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You’re sure it’s not blue?
Very sure, as the photo demonstrates:
Well, OK, it can be blue(ish). If it’s a sunny, cloudless day and the Danube is relatively placid.
It’s more usually a river-grey or a little muddy when rain washes soil into the waters or a storm drives up the silt.
The question is, of course, legitimate, given the name of one of the most recognisable pieces of music in history: the Blue Danube.
Johann Strauss II composed the waltz, though he didn’t give it the name we most associate with the piece. His original German title was “An der schönen blauen Donau”, which translates literally as “On the beautiful blue Danube”.
You can even visit the very apartment where Strauss wrote the work in 1866, when he lived in what is now Vienna’s second district (Leopoldstadt).
The original version for choir and orchestra premiered on February 17th, 1867, to broad approval. The Die Debatte paper described it as a “huge and deserved triumph”.
The music remains deeply ingrained in Viennese life. Locals know it as the “Donauwalzer” or “Danube Waltz” (nothing blue about it at all), and it invariably forms the highlight of Vienna’s many balls.
Once the midnight chimes die away, the entire city (and Austria as a whole) also welcomes in the New Year by dancing to the Blue Danube. It’s an irreplaceable cornerstone of the New Year’s concert given by the Wiener Philharmoniker, too.
And if you attend one of the many Mozart and Strauss concerts so popular with visitors, then you’re almost certain to hear the melody at some point.
Strauss’s name is indelibly linked with this particular waltz, although he actually composed hundreds of pieces of music, including another waltz you hear everywhere in Vienna: the Kaiser Waltz or Emperor Waltz.
If you wish to pay hommage to the King of the Waltz, then his golden statue sits in the Stadtpark close to the centre of Vienna. And he’s buried in the city, too. Strauss’s grave is in the Zentralfriedhof, alongside those of Beethoven, Brahms, and other great composers.