Vienna waltz written into UNESCO list
1 December, 2017
Photo: ©?sterreichisches Volksliedwerk
The waltz became high society’s favourite pastime in Austria and Europe.
February of this year marked the 150th anniversary of the first public performance of The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss II, the most emblematic Viennese waltz. Vienna Strauss Orchestra, set to give a concert in Bulgaria in December, used the occasion to nominate the Viennese waltz for the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in an application supported by the Austrian Music Council and over 20 other national associations and traditions conservation organisations. Recently, the Viennese waltz was officially inscribed into the list.
The waltz, as music, dance or song, is an indelible part of Austrian culture, viewed as the unofficial national anthem and performed as an encore during the New Year's Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic at the Musikverein Hall, broadcasted globally on 1 January. Viennese balls open with the words “everything is waltz” and weddings start with the bride’s waltz.
The history of the Viennese waltz is intertwined with that of balls, the product of a typical Viennese mixture originating from the tradition of public performances involving dance in the 14th-century French court. It was further developed in the 18th-century court ceremonial and crowned by the revolutionary music of Johann Strauss and his contemporaries. Not wishing to completely deprive regular folks of the joy of colourful entertainment, Emperor Joseph II (1765-1790) rescinded the rule that only the nobility may attend balls at the Hofburg Palace. The concept of balls as entertainment for the masses was born after the Congress of Vienna of 1814-15, and the waltz was gradually included in their programmes. Initially, the Viennese waltz was considered amoral, as it was danced primarily by young people unafraid of religious restrictions and appreciative of its freedom and quick pace, and the gliding and whirling movements – a giddy, unbridled pleasure in a festive and elegant setting. In time, the waltz became high society’s favourite pastime in Austria and then Europe.