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The minuet is traditionally viewed as the archetypal aristocratic dance, and the expressive opposite of the German dance or waltz. In topic theory, the minuet topic is understood to derive its noble associations from its proper context as a dance of the aristocracy. Yet in Viennese ball culture of the late-eighteenth century the minuet was danced by all classes, and it no longer functioned as the ceremonial opening dance as it had in balls at the court of Louis XIV. Nevertheless, the minuet continued to be characterised as aristocratic in dance treatises and on the stage even though all classes danced it in the ballroom. This chapter argues that dancing the minuet in the Viennese ballroom involved enacting a concept of aristocratic behaviour that derived from realms other than dance, including theatre and masquerade
As a dance form, the contredanse is ostensibly anti-hierarchical, since its figures require cooperation between all participants and remove the hierarchical distinctions that were present in eighteenth-century society. While this would seem to make the dance suited for the mixed-class environment of the public ballroom, in Viennese dance culture figure dances such as the contredanse and the ecossaise were primarily danced in private settings. In the larger public dancing venues such as the imperial ballrooms, the contredanse tended to feature mainly as a presentational dance, in which a group of elite dancers performed to a public spectatorship. This performing context enforced social hierarchies rather than removing them, which has implications for the social connotations of the contredanse as a dance topic in the Viennese Classical style
While writing this book at my home in San José, California, I have on several occasions heard an ice cream van drive down my street whose music is the melody of Mozart’s Ländler K. 606 no. 1 (Example 8.1). I may be the only person in the neighbourhood familiar with the original source of the music, which is obscure even in the context of the Viennese Classical repertoire. If I had not spent the past few years researching Viennese dance music I would not have been familiar with it either. This fact in itself raises issues pertinent to the broader issues discussed in the preceding chapters.
Viennese social dance culture was central to the court-sponsored festivities at the Congress of Vienna (1814–15). Traditionally, the dazzling balls of the final months of 1814 have been viewed as belonging to a festive culture that merely formed a backdrop to the serious political negotiations of Congress delegates. However, Congress balls also aligned with the political aims of the Congress organisers in ways that have not yet been fully appreciated. The Habsburg court drew from established traditions in Viennese public ball culture by using dance to shape the interactions between the allied sovereigns and public in the mixed-class environment of the ballroom, particularly in the ceremonial polonaise and the equestrian figure dances at the medieval Carousel. In doing so, the Habsburg court effectively blending traditional monarchical representation with the public domain of the ballroom. Social dance was not merely a distraction from its wider political aims of the Congress; rather, it proved a particularly effective means of bringing politics to the heart of social life
This chapter examines waltzes with programmatic battle sequences, focusing on specific examples by Stanislaus Ossowski, Johann Nepomuk Hummel, and Friedrich Starke. These waltzes represented a subgenre of Viennese social dance music that enjoyed brief popularity at the turn of the nineteenth century, and they belonged to a wider culture of commemorative battle music during the periods of the Austro-Turkish War (1788–91) and the Napoleonic Wars. The public ballroom was an especially appropriate setting for battle music, which often appealed to popular patriotism and emphasised communal celebration, and social dancing allowed the public to become active participants in the act of commemorating military victories. Battle waltzes also suggest that a variety of listening practices existed simultaneously in the ballroom setting, since programmatic music requires listeners to follow a narrative over time, a mode of listening associated more with concert audiences than with dancers.
This chapter examines the different music and dance traditions that influenced the development of the Viennese waltz. Dance historians traditionally trace the origins of the waltz in the folk dancing of alpine Central Europe, viewing the rise of the Viennese waltz as a shift away from the cultural influence of the aristocracy in wider social dance practice. Yet the early waltz dances of the Viennese ballroom were shaped by influences that included French courtly dancing as well as Austrian folk music. The early history of the waltz is furthermore complicated by the fact that variants of the waltz dance did not always correspond with specific musical variants in the eighteenth-century ballroom. The development of the waltz highlights the complex network of influences that shaped social dance culture in the public ballrooms of Vienna.
This chapter examines the political, social and economic factors that shaped the early development of Vienna’s public ball culture from the time Joseph II opened the imperial ballrooms to the public in 1772. The number of public dancing venues in the city expanded rapidly in the decades around 1800, resulting in an increased influence of the middle classes over Viennese dance culture, and the rise of a new area of professional musical life. These developments gave dance orchestras a prominent position in Vienna’s musical landscape, and contributed to the emergence of new listening practices associated with dance music.
In 1810, an article appeared in the Leipzig Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung on the current state of dance music in Bohemia. The author cited its general appeal as one of the merits of this repertoire. Its short and simple melodies could be enjoyed even by uncultured people with little appreciation for symphonies and cantatas. At the same time, dance music was becoming increasingly sophisticated, particularly in the hands of recent composers who had stretched the traditional boundaries of form and instrumentation. The author nevertheless acknowledged that the sheer quantity of music required for each new carnival season had resulted in a flood of poor-quality music, amongst which even the good dance music was sometimes lost. When ballroom orchestras rehearsed the new season’s repertoire, the music had to be transported in a wheelbarrow, and the rehearsals themselves sometimes lasted half a day.
Viennese dance composers in the decades around 1800 frequently used melodies from current operatic repertoire as the basis of their dance compositions. This practice belonged to a wider culture of arranging popular repertoire for other mediums. However, the transfer of music from the stage to the ballroom also has much to reveal about the overlap between these two areas of Viennese cultural life, and about operatic reception history. A reciprocal effect existed between an opera’s popularity and its arrangement for the ballroom, wherein success in the theatre contributed to success in the ballroom context and vice versa. Operas that contained an abundance of dance-like melodies therefore held an advantage both in the theatre and the ballroom context. This has particular relevance for the respective reception histories of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro and Martín y Soler’s Una cosa rara, and for the notorious Rossini craze of the 1810s and 1820s.