foundational piece to a full opera. When Johann Strauss II first composed “Voices of Spring”, he did so for voice. But not just any voice. Johann Strauss II composed “Voices of Spring” specifically for a woman named Bertha Schwarz who went by the stage name of Bianca Bianchi. Bianchi was a singer who is known as a coloratura soprano. What this means is that she possessed the vocal ability to hit very high notes and sustain them. As a comparison, think of modern day singers such as Celine Dion or Mariah Carey, who both have the ability to display vocal gymnastics when a song calls for it. At the time that Strauss II composed “Voices of Spring” for Bianchi, she was arguably the most popular singer in all of Vienna. She was so admired that a Viennese astronomer named Johann Palisa designated a newly discovered asteroid as 218 Bianca in her honour. Being the subject of so much attention can be overwhelming for some people, but Bianchi, being one of the original operatic divas, handled it all with grace and aplomb. She performed Strauss II’s complicated composition flawlessly when it debuted at the Royal Vienna Opera House in 1882. The success of her performance was so immediate that “Voices of Spring” was altered so that it could be played without voice, as music for the piano. When the new piece was first performed by Johann Strauss II, it was met with overwhelmingly positive reviews as well. In fact, the response was so good and the demand for performances so great that the original version of “Voices of Spring” was made into an entire opera, of which the star was…you guessed it…Bianca Bianchi!
In the time since it was created, “Voices of Spring” by Johann Strauss II has become one of the most loved and easily recognizable compositions of classical music history. Next to “The Blue Danube”, it is Strauss’ most famous work. I have great confidence that you will recognize it as soon as you hear it. Because it turned out to be such an adaptable piece of music, I will include links to performances of it for voice as well as for piano. In either rendition, you should be able to recognize and enjoy this wonderful piece of music. I hope that as you read these words the sun is shining, the birds are singing and that your world is greening up all around you. Spring is in the air here in my home town of Cobourg, Ontario, Canada and our spirits are soaring on wings of happiness. Enjoy “Voices of Spring” by Johann Strauss II and enjoy your day wherever you may be. Until we meet again…bye for now.
The link to the video for the composition “Voices of Spring” (for voice) by Johann Strauss II can be found here.
The link to the video for the composition “Voices of Spring” (for piano) by Johann Strauss II can be found here.
The link to the Johann Strauss II museum can be found here.
Since “Voices of Spring” was first performed by Bianca Bianchi in Vienna, Austria, let’s go there and see the Royal Opera House for ourselves. The link to the official website for the Royal Opera House in Vienna, Austria can be found here. The link to the official website for Vienna, Austria, itself can be found here.
Finally, the link to the best classical music radio station…Classical FM 103.1…streaming to the world from my hometown can be found here.
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