Johann Strauss, Jr.
Ah, Strauss, the Waltz King. One might accuse his timeless works -- "On the Beautiful Blue Danube," "Tales from the Vienna Woods," "Emperor Waltz" -- of being a bit too timeless and ubiquitous, and certainly much too sentimental and downright happy for our cynical age. After listening to the overwhelming operas of Wagner, the revolutionary ballets of Stravinsky and Webern's serial works, why still listen to Strauss? Because his work is lovely, and because you can lose yourself in this flowing, elegant, Romantic and wonderfully crafted music. Strauss is not schmaltz for the musical neophyte; his are singular works from a composer who understood how to blend the popular with "high" art, and who knew how to make the public dance. The waltz was the craze of Vienna, the craze of all of Europe. Richard Strauss (no relation) said of Johann: "Of all the God-gifted dispensers of joy, [he] is the most endearing." Not only did this "dispenser of joy" create wonderful dance music, but his operettas also enliven the repertoire, especially Die Fledermaus, which is easily accessible to the record-buying and concert-going public.