Friday, December 4, 2009

I Left My Heart In St.Petersburg

The atmosphere was electric. Young, aristocratic women showed each other portraits and jewellery with images of the handsome 'Waltz King', Johann Strauss, Jr. He was coming to St.Petersburg and they couldn't wait! There was a race to get tickets.

Johann Strauss, Jr. arrived in St.Petersburg in 1856 and played for 11 seasons. He led his 26-man orchestra to great acclaim at the railway station at nearby Pavlovsk, the 'Musical Station'. This was a beautiful park with a concert hall where high society liked to be entertained.

Here Strauss met the lovely, high-class Olga Smirnitzki, who was also a talented composer. He fell in love with this romantic, moody young woman and wrote her a series of romantic letters. Strauss and Olga kept their relationship a secret because of her aristocratic parents who wanted her to marry an official in St.Petersburg. They left their billets-doux under a tree in a park where Strauss's friend, Leibrock, would collect them.

Strauss wanted to marry Olga and had a discussion with her mother about this but the mother insulted her daughter and insisted that there was no future in the relationship.

In 1859 Strauss returned to Vienna where he played a French Polka called The Messenger of Love inspired by Olga in the Carnival Revue. This was eventually called Taubenpost. He also wrote Viennese Bonbons and Parting with St.Petersburg for Olga.

Olga announced her engagement to another man eventually. Strauss's love affair with the girl that he had called 'My all, my angel' was over. He had thought that she was 'the being destined for me by God' but, sadly, he was wrong. The 'Waltz King' famously wrote that: "I left my heart in St.Petersburg."

There are plans to reconstruct the musical station at Pavlovsk, which was destroyed during the war: Magnetic Levitation Line

(NB: I also write about the aristocracy here - because I want to! Olga came from a noble family>


Hels said...

What an excellent bit of history. It has everything - a very handsome musician; the Viennese connection; a young woman who could earn her own keep via composing; Pavlovsk/Musical Station concert hall and park; and the aristocracy looking after its own needs.

I wonder if Pavlovsk is still functioning. Thanks Viola.

Viola said...

Thank you so much, Hels. I found out about this story when I watched the series, 'The Strauss Dynasty' recently. This is worth watching, but it didn't portray Olga in the best light!

I have found an interesting article about the planned reconstruction of the musical station at Pavlovsk. It will lack the magic that it had when Strauss played, however!

Christina said...

This evening in England the Royal Variety Performance was broadcast and among the performers was the Austrian 'Strauss Orchestra'. In honour of Her Majesty (who was, of course, present!) they played a medley of Strauss waltzes, reminding everyone of how fond Queen Victoria was of Strauss' music. It was very beautiful - as is the beautiful story on this post! :-)

Viola said...

Thank you very much, Christina. I wish that I could have seen the Royal Variety Performance but they are not broadcast on Australian TV any more. I will see if I can buy the DVD.

I am so glad that you liked the story. I hope to write more like this, but these stories are not easy to find!

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